Q&A with Kirk Herbstreit: College Football Playoff talk, Justin Fields improvement and Tom Allen's success at Indiana
Saturday Tradition’s Dustin Schutte spoke with College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit this week about several topics as it relates to the College Football Playoff and the B1G football season, as part of the Goodyear Playoff Fan Picks initiative.
Fans were given the opportunity to vote for their top picks for the College Football Payoff through the Goodyear Playoff Fan Picks. Voting results may not influence the selection committee’s rankings, but it does provide fans the opportunity to weigh in on which four teams deserve a spot as the season nears the final few weeks. Fans have voted that the four teams are: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Notre Dame. You can continue the debate on social media with the hashtag #GoodyearPlayoffFanPicks.
Below is the Q&A between Saturday Tradition and Herbstreit.
Dustin Schutte: When you talk about the College Football Playoff, the conversation starts with Ohio State. What have you seen from Ohio State so far and do they look as good now as we thought coming into the 2020 season?
Kirk Herbstreit: “Offensively, you can’t help but love what you’ve seen from Justin Fields, the way he is in such command of this offense. That’s been impressive to me. Great group of wide receivers. Different kind of running game this year. They don’t have that big play, explosiveness of J.K. Dobbins, but I think we’re seeing Master Teague and Trey Sermon be very, very physical and they seem to be getting more comfortable. I think they still have that combination of run and throw.
“I think if there’s anything you need to see a little bit more of, it’s just this team defensively. I think they have a chance to have a great defense. There have been times this year when we watch them and we thought they looked dominant. When they went to Penn State, they looked really, really good early in that game. Against Rutgers, at times, they looked really, really good. And there are other times you think they might be a little vulnerable.”
Schutte: Last season, Justin Fields looked like a future No. 1 overall pick, and you think ‘how can this kid get any better.’ But he thought he could get better and he looks like he’s playing even better than last season. How has his game improved from 2019 to 2020?
Herbstreit: “I think a lot of people are saying ‘this guy is really good this year.’ He was like, legendary good last year. If they win that Clemson game and go to the national championship, you could have put his season that he had in 2019 up against maybe any year in the history of Ohio State football of any quarterback. That was last year.
“I think what you’ve found this year, a few games in…he is working through his progressions. That’s the difference in 2020. Watching him — how calm he is in the pocket, how he works from his first primary, to his second to his third, to his fourth. If they’re all covered, then he’ll use his feet. Last year, he would come off that primary [read] and go. Use his athletic ability to make plays a lot times. Now, watch him in the pocket, how different he is. And I think it’s because he understands coverage and he understands where to go with the football in 2020.
“I think he’s just scratching the surface. He’s gonna keep getting better and better this year.
Schutte: Tom Allen is doing something at Indiana that so many other coaches have failed to do, and he’s done it in just four years. What’s the difference between Allen and some of the other previous guys who coached the Hoosiers?
Herbstreit: “It’s one thing to get a message across, it’s another to go out and recruit players. He’s gone down into Florida a lot and gotten a lot of players, even if they’re second- or third-tier players. They’ve gotten a lot of talent, and if you look at their roster and watch these guys play, you feel athletically — it’s a combination of getting great speed and skill and throwing in a scheme offensively with a great quarterback that gives you a real chance, and that’s where they are right now.
“They’ve been close in the past to teams like Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State. They just haven’t been able to get that close win. And this year, of course, they knocked off Penn State in grand fashion. Then they get the big win against Michigan.
“Indiana is going to come in with a chip on their shoulder. They don’t think they can win, they believe they can win.”
Schutte: We talk every year about the eye test vs. resume for the College Football Playoff. Do you think this season, because of the inequities with the schedule, teams having games canceled, limited nonconference games, the eye test should be weighed more heavily this year?
Herbstreit: “Yeah, it has to be. This is not apples to apples. We’re looking at different teams that are playing a different amount of games. Not just conference to conference, as we’re seeing within conference. Who knows where this thing is going to end up in five weeks? If you’re on the committee, you might end up evaluating one team that’s sitting out there and they’ve played 11 games, and then you’ll be evaluating another one that’s played eight, then another one that’s played seven, another one that’s played nine. I mean, it’s so different. I think the analytics, the metrics, everything you might look at, will not necessarily be something you can count on.
“I’ve always been a big believer and tried to encourage the committee to watch games, not just late in the year, but all year and be able to, if I say to you, ‘What do you think of Clemson?’ Boom, you don’t need to look down at your analytics, you know from just watching Clemson. …If you watch these teams play, you can do that. And if you haven’t watched them, you’ve just watched highlights, then you’re going to look down at your notes, your analytics.
Schutte: Is there potential for the B1G to get two teams into the College Football Playoff this season, if teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin both finish undefeated and the only loss is in the B1G Championship Game?
Herbstreit: “If you were to look at the rankings right now, if Alabama and Ohio State were to win out and Notre Dame and Clemson were to continue to win and meet in the ACC Championship Game, you’re looking at — if Clemson avenges that loss and are healthy and are able to beat Notre Dame, I don’t know if it matters what happens outside of those four teams. I think those are going to end up being the four teams.
“So, let’s say Florida beats Alabama in a close game. Alabama fans are going to be saying ‘Woah, woah, woah. Alabama’s been dominant all year, they only lost by a field goal, they should still be one of the top four teams.’ You could potentially have the same thing with Ohio State-Wisconsin. What if that game’s close? So, I think if you’re wanting the potential of getting another team in, then Clemson needs to lose. They need to lose to Notre Dame to open up that window to open that potential debate as to who that fourth team could be. And then I think it becomes a heated debate.”