Kirk Herbstreit is one of college football busiest commentators, serving as an analyst on ESPN's “College GameDay” along with working ABC's Saturday night game with Brent Musburger. He also has a busy family life in Nashville, Tenn., with four sons, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade who all play football.
Herbstreit, 43, a former Ohio State quarterback, will make his season debut calling the Cowboys Classic matching Alabama and Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday from Arlington, Texas, and “College GameDay” will be at the site. In a recent phone interview, he discussed changes in the Big 12, and OU's and OSU's prospects for the season.
Will the Big 12 be better with the addition of West Virginia and TCU this season?
It's amazing to think a year or two ago there was talk of the Big 12 even dissolving. Now they have lost four teams in the last couple of years and brought in two teams in TCU and West Virginia. You start to look not only at Oklahoma and Texas, who I think will be better, but Oklahoma State and even Kansas State with the improvement that they've had with Bill Snyder. Then you add West Virginia and TCU, that gives you six teams right there and that's not even including Texas Tech or Baylor. Now that the dust has settled, I think there might end up being more depth in this conference than what we've seen in the past.
Who are you picking to win the conference?
I like Oklahoma. I have my concerns about them, but overall they are the team to beat on paper. There is some enough experience in some key areas. I think of all the players in the Big 12, the player I'm most intrigued to watch is Landry Jones. He is a veteran guy who has had a lot of peaks and valleys in his career. I'm sure last year did not end the way he would have liked the way he played down the stretch. That can affect your confidence a bit. He threw 15 interceptions last year, and he doesn't have his guy Ryan Broyles back. I just want to see how he plays and if they can get him back in rhythm.
Will Mike Stoops have much of an impact on the defense?
Huge impact. I'm a big fan of Bob (Stoops) and Brent (Venables). I think his experience in Tucson probably brings him back full of energy. I'm sure he is anxious to work with top shelf talent like he'll be working with at Oklahoma. Just to be candid, Oklahoma in the last four or five years at times has played as well as any defense in the country and there have been other times where they've had letdowns. I got to believe part of what Mike and Bob and the whole defensive staff is trying to do is try to build a little bit more continuity and consistency within their defensive play.
How do you think OSU, with freshman quarterback West Lunt, will fit in the mix?
Clearly, he did enough in spring to show the coaches what he could do. He has a lot of talent to work with even though they lose Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper. The game moves so much faster. The windows are so much narrower, tighter and they open and close so much faster in the college game as compared to the high school game that I think it's just like any other quarterback who has played early in his career, it's going to take a little bit of time. Hopefully, some of the leaders around him will take some of the pressure off him. I hope he doesn't try to be Brandon Weeden and instead plays within the confines of that offense and understand you're going to make some mistakes and then I think he'll be fine.
Are you excited about the four-team playoff system coming in 2014?
I am. A lot of people wanted an eight- or a 16-team playoff. I'm fine where we are. I'm anxious to see what the evaluation system will be. Is it just strictly going to be a selection committee or will their be computers involved or will there be any kind of formula at all to evaluate the teams? The fact that at the end of the day you're going to have four teams I think is exciting. I don't think any of us really fully understand or appreciate how big it is going to be for college football and how much more attention this sport is going to receive in the month of December and into January.
ON THE MOVE
Several sportscasters have new assignments as the season is set to begin. Erin Andrews has jumped from ESPN to Fox to host a new prime-time college football pregame show with Eddie George and Joey Harrington from Los Angeles. It debuts at 6 p.m. Saturday before Fox's Hawaii-USC telecast.
Gus Johnson and Charles Davis will call the new Fox package with new sideline reporter Julie Alexandria. Fox's No. 2 team consists of Craig Bolerjack, former Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt and sideline reporter Petros Papadakis.
At ESPN, Samantha Steele has left the Longhorn Network to replace Andrews on the first hour of ESPN's “College GameDay” and Heather Cox will replace her as sideline reporter on the Saturday night package.
New announce teams include Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and Quint Kessenich; Joe Tessitore and Matt Millen; Beth Mowins and Joey Galloway; Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham and Jeannine Edwards; Bob Wischusen, Danny Kanell and Maria Taylor; Mark Jones and Brock Huard; Matt Stinchcomb, Clay Matvick and Allison Williams.
ESPN's Thursday and Friday night games will also have familiar faces in new roles. David Pollack and Steele will join returning announcer Rece Davis and analyst Jesse Palmer on Thursday. Carter Blackburn will call the Friday series with Rod Gilmore and Jemele Hill.