Masters of the Mic: College Football
First, a few disclaimers. With all due respect to Georgia's Larry Munson, Florida State's Gene Deckerhoff and all the other play-by-play legends so synonymous with their respective teams, these rankings are going to focus on national TV. Also, I don't claim to be old enough to have an adequate knowledge of college football's classic announcers, so I've chosen to stick exclusively to the present.
MY TOP PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCERS
1. Ron Franklin: If it's a Saturday night in Bryant-Denny, Jordan-Hare or some other sweltering SEC venue, then you can count on hearing Franklin's genial voice setting the scene and calling a near-perfect game. He has a keen sense of turning points and momentum changes in what are often close, down-to-the-wire affairs. He also doesn't hesitate to interject his own opinion about coaches' decisions and players' performances.
2. Brent Musburger: Most people either love him or hate him -- I happen to love him. I'll admit it, I still get a kick out of hearing the words "You're looking live" as a panoramic shot of sold-out Michigan Stadium fills the screen. I'm a fan of his colloquial speaking style, every other sentence beginning with "folks" or "partner." And, as you'll see below, his voice will always be associated with some of the sport's most memorable modern moments.
3. Brad Nessler: Universally regarded as one of the best in the biz, there's nothing fancy about Nessler, which most would agree is a good thing. He's usually assigned to one of the biggest games of the week and he sticks primarily to the action on the field, allowing the magnitude of the moment speak for itself.
4. Sean McDonough: Often stuck doing the Clemson-Wake Forest game for 17 percent of the country, McDonough's much less visible these days than when he was the main guy at CBS, which is a shame. He calls a clean game and gets excitable at the right moments rather than allowing himself to become a screamer.
5. Keith Jackson: Make no mistake, if this were a ranking of the top all-time announcers, Jackson would take up all five spots. He was the voice of college football for nearly 40 years. Sadly, though, his performances have gone sharply downhill since aborting his planned retirement in 1999, most notably a dreadful showing in what should have been a classic broadcast of the Ohio State-Miami Fiesta Bowl. It's still a joy, though, just to hear his voice, these days mostly on West Coast games.
MY TOP ANALYSTS
1. Todd Blackledge: Getting the No. 1 SEC game every week means Blackledge winds up calling some of the biggest games of the season, and he doesn't disappoint. He's extremely well prepared and doesn't miss a thing, particularly when it comes to his former position, quarterback. He also makes it a whole lot easier to stomach Verne Lundquist.
2. Mike Gottfried: Gottfried is Franklin's partner, and the two have great chemistry. He's good at getting into the mindset of an offensive or defensive coordinator at a critical juncture. He's also a perfect fit for the SEC -- just the right touch of Southern flavor without going all-out hardcore, a la Bill Curry.
3. Dan Fouts: Good thing that Monday Night Football stint didn't work out (thanks, Dennis Miller), because Fouts is better suited for the Pac-10. Who better to comment on what are often wide-open, quarterback-driven shootouts than a former record-setting West Coast quarterback?
4. Kirk Herbstreit: Doing the Thursday night games, usually in the ACC or Mountain West, provides a good opportunity for the usually insightful ex-Buckeye to expand his analysis beyond the 30-second snippets he's afforded on the GameDay set. His repartee with Lee Corso (more on that later) translates well to the booth.
5. Rod Gilmore: I never particularly liked Gilmore in the studio, where he spent an inordinate amount of time on a soap box for the Pac-10, but he's proven a keen analyst in the booth. Often stuck doing lower-profile teams, he takes the time to get to know many of the players' stories and personalities.
SHOULDN'T BE IN THE BOOTH
Corso: At least on GameDay, the attraction is his showmanship. In the booth, there's no hiding from the bumbled names, gift-wrapped stats and often mind-numbing analysis. The all-time low came in last season's Southern Miss-TCU game, in which Corso, despite repeated attempts by Herbstreit to rescue him, stubbornly insisted the Eagles pass up a late field-goal attempt that would have extended their lead from three to six on the oh-so realistic premise the Frogs might block it and return it for a touchdown. You could almost see Herbstreit crawling under his chair in horror.
MY TOP-FIVE CALLS
Again, I'm sticking with the recent era, and while I don't doubt there have been many equally memorable moments, these are the ones that have stuck with me:
1. "Ricky cuts left ... hello record book!" -- Musburger calling Ricky Williams' NCAA record-breaking run, 1998.
2. "Diving, spinning ... touchdown Nebraska!" -- Musburger calling Matt Davison's title-saving touchdown catch off a kicked ball against Missouri, 1997.
3. "Look out, he's got a convoy!" -- Jackson calling Desmond Howard's Heisman-clinching punt return for Michigan against Ohio State, 1991.
4. "Caught!" -- Jackson calling Michael Westbrook's game-winning Hail Mary catch for Colorado against Michigan, 1994.
5. "Bad call. B-a-a-a-d call." -- Fouts after the infamous Miami pass-interference call in overtime of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
Stewart Mandel covers college sports for SI.com.