ESPN Plans National-Championship–Quality Show for Saturday’s Michigan-Ohio State Matchup
50+ cameras, 60+ microphones, 175 staffers are lined up for epic clash
No. 2 Ohio State hosts No. 3 Michigan on Saturday afternoon (noon ET, ABC) in the latest installment of — arguably — college football’s biggest rivalry, and there hasn’t been a meeting this big between the two in a decade. ESPN will be there, and it is preparing to give “The Game” a production complement worthy of a National Championship telecast.
“It’s always one of those games on the schedule that you hope will be good and that you hope you end up getting as a crew,” says Derek Mobley, who will sit in the director’s chair on Saturday afternoon. “It has been in the back of our mind for a long time, but I’d say, in the past month, we started talking about adding some extra equipment, and that’s come to fruition this week.”
ESPN will have more than 50 cameras and 60 microphones covering the action at Ohio Stadium, including eight Pylon Cam systems (according to Mobley, the network will have Pylon Cams at all four corners of each end zone), Skycam, and four Sony HDC-4300’s shooting at 6X for super-slow-motion coverage.
“We have these cameras in, pretty much, all four quadrants of the field, some high and some low,” says Mobley. “We basically have the field surrounded by 6X Super Mo. You’re looking for them to provide the defining moment of the play and the defining reaction.”
Working out of ESPN’s top college-football production truck, Game Creek Video’s Spirit, the crew has expanded to approximately 175 staffers, up from the typical 130 that work a primetime Saturday-night college-football game on ABC.
This crew has plenty of history with the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. Mobley, producer Bill Bonnell, and much of the lead technical crew worked the historic 2006 meeting, which marked the last time a Buckeyes-Wolverines matchup reached this level of fervor and anticipation. The teams came in at No. 1 and No. 2 in the country, and Michigan was mourning the death of legendary coach Bo Schembechler, who had died the night before the game. That day in Columbus still stands out in Mobley’s mind as a career highlight.
“This game is not just a rivalry, it’s a way of life,” he says. “It’s something that people don’t count the days to; they count the hours to. It’s significant for everybody. You have to be able to capture the passion, the emotion, and all of that not just from the players but also from the fans. You also have to be true to the game on the field. In the end, that’s what matters.”