Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will make their debut as ABC’s No. 1 college football broadcasting team at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 when they call the Oklahoma State-Florida State game in the Cowboys Classic from Arlington, Texas. They also will be part of ESPN’s “College GameDay” coverage that morning from Sundance Square in Fort Worth.
During a conference call Tuesday, the pair talked about OSU’s prospects in that game and how OU will be affected by the season-long suspension of running back Joe Mixon. Here are excerpts from their comments:
What are the prospects for a rebuilding OSU team against Florida State in the opener?
Herbstreit: I think Oklahoma State probably lost as many players as anybody in the country coming back at a high-profile school trying to compete in a game like this against a team like Florida State. I think with that being said, Chris and I were talking earlier about the job Mike Gundy is doing there. It’s hard to believe that this is his 10th year as a head coach at Oklahoma State. The last five or six years, I will pay him the compliment that his team is no longer a rebuilding type of team. I think OSU for years, decades, was a team that one year if everything was just right, they had enough seniors, they might get up to 10 or 11 wins. Then they would get back to five, or six or seven wins. And recently, they are winning 11 or 12 and their drop now is eight or nine. There is no reason to think that trend shouldn’t continue despite all the losses.
With that being said, obviously, it’s a very, very big challenge in the opener against Florida State. I think Florida State is not a team that will come in complacent or looking past Oklahoma State. I think they will be incredibly motivated, excited to play on a big stage, which is typically where Jameis Winston plays his best football.
If I’m Oklahoma State, we’re so young at some key spots let’s hope that that they are just young enough and naive enough to go into that game and play out of their minds. Let’s hope that the homefield advantage maybe can make a difference. Playing in Arlington is a lot closer to Stillwater than Tallahassee. And you got to get off to a fast start to get your young players a reason to believe that they can play with the defending national champions. Playing fast earlier is something I would recommend. Florida State was up 35-0 at the end of the first quarter on teams last year. Jameis Winston is used to putting the ball cap on before halftime. They don’t start slow. They typically start fast and they kind of take your will away. I would say getting ready to play fast early and getting some confidence and not getting blown out early is something they need to focus on.
Fowler: They are underdogs for a reason. I think that last year’s defense might have been Gundy’s best, but it was predicated on aggression and it’s tough to be aggressive when you’re inexperienced. And the guys who will line up and try to stop an unstoppable offense from a year ago are pretty green at key positions. They lack leadership. They haven’t been under fire because they are just not proven at a lot of spots. What you’re scared of if your an Oklahoma State fan is what Kirk is describing, that fast start. The Cowboys want to play offense with tempo. It’s tough to play tempo on offense if you can’t trust your defense because you’ll have a 41-second possession and a three-and-out and the Noles get the ball back. That’s the nightmare scenario. We’re all excited to see Tyreek Hill. I’m excited to see (J.W.) Walsh. I think the offense will be a typical Gundy offense. They will find ways to score points. The Noles are tough to hang with. I’m curious to see if the mental toughness that Gundy talks about (in) developing and recruiting his players, will be fully, fully tested from the first snap.
How much will OU be hurt by the season-long suspension to Joe Mixon?
Fowler: For Oklahoma, Mixon is a huge loss. I think nationally some of us were surprised by the length of the suspension. You don’t know how a team or a school is going to handle that situation. He’s a guy that could have been the starter and would have been a meaningful contributor. You add that to some other guys who are in limbo and there are some major question marks for Oklahoma. It’s been a very troubling off-season for the program on many fronts. That’s a tough one. I will just tell you that the national reaction was surprised — didn’t feel like that it was inappropriate necessarily — just surprised that the suspension was for the whole year when you see a guy like (Ravens running back) Ray Rice who is going to sit, what, three games (actually two).
Herbstreit: The other thing is there seems like a lot of people that watched that game at the Sugar Bowl and watched probably one of the biggest upsets in the bowl season when they knocked off Bama 45-31. I think there’s an assumption that’s the Oklahoma team in 2014. I’m not here to say that it’s not. But remember, their top three running backs from a year ago aren’t there. They lost Jalen Saunders. They lost Jaz Reynolds, They lost those backs that caught the ball out of the backfield. Outside of Sterling Shepard, there isn’t a lot of experience on the perimeter. I know Bob Stoops recruits very well. But to just assume that the team that took the field in New Orleans is going to be the team that takes the field in 2014, they need to find some skill, which I’m sure they eventually will. But I don’t think it’s fair to just assume that Trevor Knight will play in 2014 the way he did that night with the supporting cast he had on that given night.
How big a deal for a team is having a championship game in earning a spot in the playoff?
Fowler: I think that it’s going to be very interesting to see how the stretch run unfolds, how the committee debate proceeds, what they choose to reward. The Big 12, though, is sort of on an island. They are the only Power Five (conference) without the conference championship game. I think people view that as a potential disadvantage when you look at resume to resume at the end of the year. You don’t have that chance to get a quality win. I think right now the Big 12 still feels like a conference in flux because people want them to add another team or two and the two teams that they brought in haven’t made a huge positive impact yet. But any conference to lose A&M and Missouri and Nebraska and Colorado in recent years and still be as strong and deep as they are, it’s a testament to them.
Herbstreit: Bob Stoops used to be pretty outgoing and outspoken about how it didn’t make sense that they had to play in the Big 12 championship game and the Big Ten and the Pac-10 at the time did not. Now it’s kind of ironic that here we are six or seven years later and the Big 12 is now the conference that is not playing in a conference championship game. And I’ll go back to his own logic: I think everybody should play in a conference championship game or I think nobody should play in a conference championship game. But I don’t think it’s necessarily fair when you have teams that are trying to get into the same goal of the Final Four when some teams have that bonus game and some teams do not. It’s never made sense to me, even before this new setup.
Fowler: Having said that, I think playing one more conference game and attempting across the board for the most part, with the exception of Baylor in that league, playing a challenging nonconference opponent or two does work in your favor.