College Football is on the Horizon: Game Assignments for Nearly 50 Game, Five-Day ESPN Kickoff Week Schedule

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College Football is on the Horizon: Game Assignments for Nearly 50 Game, Five-Day ESPN Kickoff Week Schedule

  • Emmy Award Winning Analyst Kirk Herbstreit and Maria Taylor Work Three Prime-Time Games over Labor Day Weekend; Chris Fowler Joins Duo for Two Games while also Calling US Open
  • Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe on ABC’s Sunday Night Prime-Time Special

With practices underway across the country, summer days getting shorter, and Labor Day weekend within sight, it all points to one thing: college football is on the horizon. And with the first full week of the season nearly upon us, ESPN’s kickoff week game assignments have been set for commentators, boasting the sport’s best and deepest roster of broadcasters.

ESPN’s Lead Commentator Group Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Maria Taylor Calls Multiple Prime-Time Games During Kickoff Weekend
Lead analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who was recognized as sports most outstanding analyst in the offseason, and reporter Maria Taylor will begin the 2018 season campaign by working three games in five days, while lead play-by-play commentator Chris Fowler will call two games with his weekly prime-time commentator tandem in the midst of his comprehensive US Open schedule.

Fowler, Herbstreit and Taylor will be in Orlando for the 2018 Camping World Kickoff as the defending College Football Playoff National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Louisville Cardinals in the season premiere of ABC’s Saturday Night Football (8 p.m.). The trio will then head northwest to Tallahassee, Fla., for ESPN’s annual Labor Day prime-time game (Sept. 3), featuring an ACC showdown between Virginia Tech and Florida State (8 p.m.).

Herbstreit and Taylor will begin the season in West Lafayette, Ind., when Northwestern travels to Purdue (8 p.m.)  for ESPN’s first Thursday night football game of the season (Aug. 30). The duo will join Dave Flemming, ESPN’s regular Thursday night commentator on the call. Laura Rutledge, who will normally work the network’s Thursday games, will be in College Station, Texas, for the season debut of SEC Nation.

In the midst of their game schedule, both Herbstreit and Taylor will be South Bend, Ind., for the season premiere of College GameDay Built by The Home Depot on Saturday, Sept. 1 (9 a.m. – noon).

Sean McDonough Returns to College Football on ABC’s Special Sunday Night Prime-Time Showcase, Joining Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe
Veteran ESPN commentator Sean McDonough will make his return to the network’s college football coverage in Texas-sized fashion, when he joins Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe in Arlington, Texas, for Miami vs. LSU from AT&T Stadium for ABC’s exclusive Sunday night prime-time game (Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m.).

McDonough, who has been with ESPN since 2000, was a top play-by-play voice on Saturday afternoon ABC college football before moving to Monday Night Football in 2016 Heading into this season, Blackledge and Rowe have been broadcasting games together for 11 of the last 12 seasons, including calling a CFP Semifinal each of the previous four years.

Veteran Commentating Groups in Columbus, Atlanta, Athens and Pasadena for Season’s First Saturday
Four of ESPN’s commentating groups are beginning their third season together, including Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, and Tom Luginbill who will be in Columbus, Ohio, as Oregon State faces Ohio State on ABC (noon). Following the Beavers-Buckeyes, Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Todd McShay will make their season debut in Atlanta for the 2018 Chick-fil-A Kickoff between Washington and Auburn (3:30 p.m.). The doubleheader will lead into the aforementioned Saturday Night Football – Alabama vs. Louisville.

Over on ESPN, Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht and Rocky Boiman will be ‘Between-the-Hedges’ as the SEC Champion and CFP finalist Georgia Bulldogs host Austin Peay (3:30 p.m.). Immediately following, Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard, and Allison Williams will be in Pasadena, Calif., for Chip Kelly’s UCLA head coaching debut, as the Bruins host Cincinnati (7 p.m.).

SEC Saturday Night Crew Begins Season with Two Games in Three Days on SEC Network
SEC Saturday Night crew of Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, and Cole Cubelic begin their second season together by calling two games in three days on SEC Network, as the trio calls Jimbo Fisher’s debut as Texas A&M head coach on Aug. 30 when the Aggies host Northwestern State (8:30 p.m.). Then, two days later, the trio will be in Gainesville, Fla., as Florida hosts Charleston Southern (7:30 p.m.).

Orlovsky Goes Home Again to Start New Career
New ESPN commentator Dan Orlovsky will be in familiar territory when the Connecticut native makes his debut as an ESPN game analyst. The former UConn quarterback will call the Huskies opener against UCF in East Hartford, Conn. (Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. on ESPNU), in the same stadium where he set a number of school records including touchdown passes and passing yards, during his four-year stint. The 12-year NFL veteran joins Clay Matvick and Paul Carcaterra for the season.  The trio will then go to Philadelphia for Villanova at Temple on Saturday (noon, ESPNEWS).

Multiple Commentator Groups Make Debuts
As announced earlier this summer, ESPN will debut a number of new commentating groups this season, with each of them making their first appearances together during kickoff week.

  • Jason Benetti, Kelly Stouffer and Olivia Dekker: Western Kentucky at Wisconsin on ESPN (Aug. 31 at 9 p.m.)
  • Adam Amin, Rod Gilmore, and Quint Kessenich: BYU at Arizona on ESPN (10:45 p.m.)
  • Mark Jones, Dusty Dvoracek, and Molly McGrath: 2018 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff: Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech from Houston on ESPN (noon)
  • Kevin Brown, Andre Ware: Central Michigan at Kentucky on ESPNU (3:30 p.m.)
  • Dave Neal, DJ Shockley, and Dawn Davenport: Eastern Illinois at Arkansas on SEC Network (4 p.m.)

