ThePostGame recently caught up with former Ohio State quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Herbstreit discussed the offseason, the upcoming playoff system and Allstate's Ultimate Road Trip Sweepstakes.
ThePostgame: It seems like forever ago that Notre Dame and Alabama were playing in Miami. How excited are you for this season to get underway?
KIRK HERBSTREIT: I can’t wait. And if you think back to that night, you build up for 30 or 40 days about what you’re hoping the game might be, and then literally within the first two series it’s like “Oh, boy.”
So a little bit of a letdown that night in Miami. But you’re right, it’s been a long offseason with a lot of stories away from the field. It’s just going to be nice to see the ball in the air and have a chance to watch some college football this weekend.
TPG: Can you remember another offseason with this much off-the-field action?
HERBSTREIT: You’ve got to remember I went to Ohio State, so that Jim Tressel/Terrelle Pryor offseason was pretty big too. It seems like the last two or three years there’s just been a lot of craziness that seems to take away from what’s going on actually out on the field.
TPG: Tell us a little bit about the Ultimate Road Trip Sweepstakes and what that entails for a few lucky fans.
HERBSTREIT: It’s pretty cool. This is about as good of a getaway as you can be a part of it you’re a college football fan. I’ve teamed up with Allstate, and this is an opportunity for one lucky winner and three of his friends. You have from now until Nov. 30 to enter, going to the website Allstatecfb.com.
You can enter once a week all the way up to Nov. 30. The drawing will be in early December. And if they draw your name, you and three friends will head to New Orleans to go to the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl. I’ll meet you down there and we’ll watch the game at the Superdome.
And then you and your friends will be headed to the national championship out in Pasadena and have a VIP road trip experience. That’s a pretty good deal.
So you take in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and then you’re going to the national championship. And when you get home you’re going to have a brand new SUV. Not a bad deal to take 60 seconds once a week to put your name in to find out if you can win.
TPG: Which two teams do you think fans will be seeing in the national championship game in Pasadena?
HERBSTREIT: I think as we sit here and look at all of this on paper, I still think Alabama has proven to be able to avoid complacency in the past. I think that’s never something you’re over, I think it’s always a challenge, especially with kids today with the sense of entitlement that they have when they come to college. I’m anxious to see what kind of hunger and desire that Alabama plays with.
I have Alabama playing Georgia in the SEC championship game and Alabama advancing to the national title. And I think Ohio State, their schedule will allow them to make a pretty good run. I think their offense will be dynamic and I think their defense will be given enough games early to grow up. I think Alabama will play Ohio State in the national title.
TPG: It’s been so hard for a team to repeat as national champion over the past few decades, yet Alabama has won three of the past four national championships. What is Nick Saban doing that has been so effective?
HERBSTREIT: I think there’s a few things. The first thing is he is relentless in his efforts to recruit players. I don’t know if people really understand how involved he is in recruiting, and how competitive he is in recruiting. So it allows him to have a very high caliber athlete on his roster at every position. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is he doesn’t allow them to focus on their individual goals. If they focus on their individual goals, they won’t be there long. He gets them to buy in to the importance of competing and trying to win an SEC championship. And I think he feels that if they can do that, they’re going to eventually get to the national championship.
And then the other thing he does is he might be the best defensive coach in football. That includes the NFL. You’d have to put him up there as far as the masterminds of defense in the modern game with some of the best in the nation at any level. If you think about his teams in three of the last four years that they’ve won the national championship, go back to 2009, they gave up like 11 points-per-game. A couple years ago, with the dominating group, they gave up eight points-per-game. And then last year they only gave up 10 points-per-game.
If you can consistently play defense to that level in this era where everybody wants to talk about tempo and spread offenses and points, well Nick Saban’s figured out a way to keep defense in a pretty important role. It’s taken them to three of the last four national championships.
TPG: Looking ahead to the playoff, how do you think it might affect the regular season. Whether it’s scheduling, resting players or anything else.
HERBSTREIT: I think it’s big. I think having a selection committee instead of what I think is an antiquated system with the current coaches poll, the Harris poll and the computers.
I don’t think there’s a whole lot of wiggle room. My hope for the selection committee is they will reward teams for going out and playing some heavyweight non conference teams. Or even within your own conference, when you play good teams you should be rewarded by a selection committee. And you should move up accordingly. Or if you lose a close game, you shouldn’t drop six spots because you lost to a really good team on the road by three points.
I think that’s a real challenge for the selection committee. Don’t just vote based on the way we have the last 50 years in college football. Really study this, watch the games, appreciate the atmosphere and the opponent that each team is playing. And then adjust your poll based on what you’re seeing.
Take Georgia-Clemson, for example. Say Georgia, on the road, plays Clemson and they end up losing, for argument’s sake, on a last second field goal. They played great, but they lost, and the atmosphere had something to do with it. I’m one of those guys who in week one will move Georgia up or keep them where they are in a poll. I have a hard time penalizing a team who is willing to go to Death Valley and play a good opponent, and if they lost a close one, how do you penalize them when everyone else is playing Sam Houston State? I think you should reward teams for playing heavyweight opponents.
That way you get more and more teams willing to take a chance and play those kind of games. The winner there, if it happens, are the fans and more importantly, the players, who want to play in those type of games.
TPG: We’d be remiss if we didn’t ask you about the Cincinnati Reds. Assuming that Cincinnati makes the playoffs, do you think they can make any noise?
HERBSTREIT: (laughs) I’m a little concerned with our bats right now. We’re just not hitting the ball and not scoring runs the way you’d like to see a team in August who's heating up and getting ready for the postseason.
I’m hoping that Ryan Ludwick continues to kind of get more comfortable, it’s almost like he’s still in spring training because he’s been out so long. I hope Johnny Cueto can come back. Because if you get into a one game playoff with the Wild Card, they do have Mat Latos, but it’d be nice to have Johnny Cueto healthy and ready to go for the postseason.
I’m a junkie. I follow them every single day, they’re getting close. It's going to be an interesting series with the Cardinals. And the Pirates are also playing great baseball. The Cardinals are kind of the Alabama of the National League Central, they just find ways to win when it matters. You have to give the advantage to the Cardinals in my opinion.