The SEC Network’s play-by-play voice Brent Musburger isn’t quite sure what to expect from the Auburn team he’s covering Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“Totally, totally unknown to me,” Musburger said of Auburn.
Musburger took time away from prepping for the prime time broadcast to talk with the Ledger-Enquirer less than 24 hours removed from calling Tennessee’s near melt down to Appalachian State.
The 77-year old broadcaster who spent years as the lead play by play voice for ESPN and ABC will return to his former home this weekend.
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Musburger has been paired with former New York Giants quarterback Jesse Palmer as the SEC Network’s lead broadcasting team since its inception. Last year, the pair called Auburn’s 26-10 win over Texas A&M.
Time and time again Musburger described Saturday’s season-opener as a “tough match-up” for the home team, with much of the broadcaster’s concern centering on Auburn’s offense. Musburger has a hard time envisioning Auburn keeping pace with a Clemson offense led by quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“Until someone shows me otherwise, he’s clearly the best college quarterback in the country this year and Clemson is the best offense,” Musburger said.
Musburger covered a quarterback similar to Watson when the broadcaster called the 2010 game between these same programs with Cam Newton under center for Auburn.
“He’s an NFL first-round draft choice waiting to happen as was Newton,” Musburger said.
Newton led Auburn to a comeback win in overtime to help establish his Heisman credentials. Musburger has fond memories of covering the game — he calls former Auburn coach Gene Chizik a “good friend” — and vividly remembers the atmosphere in Jordan-Hare’s as the score tightened up.
“If they are able to get to Clemson (Saturday) and have a chance in the fourth quarter it will be the same kind of environment, that’s the one thing Clemson has to worry about,” Musburger said.
The discussion came back around to Chizik when Musburger admitted he sees Malzahn as a coach “on or close to the hot seat” this season.
“Even if they stumble against Clemson they are going to have to win some football games before it’s over,” Musburger said. “The pressure is on.”
The depth of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry still amazes Musburger. The broadcaster remembered when he unintentionally agitated former Auburn athletic director David Housel in the mid 90’s. Musburger made an offhand remark to Housel about enjoying a stop at Dreamland Barbeque, a famed Tuscaloosa eatery, covering an Alabama game.
When Musburger came to Auburn later in the season, he had a surprise waiting for him in the press box.
“He set whole room up with (local) BBQ,” Musburger said, laughing. “He said this is better.”
One aspect Musburger enjoys about exclusively calling SEC games is the opportunity to see similarly passionate fans on a weekly basis.
“It’s real, it’s not make believe,” Musburger said.