Tiffany Greene, Jay Walker Lead Commentators on Network’s HBCU Games, Call MEAC/SWAC Challenge
Tiffany Greene and Jay Walker will be the lead commentators on ESPN’s HBCU coverage this season, which begins with the 2018 MEAC/SWAC Challenge from Atlanta on Sunday, Sept. 2: Prairie View A&M vs. North Carolina Central (Noon, ESPN2). Olivia Dekker will join Greene and Walker for the game.

All games are Saturday, Sept. 1, unless noted

Additional Week 0 and Week 1 coverage will be announced in the coming days

ESPN Commentators for Five-Day Kickoff Week Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Network
Thu, Aug. 30 7 p.m. UCF at Connecticut
Clay Matvick, Dan Orlovsky, Paul Carcaterra
Central Connecticut State at Ball State
Jim Barbar, Mark Herrmann
Kennesaw State at Georgia State ESPN+
8 p.m. Northwestern at Purdue
Dave Flemming, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor
Southeastern Louisiana at Louisiana-Monroe ESPN+
8:30 p.m. Northwestern State at Texas A&M
Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic
SEC Network
Friday, Aug. 31 6:30 p.m. Monmouth at Eastern Michigan
Dan Gutowsky, Marcus Ray
7 p.m. Army at Duke
Roy Philpott, Tom Ramsey
9 p.m. Western Kentucky at Wisconsin
Jason Benetti, Kelly Stouffer, Olivia Dekker
Sat, Sept. 1 Noon Oregon State at Ohio State
Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, Tom Luginbill
2018 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff: Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech from Houston
Mark Jones, Dusty Dvoracek, Molly McGrath
James Madison at NC State
Mike Corey, Rene Ingoglia
Coastal Carolina at South Carolina
Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Kris Budden
SEC Network
Villanova at Temple
Clay Matvick, Dan Orlovsky,
12:20 p.m. Furman at Clemson ACC Network Extra
12:30 p.m. Alcorn State at Georgia Tech ACC Network Extra
1 p.m. Massachusetts at Boston College ACC Network Extra
2 p.m. Howard at Ohio ESPN+
3:30 p.m. 2018 Chick-fil-A Kickoff: Washington vs. Auburn from Atlanta
TV: Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Todd McShay
Radio: Bill Rosinski, David Norrie, Ian Fitzsimmons
ABC and ESPN Radio
Austin Peay at Georgia
Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht, Rocky Boiman
Central Michigan at Kentucky
Kevin Brown, Andre Ware
Marshall at Miami (Ohio)
Dave Weekley, Hutson Mason
Albany at Pittsburgh
Joel Meyers, Dustin Fox
ACC Network Extra
4 p.m. Eastern Illinois at Arkansas
Dave Neal, DJ Shockley, Dawn Davenport
SEC Network
Tennessee-Martin at Missouri
Mark Neely, Barrett Jones, Alex Corddry
SEC Network Alternate
6 p.m. Delaware State at Buffalo
Robert Lee, Jerod Cherry
South Carolina State at Georgia Southern ESPN+
Richmond at Virginia
Shawn Kenney, John Gregory
ACC Network Extra
Boise State at Troy
Dave LaMont, Ray Bentley
North Carolina A&T at East Carolina
Josh Appel, Stan Lewter
Elon at South Florida ESPN3
7 p.m. Cincinnati at UCLA
Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard, Allison Williams
Louisiana Tech at South Alabama ESPN+
Mercer at Memphis ESPN3
Central Arkansas at Tulsa ESPN3
VMI at Toledo
Michael Reghi, Barrett Brooks
Nicholls at Kansas ESPN3
Grambling at Louisiana ESPN3
Southeast Missouri State at Arkansas State ESPN+
7:30 p.m. Charleston Southern at Florida
Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic
SEC Network
Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt
Anish Shroff, Ahmad Brooks, Roddy Jones
SEC Network Alternate
Stephen F. Austin at Mississippi State
Mike Couzens, Kirk Morrison
8 p.m. 2018 Camping World Kickoff from Orlando: Louisville vs. Alabama
TV: Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor
Radio: Marc Kestecher, John Congemi, Paul Carcaterra
ABC and ESPN Radio
10:45 p.m. BYU at Arizona
Adam Amin, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich
Sun, Sept. 2 Noon 2018 MEAC/SWAC Challenge from Atlanta: Prairie View A&M vs. North Carolina Central
Tiffany Greene, Jay Walker, Olivia Dekker
7:30 p.m. Miami  vs. LSU from Arlington, Texas
TV: Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe
Radio: Bill Rosinski, David Norrie, Ian Fitzsimmons
ABC and ESPN Radio
Mon, Sept. 3 8 p.m. Virginia Tech at Florida State
Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor

Commentators may change and/or be added


Media contact: Derek Volner at 860-384-9986; [email protected] and @DerekVolner



Derek Volner

I currently lead ESPN’s NFL Communications, including Monday Night Football, NFL Draft and studio programming. Previously, I did the same for ESPN’s vast college football portfolio. I have been with ESPN since 2013.
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