ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said he already has circled Sept. 17 on his calendar. That's the day the Sooners travel to Tallahassee, Fla., to face Florida State in a game he expects he will broadcast with Brent Musburger and also cover with “College GameDay” colleagues Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Desmond Howard. Herbstreit discussed the upcoming season in a telephone interview.
What's your early appraisal of OU?
I think on paper they are the best team in the country. I don't want to put a bull's-eye on their chest, but I think this might be one of Bob's most talented teams in the 13 years he has been there. I think Landry (Jones) has demonstrated what he can do at quarterback. The running backs, you talk about a stable, that is an outstanding group. I loved Ryan Broyles coming back to go with Kenny Stills. Even James Hanna showed playmaking ability at tight end. They have a big strong offensive line. It's scary to think what this offense can do. You love (former offensive coordinator) Kevin Wilson, but at the same time, I think there is enough cohesion on that offensive staff that I don't think will slow them down. They averaged like 37 last year. I can't imagine what they're going to do to defenses this year with that up-tempo offense, which is tough enough to deal with. Then you throw in the experience and playmaking ability that I have. That side of the football I think will be dynamic.
Defensively, it's been proven over the years that they always seem to put a defense out there that has a chance to win a championship. I think the challenge for them this year is to avoid those games where they had some lapses, which had to do with youth, giving up some big plays. I cannot wait for Sept. 17 for when they go to Tallahassee. I think that will be a huge game.
What's your forecast for Oklahoma State?
The Cowboys are going to score a ton of points. With Justin Blackmon having a chance to come back and see what he can do with (Brandon) Weeden, I think Oklahoma State is going to be a team that is going to score a ton. The big question with them, is can their defense hold up and slow some people down? I think Bill Young is an outstanding defensive coordinator. I think in the last year or two you could see that Mike (Gundy) has made more of an effort to get more athletic ability on defense. There is a lot of youth over there. It's hard to really know how good they can be. But for them to become a team that will challenge Oklahoma and Texas A&M and have a chance to get to a BCS bowl game, it obviously is going to be up to their defense.
Will it be an advantage for OU and other Big 12 powers not having a conference championship game?
For years, Bob (Stoops) has talked about it publicly. It has been frustrating for him that prior to this year the Pac-10, the Big Ten and the Big East didn't have to deal with that. He thought it was pretty unfair that the Big 12, the SEC and the ACC had to play in a championship game. That made a lot of sense to a lot of people. They finally got what they wanted. Now they just deal with the total of 10 teams in their conference. You know when your season ends you don't have to sit there and worry about winning that extra game. As a fan, I liked it. I used to love watching the Big 12 championship game. I'm looking forward to watching the Big Ten championship game.
How will you remember the Jim Tressel era at Ohio State?
I think it's unfortunate the way it ended. I think that eventually he will have to come out and address these issues. I think a lot of it snowballed. I think the facts and what's fiction to me seem to be blurred. I don't even know myself what's true and what's not true of all these allegations. For people who know Jim Tressel and speaking for myself, how I view him has not changed and won't change. I still think he's a good man. I still think he was an outstanding coach. I still think he's a guy if my kids ever had a chance to play for, I would be honored. I think he got beat up and I think a lot of it was unfair.