It may be the best college football opener of all-time Saturday. That's when No. 1 Alabama meets No. 3 Florida State at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.

The top-ranked team in the preseason Associated Press poll has never played a higher-ranked opponent.

This is a game that begs for Keith Jackson to describe. No one has ever been more associated with the color and pageantry of college football. After Jackson left the booth, at least viewers had either Verne Lundquist or Brent Musburger around to set the mood.

Lundquist and Musburger called their last college football action a year ago. As sportsillustrated.com asked this week, who emerges as the leading voice of college football?

Chris Fowler will handle play-by-play on the Bama-Noles showdown on ABC at 7 p.m., with Kirk Herbstreit serving as his usual analyst. Fowler is solid, but his voice doesn't carry the excitement level of Jackson, Lundquist or Musburger.

Fowler is perfect doing play-by-play for the tennis majors for ESPN. But college football isn't tennis. 

Fox Sports has beefed up its schedule this season with the addition of Big Ten Conference games. That will mean more Gus Johnson. There is no doubt that Johnson has plenty of enthusiasm for college sports.

Johnson sometimes goes over-the-top in his descriptions. That irritates some viewers. But, c'mon. This is college football, not the NFL.

Veteran broadcaster Brad Nessler replaces Lundquist at CBS as the play-by-play guy for Southeastern Conference games. Like Fowler, Nessler does his homework and doesn't miss much. Still, it is difficult to call either the voice of the sport.

Unfortunately, the play-by-play voice who could be identified as No. 1 will only be doing six or seven games. Mike Tirico takes over at NBC for Notre Dame home games for the network (Irish face Temple at 2:30 p.m. Saturday), in addition to some Thursday night NFL duties.

ESPN should have kept Tirico around and moved him from Monday Night Football to college football next to Herbstreit.  

Tennis: U.S. Open (ESPN2 or ESPN, Saturday-Friday): Those night matches in the Big Apple bring out the rowdies and seem to elevate players such as Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal. 

MLB: Braves at Cubs (Comcast, 1:20 p.m. Saturday, Sunday): Feasting on sub-.500 teams has helped the defending champions gain control of NL Central with a month left.

NFL: Chiefs at Patriots (NBC, 7:30 p.m. Thursday): It would be hilarious to see Kansas City upset New England in league opener and quickly stop talk of Patriots going 16-0. 

Contact Jim Benson at jbenson@pantagraph.com.

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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