America's Addiction: The Joe Tessitore Interview

By Fraser Lockerbie

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ESPN announcer Joe Tessitore sat down with Playboy.com to make some sense of the NCAA Bowl season.


When Joe Tessitore speaks, people in the business of college football tend to listen. Often enough they have no choice; he is the all-seeing, all-knowing voice from the broadcast booth calling the play-by-play for some of college’s most watched games. He is on the Heisman panel and his presence in recent years has been hailed by underdogs as an omen to upset.

Since 2010, Tessitore’s voice has been behind the play for three of the game’s most awe-inspiring wins that were never supposed to happen: Nevada’s 34-31 overtime upset against the then undefeated Boise State Broncos, Baylor’s 45-38 shocker over No.5 Oklahoma, and the game touted by experts as one of the craziest ever-played, Iowa State’s 37-31 double overtime edging of Oklahoma State.

Crazy things can happen when Joe gets on the mic. Playboy.com had the opportunity to sit down with the ten year ESPN veteran to get his thoughts on the upcoming BCS bowls and the top prospects potentially coming out of the NCAA this year.

Playboy.com: What can we expect out of this year’s draft?

Joe Tessitore: We’re about to have one of the best drafts in years if all these guys opt for the NFL, particularly at the quarterback position. I’ve had the opportunity to call a couple of Baylor games this year and see [Heisman winner] Robert Griffin III in action. I’ve met Matt Barkley a few times, I’ve got to know Andrew Luck through the years. I think it is one of the better groups coming out at that position in terms of being NFL ready.

So all the hype around a guy like Andrew Luck is warranted?

Luck is in so many ways the most pro ready quarterback on the board. When you stand next to Andrew Luck you know you are standing next to a professional athlete. He looks the part. Then you see what he does in a game; he’s not playing in a wide-open spread offense with gawdy and glossy stats. He is playing a professional pro-set offense. He is making audibles, he is checking downs, he is putting his team into better plays and field position. He has taken a Stanford team with not a whole lot of speed on the perimeter to 23 wins against only two losses in two years and has them contending for BCS titles. He is really all that. You can’t overhype the guy. He is as close to a can’t miss as you can get.

But not a Heisman Winner?

There is a difference between being the number one pro prospect and being the Heisman winner. The trophy is this very elite collegiate thing that happens. It’s the perfect storm of something that happened over a twelve game season. It has nothing to do with being the number one overall prospect. Luck has been back-to-back runner-ups for the Heisman but hes always been the number one pro prospect since he started his collegiate career.

So if Luck is hands down the number one prospect, where does this year’s Heisman winner Robert Griffin III or USC’s Matt Barkley fit in terms of the draft and the NFL?

I love both of these guys a lot in terms of pro-ready prospects.

Athletically, RG3 is truly world class. You’re talking about a guy who when he prepares to run, when he is in track mode, might be the fastest player in the NFL, a guy with Chris Johnson-type speed. For Barkley, he plays college football as if he were a well experienced pro. The game slows down for him. The one thing they have in common is that they’re both mature beyond their years. Barkley is a very disciplined and giving; Griffin is engaged, he is fearless. They are both very impressive individuals.

Where do they fit? Well, if guys like Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder all went among the first 12 picks in last year’s draft then Matt Barkley and RG3 should not go below 12. They are a few notches above those guys.

Barkley and Griffin both have at least another year of eligibility in the NCAA. What are the odds they stay with their collegiate teams? What are the pros/cons of going pro early? 

I think it has been proven. You have your Bill Parcells, your long time head coaches who have always advocated experience and proven ability at the college level leads to wins in the NFL. They want a proven winner in college, literally a guy who wins games. That said, The NFL is more willing to play a young quarterback these days and you’re seeing success with that more and more. Look at Andy Dalton; he is not a guy who is blessed with great measurables or the strongest arm or an amazing amount a speed. He is a guy that played four years at TCU, won, was mature, gained experience and that transferred over to the NFL and look what hes already done with the Bengals.

