Kirk Herbstreit on why Alabama vs. Clemson is like Tiger Woods, his sneaky playoff pick and a potential 'NCAA Football' return
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game - Florida State v Alabama
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 02: ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit throws the football with his son prior to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida State Seminoles, September 2, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo by Scott Donaldson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
If Week 0 was any indication, the 2019 college football season is going to be off the freaking (turnover) chain. The potential storylines are endless, and even though it'll likely end up being Alabama vs. Clemson in the title game again, (which would be Part FIVE if you include the semifinal game in 2018) that road promises to provide plenty of entertainment, as it often does.
Who better to speak to the upcoming season than Kirk Herbstreit? The "College GameDay" analyst was on the call for Florida vs. Miami last Saturday, and he'll be back at it again this weekend for another marquee matchup, Oregon vs. Auburn at JerryWorld in Dallas. This year, Herbstreit is once again teaming up with Allstate to celebrate the mayhem of college football by predicting what player, team or game could produce the most mayhemic moment of the upcoming weekend. Herbstreit will make his prediction each Tuesday on Twitter, where you can feel free to argue with Kirk or make fun of his weekly prediction (his words, not ours).
But before you do that, read our Q&A with Herbie, where he compares the Alabama vs. Clemson rivalry to Tiger Woods, gives his College Football Playoff picks and provides a sneak peek at where "College GameDay" could be headed in the coming weeks.
Between the sloppy Miami vs. Florida game, the insane finish in the Hawaii vs. Arizona game, and a little controversy on "College GameDay," that was one wild Saturday. Your overall impression of "Week 0"?
Alright, here we go, it's back. The chaos and the arguments and the debates and the passion is on display with just a couple games. It was incredible. I was calling that [Florida-Miami] game, and I think one thing people underestimate is how hard it is sometimes for coaches to get players to realize the focus that it takes to avoid mental errors and disastrous plays until you're out on the big stage, on national TV, in front of 70-or-80 thousand people. That's a good way to teach players a lesson about focus. I think Florida especially, and Miami, they'll be able to go back and look at the film and hopefully learn to get better.
I think you're going to see more of the same in Week 1 with the rest of the teams. No matter how much you try to warn the players, they just don't always buy in until they get humiliated. That, and if you're on social media, the debates, the energy, it's what college football really is, and that was just for two games. We'll ramp it up quite a bit this week.
Speaking of social media, are you prepared for another year of people yelling and screaming at you on Twitter?
It's like anything else when you first try it, especially something that's as disturbing as [Twitter]. You're kind of taken back, and then when you do it over the course of, I don't know how long it's been, seven or eight years? You learn so much about how not to take it personally, people's emotions. If they're not cussing you out, they're cussing somebody else out. Whether we like it or we don't, it's the world we live in today. I've learned not to take any of it personally, especially with this sport.
I was talking to somebody the other day about how we're fans of all sports—NFL, NBA, MLB, college hoops—we were saying with college football, man, it's like when you watch documentaries on some of the soccer leagues over in Europe and people are throwing things at each other and just taking it really, really seriously with the passion they have for their team. I think college football's fanbases are just so passionate, and they take ownership of their team, and so if you say 'Florida is gonna beat LSU' the LSU people, even though you're just saying 'I don't know, I think they'll win,' you don't mean anything personally, but they take it so personally, like you're questioning them. And then if they win they are going to let you know about it. You just kind of get used to the rules of engagement, and I've turned it into a sport of its own, I have fun with it. It doesn't really bother me that much.
College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Alabama v Clemson
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Tee Higgins #5 of the Clemson Tigers makes a reception against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff National Championship held at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. The Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
Give college football fans a reason to believe it won't be Alabama vs. Clemson, Part V this year.
I don't think I can give you a reason, other than just to be different. As we sit here in August and we line up all the teams—it reminds me of when Tiger Woods was in his heyday and the announcers would say 'Okay, I'll give you Tiger Woods vs. the field, who are you going to take?' That's kind of what this is. Do you want to just be different just to be different is really the only reason you could pick somebody besides Alabama and Clemson. I'm picking Texas and Ohio State as the other teams to make the playoff, but I think the championship is going to be Alabama-Clemson.
