Entering Year 2 of their College Football 2.0 coverage, Fox has announced some major changes to their game and studio broadcast lineups for next year. Fox's college football coverage had definite bumps in the road in Year 1, especially in the studio where Erin Andrews served as host in making the move from ESPN. Now with a new 24/7 cable sports network to feed, Fox is doubling down on college football content and hoping these changes can create the right formula that might compete with ESPN's coverage of the sport.
First, as is becoming the weekend norm. Fox Sports 1 will house another pregame football show. Fox College Saturday will air at 10-12 AM ET, directly opposite College GameDay on ESPN. Andrews will host and as has been reported earlier, Clay Travis will have a role as sideboob correspondent, or something like that. Eddie George returns to the main set and Joel Klatt and Petros Papadakis are added. Rules analyst Mike Pereira will also contribute reports.
The success for this pregame show will be all about the chemistry between EA and the analysts on set. Last year there was zero, none, zilch, nada. Andrews had her own struggles, but she was also undone by a swath of techincal issues and no real rapport on set. I like George, Klatt, and Papadakis individually as analysts, but it's all about how they come together. Furthermore, this show is really going to have to manifest its own dynamism without being on site as with ESPN's College GameDay. It's going to be an immense challenge.
As for the primetime network version of Fox College Saturday, in a very interesting decision Andrews will depart stage left for Fox Soccer host Rob Stone. The 30 minute pregame show will air before games on Fox. Stone will be joined by George and Klatt. The "hambone" enthusiast will also host FS1's Thursday studio show with analysts Coy Wire and Ryan Nece who come over from Pac 12 Network. It's a deserving call for Stone, who has been a driving force in greatly improving Fox Soccer's studio coverage. He's funny and competent and should lift the entire presentation. Stone will also continue his work with Fox's soccer coverage.
As for the broadcast booths, Gus Johnson and Charles Davis return as Fox's #1 team as expected with Kristina Pink now filling the sideline reporting role. Johnson is obviously a fan favorite in his role on college football and Davis is very capable. Even though Fox can get too carried away with the extra curriculars, this is still a very good announcing team.
Elsewhere, Justin Kutcher, Klatt, and Papadakis comprise FS1's Thursday night team. Other Fox announcing crews across Fox, FS1, and the Fox Sports regionals include Craig Bolerjack and Joey Harrington (moving from the main Fox studio), Kutcher and James Bates (making the move from the faulty stools at CBS Sports Network) and Adam Alexander and former Texas QB Chris Simms, who will be following in his dad's foosteps to the broadcast booth.
Fox's ambition will be a blessing and a curse. The centerpiece and most talked about element will surely be the Fox College Saturday pregame show on FS1. They're building FS1 to challenge ESPN directly but there's no way the FS1 pregame will approach what College GameDay will be able to do from Day 1. Fox's college football coverage may improve throughout this year and over time, but with the way they've positioned FS1 they will only have time to make a first impression and convince college football fans they can do the job better than ESPN and College GameDay has done for the last two decades.