With October almost in the books, the College Football Playoff picture still appears pretty crowded. Fortunately for us at The Spun, we sat down with one of the brightest minds in the sport to discuss which teams remain in the hunt.
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit joined us to talk about several shocking results that took place in Week 9 of the season. Over the course of the conversation, he revealed which team he believes is the best in the country, along with whether or not he believes Oklahoma has a chance of making the Playoff. He also gave us his early preview for this weekend's clash between Florida and Georgia.
The Spun: I remember back in the preseason you predicted a rematch between Alabama and Clemson in the national title game. Have your picks changed, or do you still feel like we're on a collision course with those two teams?
Kirk Herbstreit: I think there's a pretty good chance that that could still happen. I think Ohio State has really proven to be the best team in the country after eight weeks of football. If you had to look at it eight weeks in, you can make a pretty good case that Ohio State would be one of those teams and they’d probably face the winner of the Alabama-LSU game.
The Spun: Chase Young was dominant against Wisconsin this past Saturday. Over the past few years, the Heisman Trophy has become a quarterback award, but what do you think about his chances of him winning it?
KH: If the people that voted on the Heisman followed the sport religiously, I would say he has a great chance of winning the Heisman. Unfortunately, if you go back and look over the years at the way voters vote, I feel like they open up a preseason magazine and just make their picks off that. I don't even know the percentage of these folks if they really follow the game that closely. So, I think that's why you always see an offensive player or basically the quarterback of the top team in the country usually win. If you can look at your ballot, it says vote for the most outstanding player in college football. It doesn't say most outstanding offensive player or MVP. So, if you're looking at the most outstanding player, how could Chase Young not win it? He's got 13.5 sacks and we're only through eight games. He might finish with 20 sacks on the year if he stays healthy. Nick Bosa got most of the attention while he was playing, but Chase Young played on two sprained ankles a year ago and still had a great season. Larry Johnson, who is the best defensive line coach, continues to produce great defensive players year after year and he's really helped Chase Young’s game grow. So, I guess the answer to your question is I don't have confidence in the voters to give him a real chance of winning the Heisman.
The Spun: Michigan had a really big win on Saturday against Notre Dame. Do you think that was more of a product of Notre Dame having a sluggish performance, or do you think Michigan has finally found an identity here?
KH: I think Michigan found an identity. I think their last six quarters of football have been outstanding. What they did in the second half against Penn State, when they were down 21-7 and came all the way back to give themselves a chance to tie. The offensive line is starting to assert themselves, Zach Charbonnet is running the ball well, and Shea Patterson has all his receivers healthy. So, I think Josh Gattis has finally created an identity and the defense is always lights out with Don Brown. They’ve become a very interesting team because of the way they played. I think you’ve got to give Michigan a lot of credit. I was disappointed in Notre Dame. I think they will probably be more disappointed in the way they played than I am. But I’d rather look at Michigan and what they did well than what Notre Dame did not do well.
The Spun: With the College Football Playoff a couple of months from now, do you think it's more likely we see two SEC teams or two Big Ten teams in the postseason?
KH: I don't think we'll see two from any conference. The most logical scenario would be if Alabama beats LSU in a shootout. I don't think that's a low scoring game. I think that's a potentially high-scoring game for those two quarterbacks. If LSU finished with an 11-1 record with its only loss coming in a shootout to Alabama, you could get into a debate there at the end. You could have an SEC champion, a Big Ten champion, Clemson and then you've got a discussion between a one loss Pac-12 champ, maybe a one loss Oklahoma and a one loss LSU.The Spun: LSU is the No. 1 team in the latest AP Poll. Do you agree with that decision?
KH: After about Week 4 on College GameDay we started talking about who do we think is the best team at this point and I said Ohio State. They really haven't done anything to me to take away from being recognized as a top team in the country. I think the Buckeyes have been the most consistent team on offense and defense. LSU has been a great story, but a big part of their story has been Joe Burrow and Joe Brady. If you're going by resume it would be LSU, but if you're going by who's executing and who's been dominant, then it's been Ohio State.
