Bristolmetrics: ESPN Loves Urban Meyer, And The Feeling Is MutualS

This is a regular feature breaking down, minute-by-minute, the content that appears on ESPN's 11 p.m. edition of SportsCenter throughout the week.

When last we met, JetsCenter reached a climax, ESPN covered Chad Johnson like he was Chad Ochocinco, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were given love before collapsing into mediocrity. What would this week bring?

Total time: 444.5 minutes
Time (minus commercials): 337.75

TIME DEVOTED TO INDIVIDUAL SPORTS
NFL: 123.25 minutes (36.5%) (last week: 34.5%)
MLB: 85.5 (25.3%) (last week: 29.7%)
SportsCenter staples (things like the "Top 10," "Encore," "What 2 Watch 4," etc.): 40.25 (11.9%) (last week: 13.1%)
Other sports: 26.5 (7.9%) (last week: 2.1%)
College football: 19.5 (5.8%) (last week: 3.3%)
Little League World Series: 15.75 (4.7%) (last week: 0%)
NASCAR: 12.5 (3.7%) (last week: 3.3%)
Golf: 8.75 (2.6%) (last week: 6.4%)
NBA: 5.75 (1.7%) (last week: 3%)
NHL: 0 (0%) (last week: 0%)
College basketball: 0 (0%) (last week: 0.3%)

MOST-COVERED TEAMS BY SPORT
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL): 23 minutes (5.6%)
Washington Nationals (MLB): 15.5 (4.5%)
Ohio State Buckeyes (college football): 9.5 (1.3%)
Miami Heat (NBA): 4.5 (2.1%)

MOST-MENTIONED SPORTS FIGURES
Rather than break down the amount of time a specific athlete or figure was covered, we counted how frequently names were mentioned in the transcripts from the week. The 15 most-mentioned sports people for Aug. 17-23:

Michael Vick: 43
Andrew Luck: 36
Peyton Manning: 30
Jake Locker: 29
Tom Brady: 23
Stephen Strasburg: 21
Tiger Woods: 21
Rory McIlroy: 20
Lance Armstrong: 19
Mike Trout: 19
Court McGee: 19
Adrian Beltre: 18
Albert Pujols: 15
Derek Jeter: 15
Roger Federer: 14

CUMULATIVE STATISTICS: Jan. 7-Aug. 23
Total time: 14,852.5 minutes
Time (minus commercials): 11,162.25

NBA: 2,665.75 minutes (23.9%)
MLB: 2,044.5 (18.3%)
NFL: 1,625.75 (14.6%)
SportsCenter staples: 1,586.25 (14.2%)
Other: 1,420.25 (12.7%)
College basketball: 1041.75 (9.3%)
NHL: 447 (4%)
College football: 331 (3%)

Notes

Urban Meyer and ESPN scratch each other's backs: After stepping down from Florida to "spend more time with his family," Urban Meyer made an unsurprising move: he joined ESPN as an analyst and part-time color commentator, while raking in a nice paycheck. His move to sit out a year and survey his options paid off when he became the new head coach of Ohio State, but Meyer has spoken highly of his time with the Worldwide Leader. That sort of thing isn't new.

What has seemed odd, though, is the amount of time ESPN has allotted to covering Meyer's first year with the Buckeyes. Even with college football getting SportsCenter's airtime table scraps, Ohio State received nearly half (9.5 out of 19.5 minutes) of the college football coverage this week. Almost all of the coverage was part of the network's Hard Knocks-style show that's being pimped on multiple platforms, titled Ohio State All-Access. Here's a sample, for reference.

Yes, Meyer is already one of the most successful college coaches of all time, and his being a former ESPN employee shouldn't stop the network from devoting its attention to a legitimately intriguing storyline for the 2012 season. But the extent to which they are covering Meyer and the exclusive access they've been given can't help but raise eyebrows.

ESPN surely didn't hire Meyer specifically so they could use him for future programming, but stuff like this makes them look, well, very ESPN.

SportsCenter is literally counting down the innings for Stephen Strasburg: Stephen Strasburg's innings limit has become a defining story, a culmination of the game's move toward protecting its brightest young stars. Shutting down a dominant and seemingly healthy phenom in the middle of the Nationals best season in history is unprecedented, and ESPN has responded accordingly. When SportsCenter showed highlights of Strasburg's start last week, they included a small, animated graphic on the bottom of the screen that showed his growing innings total during his highlights. Afterward, they put up a projected timeline of when he would cross certain thresholds, including the magical 180 innings limit suggested, at one point, by Nationals GM Mike Rizzo.

Here's the weird part: there was literally no commentary on whether the Nationals are being dumb or smart with this move. It was just news. Sure, there were talking heads throughout the week, but one that night, Strasburg's pitching and numbers were allowed to speak for themselves.

Breaking: Michael Vick: The Eagles were on Monday Night Football, so you know what that meant: Philly talk all week. And when Michael Vick went down for the second preseason game in a row, shit got real. Nearly all of that night's opening 12.5 minute "postgame" segment was turned over to uninformed speculation on how badly Vick was hurt, questioning the coaching staff's decision to play him, wondering if the Eagles need to sign another QB, and discussing the Eagles' chances without Vick. Exhausting, but at least it was a change of pace from Tebow talk.