Now, it very easily could not be, but I don't want to just throw something against the board and hope it's right. I've done that in the past and then that team ends up going 6-6 and you go on Twitter and people really have fun with that. If you're just trying to keep it in the fairway, without watching anybody play, those are the four I would have. I'd definitely put 'Bama and Clemson in the final, with 'Bama winning it. What about you, who you putting in there?
Well, I'm a closet Georgia fan from New Jersey (long story), so I'm hoping they can finally take down 'Bama and get over the hump. I don't hate that Texas pick though.
Georgia's been right there. You got Jake Fromm back, so you're probably going to be 60 minutes away from going [to the playoff] or staying home. It's better than being Florida. Georgia is going to Atlanta [for the SEC Championship game], it's just, can they beat Alabama? Can they win that game that day will be key.
Lot of hype surrounding Nebraska this year. You buying in?
I don't know if I'm buying that they are going to make the Big Ten Championship game, but there were enough signs last year that even though they started the year 0-6—I remember making a comment after they lost to Wisconsin that they had a really good chance of winning out the rest of the year. They were showing enough signs with their quarterback play to be able to be competitive and find a way to start winning games. Like we talked earlier about teaching a team how to win, I think [head coach] Scott Frost is still in the process of doing that, it's the second year, they get Ohio State at home, Wisconsin at home, Iowa at home, so there's reason to be optimistic. I think they'll be much, much better than they were a year ago as far as wins and losses, but that division [the Big Ten West] is literally take a dart and throw it against the board and see who comes up. I'm going to go with Wisconsin. I think people have forgotten about them, they've got a really good program. But you could make an argument for Nebraska, Iowa, Northwestern, any of these teams, all four have a shot, but I'll go with the Badgers.
North Carolina v Syracuse
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 20: Referees signal touchdown as Chris Elmore #36 of the Syracuse Orange carries the ball during the second quarter against the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Carrier Dome on October 20, 2018 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Where's a venue that you'd like "GameDay" to go that maybe you haven't been to in awhile or you've never been to before?
Man, Week 3 is setting up for a really good opportunity to go somewhere we've never been. We never know until the week of, but if everybody were to win [their first few games], the frontrunners right now would be Clemson at Syracuse, we've never been to the Carrier Dome, which would be fun, and they're really starting to play better. And then the other one would be Iowa at Iowa State in Ames. If we go to Ames I can't even imagine what they would do. [Iowa State] kind of reminds me of the newer version of Kansas State in the Big 12. But yeah, those would be the two that stick out. Last year we went to UCF, which we'd never been to, which was ridiculous. We went to Washington State, which was probably my most memorable show of the year, that was amazing. I'm hoping Week 3 can be a lot of fun no matter where we end up.
Ok, here's the last (and by far most important) question: do you see a scenario where the "NCAA Football" video game ever returns, and what would need to be done for that to happen?
I'd be the first guy in line to argue that it needs to come back. I've never run into a college football player who has said 'until they start paying us, I don't want to see that game!' The players themselves are frustrated that the game is not around. At this point, they were really young the last time that the game was out back in . Unfortunately, politically it's a messy situation, and until the NCAA clears name and likeness for intercollegiate athletics, my guess it that it's going to be hard to find a loophole to get the game produced.
But I feel like every year that passes we're getting closer and closer to name and likeness for these players to be able to freed up and have ownership of that. If that happens, I would guess within the next year I think the game will come out. Because then you could use the players on the game—in the past when we did the game we never referenced players, never used names, of course their images were used and you could tell the jersey numbers and skill set. You knew who it was, but we couldn't say their names. If the NCAA clears name and likeness, we'll be able to say their names on the broadcast like you do in "Madden," and that would be a whole different element to the game that we never had in the past. I think we all have to sit back and hope the NCAA gives in.