ESPN ramps up Michigan-Ohio State coverage

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh gives a high-five to running back Karan Higdon after Hidgon scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Illinois.

The heavyweight game of the weekend No. 2 Ohio State versus No. 3 Michigan has drawn plenty of hype, and on game day, ESPN is going all out with coverage.

About 250 ESPN personnel will be in Columbus to handle every layer of the television broadcast, which includes a five-hour lead-up College GameDay, which is typically a three-hour show. The show will begin outside Ohio Stadium at 7 a.m. and then move inside the stadium for the final 90 minutes.

Michigan plays at Ohio State on Saturday in a game that has Big Ten and national championship implications. And ESPN intends to show every angle of it. All eight pylons will have four cameras in each, there are cameras on the goal posts, SkyCam, super slow-motion cameras

“We’re pulling out the stops here,” said Lee Fitting, who oversees studio and game production for ESPN. “It’s our regular-season Super Bowl, if you will. Our mantra is when you get an opportunity like this, spare no expense and crush these games.”

Fitting said the decision was made late last week to expand GameDay to five hours and said the on-air personalities jumped at the idea.

“We think there’s an appetite for it,” Fitting said. “We’re not going to do five hours every week but it’s a special week. It’s rivalry week and there’s a lot more to talk about. We will make sure we’re disciplined and talk about the entire landscape, not just Michigan and Ohio State.”

Ohio State was No. 1 and Michigan No. 2 in 2006, a game that determined which team would be heading to the national championship. Much has changed for both programs. Urban Meyer now coaches OSU and Jim Harbaugh is coaching his alma mater.

“In 2006, coach (Bo) Schembechler passing the day before the game gave a whole different feel,” Fitting said. “What makes it feel a little bit different this time is the Harbaugh factor.

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“Coach Harbaugh ratchets it up a little bit. He’s just polarizing, and people are intrigued by polarizing figures.”

Fitting said Harbaugh declined to sit down with ESPN for a pre-game interview.

Chris Fowler will call the game with analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Samantha Ponder will cover the OSU sideline and Tom Rinaldi the Michigan sideline.

ESPN also will have a radio broadcast of the game, and ESPN Deportes will air a Spanish-language telecast. SportsCenter on the Road also will begin broadcasting from Columbus on Friday.