It's Sept. 9. You're looking live at CBS's "The NFL Today," and you're looking, and looking, and something's missing. Actually, someone. The man who for 15 years told us we're "looking live at sold-out RFK Stadium" won't be there.

Brent Musburger, "slam-dunked" by CBS during the NCAA Final Four and now with ABC, had been a fixture on autumn Sundays since 1975. And with his departure comes perhaps the greatest upheaval ever in NFL pregame shows.

The entire "NFL Today" cast -- including Will McDonough, Irv Cross and Dick Butkus -- is gone. Enter Greg Gumbel, Terry Bradshaw, Pat O'Brien, Lesley Visser.

On NBC's "NFL Live," Bob Costas and O.J. Simpson are back, but "The Insiders," Bobby Beathard and Ralph Wiley, are not. McDonough took the money and ran to NBC to become "The Ultimate Insider," according to Terry O'Neil, the executive producer of NBC Sports.

Over at ESPN, a whole 'nother situation is unfolding. (Brent always used to says things were unfolding. "Let's go out to Pat and John at Giants Stadium where a whole 'nother game is unfolding." Nobody else says unfolding. I miss Brent already.) Sensing an opportunity to make a real dent in the pregame show ratings race now that Brent is gone, ESPN has moved its one-hour "NFL GameDay" from an 11:30 start to noon, thereby competing with CBS and NBC for the second half hour. (ESPN will run a new edition of "SportsCenter" at 11:30.)

Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Pete Axthelm and Fred Edelstein are back, joined by Joe Theismann, who has nothing to do until ESPN picks up the Sunday night game from TNT at midseason.

Besides its straight-ahead attack by shifting its pregame show, ESPN also is deploying an end run, designed to circumvent the NFL's non-gambling information edict.

Axthelm "will still play an integral part, doing features and interviews," said Mike Soltys, ESPN's manager for program information. And as for the picking the games? Soltys said Ax will be on the 11:30 "SportsCenter," to "pick games much like he did on 'GameDay.' "

But what I really want to know is where Brent will be while all this is going on. In front of the TV with a beer and popcorn? Mowing the lawn? "The first week, I'm going to go up to ESPN," he said of ABC's kissing cousin. "I want to see all the games. I want to see how ESPN moves its show.

" . . . I love the NFL. I've been a part of the NFL since 1963."

(What do Jimmy the Greek, Phyllis George, Irv Cross, Jayne Kennedy, Phyllis George again, Charlsie Cantey, Dick Vermeil, Hank Stram, Dan Dierdorf, Phyllis George again, John Madden, Will McDonough, Terry Bradshaw, Charlie Waters, Joe Theismann, Dick Butkus have in common? They all worked with Brent on "The NFL Today.")

Musburger said he'll team with Vermeil for the playoff game ABC gets as part of its new contract. He also said he'd be part of the network's silver anniversary Super Bowl special from Tampa. An ABC spokesman said nothing is definite concerning the special, but did say Brent "will have some role" in the Super Bowl telecast. So, Brent remains involved in football, but still, his voice begins to race when his ouster from CBS is mentioned.

"It's the first time in history that a show won an Emmy and the entire cast got slam-dunked," he said. " . . . They were hoping the show wouldn't win; they didn't want to be embarrassed."

Okay, Brent was fired and NBC outbid CBS for Will. But what about Irv, who had been on the show 15 years, now off covering games with Tim Ryan?

"The decision was," said "The NFL Today" producer Eric Mann, "that with Brent being gone, it was a good time for a new start, a new approach." That includes a new set.

And what about ESPN, which decided to move "GameDay" in part because of Brent's firing? "We have the games in our back pocket -- and they don't," Mann said. "People tune in to see the game."

NBC always has agreed with that theory, claiming that because CBS has the NFC and its bigger markets, it has an advantage in pregame ratings. Still, "NFL Live" views this as an opportunity to make inroads.

"This is tremendously important time for us," said David Neal, the show's producer. " . . . For a change, we're the ones not changing that much. We had been looking for an identity. I'd like to think now that we've found one -- with news. We're now the place to turn to for hard news, and having Will only bolsters that. {Beathard} did such a great job . . . but Will is the guy we always worried about Sunday morning."

Turning to Sunday night, TNT has joined the fray, and will show games the first nine weeks. Its coverage will begin at 7 with the one-hour "The Stadium Show," in direct competition to ESPN's wrap-up show. This program differs in that it will originate from the game site. Fred Hickman is over from CNN to host, Kevin Kiley is over from ESPN to analyze, and numerous others are there, including Larry King. (Is King trying to become the new Brent with his sports omnipresence? If so, we'll have to call him Larry.)

Still, the biggest change involves the pregame shows. CBS has had it locked up for years. Perhaps if it didn't overhaul "The NFL Today," ESPN wouldn't have shifted "GameDay." Perhaps it could've maintained its wide edge on "NFL Live," even without McDonough. But the loss of Brent may prove too much.

Back to you, Brent.

"The big thing is still the games," he said. "There might be a little shopping early. That's a risk CBS is willing to take."