The Spun: Moving over to Oklahoma, they suffered an upset loss to Kansas State. Can the Sooners get back to the College Football Playoff or do you think this loss dooms their season?
KH: Oh no, I still think they’re OK. It's not as if their season is over by any means. We'll have to wait to see when the playoff rankings come out, but right now they're down at 10 on the AP Poll. If you look at the teams that are ahead of them and the teams that they still have to play, there's going to be a lot of losses ahead of them and they've got some opportunities to play some games against really talented teams. I think they have to play Iowa State, then they have Baylor in Waco and Oklahoma State. So no, they're going to have plenty of chances to build a very strong resume by the end of the year.
The Spun: Texas has been reeling of late, especially on defense. Is this because of the program’s injuries or is there cause for concern beyond this season?KH: Yea, I think the injuries have definitely caught up to them defensively this year. The secondary is depleted, and they've had more injuries than any other team in the country. They're scoring enough that you would think it would give them a chance to win, but as you know in the Big 12, you better score 40 points or you're going to probably lose the game. So, I don't think this is a sign that Tom Herman has Texas heading in a bad direction. I think they're going to recruit at a high enough level that they're going to be just fine. But yeah, I think injuries have definitely caught them this year.The Spun: This weekend Florida takes on Georgia in an intriguing SEC showdown. What's your early prediction and what we'll you be looking forward to in that one?
KH: One of the really great stories from this year has been what Florida’s offense has been able to do despite losing Feleipe Franks. I think they've gotten better with Kyle Trask. He's done a heck of a job with the way he's executing. I think their offense has become more efficient with him getting the ball out of his hands quicker. He knows his limitations, so you're not seeing the willingness to try to create as much with Trask. I think Georgia needs to be able to throw the ball down the field. They have not done a good job of that this year, but Jake Fromm is more than capable of doing so. The Gators are coming off a bye week and they're healthier. If Georgia just goes with short passes against Florida’s secondary, I don't think that'll be enough. I think something to watch will be if Jake Fromm can throw down field and hit some vertical passes to try to take the top off of the Gators’ defense. Otherwise, I think the Gators could be suffocating on defense against Fromm and DeAndre Swift.
The Spun: Week 11 has two good matchups: Minnesota vs. Penn State and Alabama vs. LSU. Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck made his pitch to College GameDay, and I saw on Twitter you gave your vote of approval for it. If there's a chance that you guys do go to Minnesota, what would you be looking forward to there?
KH: Oh man, I love stories like that. You’re talking about a guy that's completely changed the culture of a team in a really tough conference in the Big Ten. The fact that they're undefeated and Penn State is having a magical year, there's a lot to like there. I've been on the show for 24 years and we've never been to Minneapolis. I'd be shocked if the show doesn't end up going obviously to Tuscaloosa for the quote unquote game of the century. It seems like every year it's the game of the century and it’s Tua Tagovailoa against Joe Burrow. Don't get me wrong, that's a big story. I just wished the game in Minneapolis was on a different week. We would love to bring GameDay to Minneapolis.
The Spun: Each week you do your Allstate Mayhem Moment. Tell me about your work with AllState and where there could be potential mayhem this weekend.
KH: You just talked about it, I think the Florida-Georgia game could provide mayhem. The winner is going to stay alive in the SEC East and the loser is out, so I don't know if you can have much more mayhem than that. On Tuesday, I'll get my prediction of where I think the mayhem moment of the weekend will be, but I think this weekend it'll be in Jacksonville. The other thing that's a little bit different is the Allstate Playoff Predictor. It's a calculation that ESPN’ stats group uses along with what the selection committee has done in the past, and it gives every team that's up in the top 10 or 15 what their percentage of making the playoffs is this week. It even gives their percentage or chance of winning the national championship. Fans can even go check it right now, since it’s up to date after last week's upsets.
Herbstreit and the College GameDay crew are heading to Memphis for the Memphis-SMU matchup this Saturday. Fans can check out his ‘Mayhem Moment’ of the week on Twitter.
If you’re interested in reading more of our interviews with sports media stars and athletes, you can do so here.