Brandstatter was born and raised in East Lansing, Michigan, the home of Michigan State University. He was one of 5 boys. His father Art Brandstatter, Sr. was named an All-American fullback for the Spartans football team in 1936. His father went on to become a Detroit Police officer and later a chairman of the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice. His older brother, Art Brandstatter, Jr., played defensive end for the Spartans from 1959-1961. Despite the family's legacy at MSU, Brandstatter opted to attend the school's in-state rival the University of Michigan (the teams play annually for the Paul Bunyan Trophy). When asked about his early life and family in a November 2007 Detroit Free Press interview, Brandstatter responded: "My brother Art played at Michigan State, and he was my hero. ... I went to all the games. I got to know all the players, the team. I was just a 10-year-old kid. That was great, but when I got into high school and was playing, Michigan recruited me and I fell in love with the place. ... So I went against the grain, went to Michigan and never regretted it."
He was an offensive tackle on the Michigan Wolverines football team from 1969-1971 during Coach Bo Schembechler's first three seasons. Brandstatter later noted one of his favorite memories as a player came in a 1971 victory against Michigan State. Brandstatter recalled, "That was as good as it gets." He added: "Bo (Schembechler) used to say and (offensive line coach) Jerry Hanlon might say, I may have played my best game ever as a collegian in that game." Hanlon said about Brandstatter: "He got so fired up, he took over every defender that came his way." He added "It was one of the best games a tackle played for me. That particular game, he was an All-American."
Brandstatter made the All Big Ten team in 1971 and played in 2 Rose Bowls, during his time with Michigan (1970 and 1972).
After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1972, Brandstatter was hired as the sports director of WEYI-TV in the Flint / Tri-Cities area. In 1975, Brandstatter got a job at WILX-TV in the Lansing / Jackson area. After two-and-a-half years, Brandstatter moved to Detroit and became a sports producer for WDIV.
In 1980, while working at WDIV, Brandstatter became the host of Michigan Replay, a weekly half-hour discussion, interview, and highlights program about Michigan Wolverines football. It originally featured his former head coach Bo Schembechler (until 1989). It later included former head coaches Gary Moeller (1990–1994), Lloyd Carr (1995–2007), Rich Rodriguez (2008–2010), and Brady Hoke (2011–2014). It currently includes head coach Jim Harbaugh. In 2008, its name was changed to Inside Michigan Football (in honor of the retirement of coach Lloyd Carr). After 30 years, Brandstatter remains the original host and the show has grown from being seen only in Southeastern Michigan to available nationwide on cable and satellite.
Brandstatter formerly hosted a weekly college football radio show, called Brandy and Bo with Coach Bo Schembechler. Brandy and Bo talked with coaches previewing upcoming games and discussed issues facing collegiate football. The show ended after Schembechler's death in 2006.
As of 2014, Brandstatter can be heard calling play-by-play of his alma mater's football games on the Michigan Wolverines Football Radio Network, teaming with color analyst Dan Dierdorf and sideline reporter Doug Karsch. From the mid-1980s through the 2013 season, Brandstatter served as analyst on the Michigan broadcasts, while Frank Beckmann called play-by-play.
Since 1987, Brandstatter has been analyzing National Football League games on the Detroit Lions Radio Network, currently teaming with play-by-play man Dan Miller and sideline reporter Tony Ortiz.
Brandstatter also hosts the syndicated weekly Inside Michigan Football Coaches Show with Jim Harbaugh, along with Doug Karsch and varying assistant coaches and players, during the college football season. It is similar to Inside Michigan Football except it is broadcast live.
He also appears on special football-related radio programs such as Detroit radio station WXYT-FM's NFL Draft Day Special as a football analyst.
Besides football, he has broadcast golf on the Michigan Open Golf Championship radio and television network, and was an associate producer on the 'Ameritech Showdown', the Emmy Award winning telecast of the state's PGA Skins game tournament.
Brandstatter has twice served as the president of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association. In 2004 and 2008, Brandstatter was named “Sportscaster of the Year in Michigan” by the National Sportscasters/Sportswriters Association. In 2006, Brandstatter was named by the DSBA as the Ty Tyson Award winner for Excellence in Sports Broadcasting in Michigan. Brandy and Bo twice won Michigan Association of Broadcasters ‘Best in Category’ honors. Michigan Replay/Inside Michigan Football has been nominated for Michigan Emmy Awards.
During the off-season, Brandstatter runs Jim Brandstatter, Inc., a freelance company in which he can be hired for public speaking engagements, event hosting, voice-overs and local commercials.
Brandstatter has written two nonfiction books about Michigan Wolverines football: Tales from Michigan Stadium (published in 2002) and Tales from Michigan Stadium: Volume II (published in 2007). Both books became bestsellers in the sports category.
Brandstatter's wife is Robbie Timmons, who also has a career in broadcasting. Timmons worked as the weekday news anchor on WXYZ-TV in Detroit, and was the first woman to anchor the evening news in America when she began her career in 1972 at WILX-TV in Lansing. They met in the mid-1970s while working together at WILX-TV. Ironically, Timmons graduated from Ohio State University, whose football team is the Michigan football team's fierce arch-rival. Timmons announced her retirement in 2010, and her last broadcast was October 14 of that year.