Barkely in his freshman year on the road against Oklahoma took USC on an 86 yard drive. RG3 did the same thing in opening week against TCU. Barkley showed it again this year against Stanford and Oregon. A lot of praise is given to combine numbers, but this is what NFL guys really like to see: a proven ability to win when it matters most.

You’ve been in the booth for a fair share of recent upsets. What is it like to call those games? What is going through your head?

If you listen to all my big calls I always do the same thing. I frame it and then don’t speak. What I always say to myself is what if I was sitting on the couch with you watching this game. I wouldn’t want to be the guy that’s just blabbering all through that moment. I typically do what they call in the business a layout: “here is your third and goal.” Sometimes I’ll say nothing more than the guys name, or “touchdown” or “he did it” then wait until I feel the moment is right to speak. Sometimes it is like a minute later. Everyone should just be able to take it in, experience the moment. What could I possibly say that’s going to be better than these pictures and sounds you could be watching. Im not arrogant enough to think that I’m beyond the experience that you’re watching. In this job you’re complimenting the broadcast, you’re not THE broadcast.

So we’re knee deep into bowl season now with the BCS games starting today. If you could watch only one Bowl game, excluding the National Championship, which one are you watching?

The Fiesta Bowl between Stanford and Oklahoma State. That is an awesome matchup. You have in the Cowboys this dominating, free wheelin’ offense with the best collegiate wide receiver in Justin Blackmon and a QB in Brendon Weeden who throws for 350-400 yards a game against Andrew Luck.  There is so much offensive talent on the field. As much as everyone thinks the National Title game is going to be a defensive slugfest, I expect this game to be an offensive showcase.

Do you think the National Title Game between LSU and Alabama will be a repeat of that 9-6 game we saw earlier in the year? 

I think you’re going to see a lot more offense this time around. Both coaching staffs are going to be a little more risk/reward in a game like this. If you go back and watch that first game there were moments when Alabama looked like it could break through. They had that one would-have been completion down to the one yard line. There seemed like there were just more potential moments for Alabama offensively. But LSU has so many ways to score, especially on special teams. Even though their offense is not what you might call dynamic, they do have play-makers, guys that can break plays. I think people have been fooled into thinking this is going to be like the first game, all field goals and defense, but I think this one will have a little more offense to it. It will be a little more crowd pleasing.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about opening up the bowl system to a playoff format, giving more teams a shot at the National Title game. What are do you think?  

I think the national title game has consistently pitted the best two teams against each other. Where the bowl system falls short sometimes is the other four BCS Bowls. Some younger programs, a program like Boise State who went 11-1 this year, sometimes get snubbed in favor of teams with a deeper tradition. I’d love to see a system that perhaps opens it up a little but the bowls, no matter which one, do mean a lot to these teams. They’re playing for something, they want to claim something, they want to call themselves the champions of something. It would be nice to see a system that opens it up just a bit, but keeps teams competing to have their names immortalized in an already stored bowl history.

You see a lot of football in the run of a year. What is your favorite thing about bowl season?

I know that almost everyday of the week from now until January 9, I can turn on the TV and watch football. There is football on non-stop. Just give me as much as possible. It was only a few years ago that people scoffed at putting college football on Friday night. People said “oh no, Friday is for high school football, ESPN is venturing into areas they shouldn’t, they’re saturating the market with football.” Well look at the ratings for football on Friday nights, look at the caliber of games being played on Friday Night Football. America cannot get enough of big-time football. It’s like the Great American addiction.

Care to make a few predictions for the upcoming BCS games?

Rose Bowl: An outstanding game, very high scoring, going to be a thriller with Oregon pulling away from Wisconsin.

Fiesta Bowl: Best BCS bowl there is. It is going to come down to who has the ball last. Oklahoma State’s defense is going to struggle to stop Andrew Luck; Stanford’s defensive backs are going to have difficulties with the speed of Justin Blackmon. But I think Andrew Luck is going to win the last game of his collegiate career.

Sugar Bowl: Both are just flawed enough to make this a great football game but I think Michigan will have the momentum to pull through in the end.

National Title Game: LSU’s special teams and defensive backs will be the difference in this one, giving them the advantage in field position. They will have the turnovers and key defensive plays to give them the edge over Alabama.

 


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