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ICYMI: This week on Front Row; PLUS: Clemson entrance will again set stage for monster matchup on ABC

Tonight’s Top 5 showdown – the first such matchup of the season – between No. 5 Florida State and No. 3 Clemson (ABC, 8 p.m. ET) marks College GameDay Built by The Home Depot’s second visit to Clemson this season.

Fans will likely remember the spine-tingling stadium entrance aired prior to the telecast of Clemson’s win over Georgia (above). Well, get ready to be thrilled again, as ABC will bring the chills back in the run up to tonight’s ACC battle.

Front Row asked Senior Coordinating Producer, College Football Ed Placey for his insight into how his team handled – and will handle – the grand entrance of the Tigers, in addition to that of the Seminoles.

How did the Week 1’s Clemson open come about?
Despite this one-of-a-kind Clemson tradition for many years in many ways, we’ve never really seen how they get to the top of the hill in the first place. A couple of years ago when we had a blimp at a game there, we caught an unplanned glimpse of buses pulling up outside the stadium for the first time. That triggered us to target a big game to blow it out and show the team’s entire journey; leaving their locker room, boarding buses and driving the streets outside the stadium to get to the top of the hill in the opposite end zone. When our season opener was announced as Georgia at Clemson, we knew we had the right game to do it.

Were you surprised at the reaction to it?
I was not surprised that it got a reaction. I was surprised that it was even more captivating than I imagined it could be. Because none of us had actually seen it start to finish, we weren’t sure what we were going to see. Once I saw the shot of players in full uniform loaded up on a bus five minutes before kickoff, I knew it was going to have the effect we were hoping for.

What was some of the feedback you received on the open?
The reaction that caught my attention the most was regarding [commentator] Brent Musburger and [analyst] Kirk Herbstreit commenting over the shots live. You could tell from the sound of their voices and what they were saying that they’d never seen anything quite like what they were seeing at that moment. With those two guys in particular, that’s saying something.

What, if anything, did you want to improve upon this time around?
An important part of covering this was the cooperation from Clemson. They weren’t exactly sure how it was going to turn out either, so they were very cautious with how much access they gave us. After seeing it last time, and hearing the reaction to it from their own fans and staff, they wanted to give us even greater access, in particular to the locker room, and on-board the bus. Plus we learned a lot about the timing of how everything happens, include how what is happening inside the stadium relates to what is happening outside.

What can viewers expect to see when the telecast opens?
We’ll start out looking very traditional, and then go to a studio update segment. Around 8:10 p.m. is when we’ll come out of break with our Eminem open then right into our coverage of Clemson and Florida State in final preparation before they head out.

What’s next? More of these opens at more games? What’s the threshold for deciding to commit resources for this type of open?
If you’ve got a big game in an impact window at a location that has a unique experience we can totally surround, we are up for the challenge. We know scenes like these are what separates college football from the NFL and most other sports, so we want to take advantage of that distinction to the fullest extent possible. It’s just a matter of what it is and how we can cover it.

– By Keri Potts

ICYMI: Highlights from the past week on Front Row

Kenny Mayne looked ahead to his week of anchoring SportsCenter, his first time since 2008. His cohorts also shared their opinions on having Kenny back behind the desk.

• 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games champions Rich Froning and Samantha Briggs stopped by ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters this week. The chatted with Front Row about their impressions of the campus, ESPN’s support of Crossfit and more.

Kristen Balboni answered readers’ #AskBalbiz questions about her job as a Mike & Mike researcher. Balbiz shared the origin of her nickname, her favorite experience on the show and more.

• Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard shared his thoughts on the new ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 film, No Más, which chronicles his rivalry with boxer Roberto Duran. ESPN analysts Teddy Atlas and Nigel Collins also commented on No Más.

Row of Four
Our favorites from across ESPN over the past week

• From Rick Reilly: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is helping his teenage friend Sam Berns find a cure for progeria

• From OTL: Trouble Beneath The Surface

• From Grantland: Bill and Jalen’s NBA Preview

• Enjoy an array of photos from the ESPN Images’ Images of the Week

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