Tonight at 8 PM Eastern Alabama and Clemson will reprise their 2016 college football championship matchup. Alabama enters with a new offensive coordinator and as a 6.5 point favorite.
The contest marks the capstone (no pun intended) for the college football season, the last installment in a gridiron soap opera which has been by turns disappointing and entertaining, sublime and absurd, divine and profane.
All of these adjectives by the way do double duty for describing ESPN's coverage of tonight's made-for-television event. You could just watch on ESPN. If you do Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will have the call. Herbie will be damned insufferable no matter what happens. Or, and this is offered merely for informational purposes rather than as a suggestion, you could sample any of the dozen or so other ways ESPN is packaging the product tonight.
“Sounds of the Game” || ESPN Classic
No announcers, commercials, sideline reporters, Larry Culpeppers, or other unwanted distractions. Just the sound of the game and the crowd. I am righteously intrigued by this one.
ESPN is placing something like 100 microphones around the field to pick up a true to life rendition of the game. Expect to hear bone-crunching hits, probably some profanity, and one would imagine more than a little bit of crowd noise because that is a lot of microphones. Also the version I am DVRing for those cold, football-deficient February nights.
Standard Game Broadcast || ESPN
Fowler and Herbstreit aren't the worst announcing combo out there, even if not the best. Plus, if you actually want to know why exactly players are limping off the field and when they might return, or what Dabo is actually screaming about, this is a better option than the ESPN Classic broadcast.
“Film Room” || ESPNNews
No announcers, instead a collection of college coaches including Dino Babers (Syracuse), Mike McIntyre (Colorado), Dave Doeran (NC State), PJ Fleck (Minnesota) and Matt Rhule (Baylor) among others as the commentary on the game. This one is, for true football nerds, probably the way to go. You'll be surprised how often the coaches point out tendencies and even call likely plays before they happen. Sidenote: McIntyre, so far as I know the only current college head coach to emerge from the Ray Goff coaching tree, should be really entertaining if you have never heard him before. A really sharp coach.
“Command Center” || ESPN Goalline
If you get it, ESPN Goaline will have a split of the live game action and an instant replay of every single play on the other screen with no commercials. Not sure how well this will work if offenses go uptempo, but that may be part of the fun.
“Spider Cam” (All-22 Look) || ESPN3 (WatchESPN app)
My personal favorite for scouting and film review purposes, this broadcast will provide an aerial shot of the game from ESPN’s high line “spider cam” that provides a high angle view and natural sounds of the game.
Standard Game Broadcast, Spanish || ESPN Deportes
Maybe Herbie is less annoying if he's replaced by a guy who could be calling Liga MX soccer?
“Data Center” || ESPN3 (WatchESPN
Only on ESPN3, this view of the game will feature side-by-side views of the game along with various analytical game stats as the game progresses. Stat nerd up!
Clemson Announcers on Standard Game View || ESPN3 (WatchESPN app)
Pretty self-explanatory. But with a lake.
Alabama Broadcast Announcers on Standard ESPN view || ESPN3 (WatchESPN app)
Equally self-explanatory. But with more Roll Tides.
“ESPN Voices” || ESPNU
Jay Bilas, Keyshawn Johnson, and Bill Walton star in "Three Men and a Little Football." There's really no reason to watch this one other than to hear Walton ask into a hot mic "Wait, the dude is actually named "Dabo?"
“Homers Broadcast” || ESPN2
ESPN gamefeed with Joe Tessitore, Tahj Boyd, and Barrett Jones as the announcers. This one has the potential for some sneaky good analysis. Plus, Tessitore's inclusion means some weirdness is just bound to happen.
Finebaum’s Film Room || SEC Network
If you want to watch this in the privacy of your own home I suppose I can't stop you. Like riding a moped, it'll probably be a lot of fun until the thing falls apart.
All TV feeds will begin with the game broadcasting around 8:15 eastern, but ESPN's patented lead-in programming probably started Thursday night. The online options probably begin in or around that time frame, though of course those can be a little more unpredictable depending on technical issues.
Let's also use this as the open thread for the evening's festivities. Thanks for hanging in there through this up and down (then back up, then back down) college football season.