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ESPN enters double football coverage

An ESPN GamePlan commercial jokes that the best way to catch all the college football action on a typical Saturday is to clone yourself. With two of the biggest games of the year taking place Saturday, the network is doing just that.

College GameDay, the network's pregame show, will be at two sites: Chapel Hill, N.C., with the regular crew of Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit; and State College, Pa., with Mike Adamle, Steve Cyphers and Beano Cook.

The show will include a feature on the mind-set of the No. 3 Seminoles and the No. 5 Tar Heels and a profile of the Wolverines defense.

The interesting twist is that the ABC/ESPN conglomerate will air games involving all Top 5 teams. Michigan-Penn State, which we will see, and Nebraska-Missouri are part of ABC's regional coverage at 3:30 p.m. FSU-North Carolina goes out to the nation at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Herbstreit, one of the most astute analysts on the air, is predicting UNC and Michigan victories.

BREEDERS' CUP: In terms of popularity, horse racing is just ahead of the world's strongest man competition and the X Games in my mind. NBC commentator Tom Hammond said such a view is held by many who have never watched or attended the Breeders' Cup. Confession: I've never watched the Breeders' Cup.

NBC televises one horse race a year, Hammond said, but he has seen many of the network's staff fall in love with horse racing and the 14-year-old Breeders' Cup because of the event's romance, color and drama.

"It's found its niche," Hammond said. "It will never be equal to the Super Bowl, but it is a championship event, and it has a place on national television and on NBC's lineup of championship events.

"In the first 13 years, I don't think the Breeders' Cup has ever thrown a blank. It's a high-class sport, great racing and high drama."

Like the Olympics, NBC will humanize the event with profiles of some of the key participants, including Patrick Burn, a failed jockey who has become one of the sport's bright young trainers and Corey Nakatani, a jockey who perseveres despite the murder of his sister.

To tell the truth, I think Hammond and Tom Durkin, who will call the races, made a compelling argument during a media conference call: Perhaps the coverage will be an interesting look for those who are not obsessed with college football.

FOR KIDS: During the celebration of the anniversary of Jackie Robinson's breaking the color barrier in major-league baseball, much was made of how some players sadly grew up with no knowledge of Robinson or what he endured 50 years ago.

Maybe the answer is more shows like this week's episode of the Sports Illustrated for Kids. The fast-paced 30-minute show _ centered on athletes who have overcome obstacles _ not only chronicles Robinson's plight but also profiles Jackie Joyner-Kersee, deaf University of Central Florida running back Dwight Collins and the U.S. women's Olympic hockey team.

The show starts with a rap and has teen co-hosts in Rebecca Budig and Eugene Byrd. The vignettes are to the point with plain language that should appeal to kids. Before you take your child to the park, have him take a look at this show. It airs at 11 a.m. Saturday on WTSP-Ch. 10.

FINE TUNING: Joe Gibbs interviews former NBC studio analyst Mike Ditka on NBC's NFL pregame show Sunday. Fox's Pam Oliver goes to Minnesota to interview controversial coach Dennis Green. CBS Sports will broadcast championship matches from the Lipton tennis tournament. Broadcast exposure could help the tourney stake its claim as tennis' fifth Grand Slam. Sunshine Network will telecast the Tiger Woods Invitational at 7 p.m. Monday. The event features Skins play from Japan between Woods, Mark O'Meara, Nick Price and Shigeki Maruyama, the No. 2 money winner in Japan.

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