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ESPN's Chris Fowler in hot seat for College Football Playoff

ESPN's Chris Fowler on the set of College

ESPN's Chris Fowler on the set of College GameDay at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Dec. 7, 2013. Credit: ESPN/Allen Kee

The inaugural College Football Playoff coincides with Chris Fowler's first year in ESPN's lead play-by-play seat. He has received somewhat mixed reviews, partly because of nostalgia for iconic voices such as Chris Schenkel, Keith Jackson and Brent Musburger.

On a conference call with reporters this week, Fowler said he does not sweat having to fill big shoes in the biggest college football seat.

"I don't really view it as coming in there following those guys," Fowler said. "That is the reality, of course, if you trace the lineage back of that position at ABC.  I obviously admired all three of those guys, in some cases grew up listening to them, especially Chris Schenkel.  I was at a formative age listening to him do the games. The excitement and humanity was something I connected with.

"Keith became a colleague.  We're friendly.  I saw him in Pasadena, had a chance to spend some time with him.  Obviously Brent, I've been closely intertwined with 'GameDay' being at the site of that game so frequently.

"But you just try to be yourself.  You don't get overwhelmed.  I followed Dick Enberg in Grand Slam tennis, a guy who did it for 30 years.  There's going to be an adjustment period for viewers.  You can't get caught up in that.  You do the best you can."

Fowler called himself a very tough critic of himself.

"I'm proud of where we've come from the beginning of the season, very comfortable where we are," he said. "I have a lot of trust in Kirk, to say the least, and in Heather Cox, Tom [Rinaldi], our production crew.

"It's been a big source of pride to be involved in that production, which I think is very top end.  Kirk and I working together for 20 years in various capacities made it very comfortable for me.

Monday night's College Football Playoff championship, the first of its kind, features No. 2 Oregon against and No. 4 Ohio State.

"This is a very big event that you take very seriously but don't lose sight of the fact that people watch it because it's fun," Fowler said. "We plan to have a hell of a lot of fun on Monday night and hope the game lends itself to that experience for the viewer, too.

"As seriously as you take documenting of a championship game, which is really unlike anything else,  I think you can do events, I know for me the Grand Slam finals, especially Wimbledon, has felt very different from the quarterfinals or the semifinals.  So you want to take seriously the documenting of that because you know it's a piece of sports history.

"But it's still just a football game as well and you want to have fun doing it.  I think we will have fun."

Fowler said one of the challenges this season has been dealing with the pace of some college teams, especially Oregon.

"You have to knock the rust off," he said. "I had done Thursday nights for a few years.  They're very simple but technical things.  The mechanical aspects of the job.  It's like almost when you're the opposing team facing a team like Oregon that goes at break-neck speed, there's so much tempo in college football, you have to understand it's a very different job than it used to be 10 years ago, even five years ago.  It's a very different job than NFL football.

"Calling NFL is almost leisurely.  The pace at which the game unfolds, the number of snaps, is so much less than college.  I think the surprise comes in just, OK, old hand for Kirk, but you get two tempo teams going at each other, it's a completely different style and philosophy of doing a game.

"You have to adjust.  There are some growing pains with that, but I think at this point we're pretty used to it.  I was happy how we handled it in Pasadena.  But that's what's changed to be honest with you.  It's nowhere near the same kind of job as when Chris Schenkel or Keith did it.  Brent was just starting to get a taste of what those high-tempo games are like.  It's a phenomenon in the last three or four years almost on a weekly basis."

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