It was Terrell OwensTim Tebow ... and now, Ezekiel Elliott is the "ratings baby" the media is glomming on to ... so says Michael Irvin

You know what he's talking about -- when a story becomes such a big deal, news outlets will streeeeetch in a shameless way for an angle involving the media topic everyone cares about. 

This time, Irvin says, the media knows Zeke's scandal is a magnet for viewers ... and he's seen some networks reach new lows trying to exploit the running back's issues for a ratings pop. 

Irvin says the whole thing is a sad situation and he's praying for everyone -- both Zeke and his accuser.