The College Football Playoff now is eligible for the Tess Effect. SI’s Richard Deitsch reported Tuesday that Joe Tessitore would call the Peach Bowl semifinal (#1 Alabama vs #4 Washington) with Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe, and ESPN confirmed that with their release of bowl assignments Tuesday. That release had a significant paragraph on Tessitore:

Joe Tessitore broadcasts the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, his first time calling a semifinal on television. He joins Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe, who both have worked a semifinal on ESPN in the first two years of the College Football Playoff.

Of course, Blackledge and Rowe previously worked those games with Brad Nessler, who left ESPN for CBS in May, picking up some selected NFL work this year and preparing to take over the lead SEC on CBS role from Verne Lundquist next year. Nessler had been the main #2 college football play-by-play voice for ESPN in recent years (behind Chris Fowler), and his departure left some questions about who would be elevated to the #2 slot and the second playoff semifinal. There were lots of potential successors, but Tessitore (who worked with the team of Blackledge and Rowe all year on the ESPN College Football Primetime game Saturday nights), and this is further proof that his star is on the rise at ESPN.

One candidate some would have loved who was again left out was Brent Musburger, though. There have been plenty of posts here about how ESPN pushed Musburger out of the lead play-by-play role for Fowler three years ago and exiled him to the SEC Network, and while that’s been briefly interrupted with opening-week games on ESPN this year and last, Musburger spent most of the year calling smaller-profile games on that conference network.

With Nessler’s departure, some fans certainly were hoping for the return of Musburger in a game that could be for all the Chick-fil-A (or all the peaches? Millions of peaches?). It definitely would have been possible to elevate the team of Musburger, Jesse Palmer and Kaylee Hartung to the semifinals, but ESPN opted not to go that way. Instead, Musburger and co. will be calling the Oklahoma-Auburn Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, and ESPN stuck with their number-two team from the season, tabbing Tessitore, Blackledge and Rowe for the CFP game.

Going with Tessitore and his team over Musburger and his team is probably the smart move for ESPN. Tessitore is decades younger than the 77-year-old Musburger and is an up-and-coming voice at the network, and giving him some playoff exposure makes some sense. Meanwhile, while Musburger’s a favorite for many fans and did sign an extension in June, he has made some mistakes, and there’s a good argument for the network to show off younger talents like Tessitore. This isn’t really that unexpected or that controversial of a choice, but it is a notable one, and it further confirms that it’s Tessitore really stepping into that #2 play-by-play slot.

[ESPN Media Zone]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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