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Transcript of Media Conference Call with Brent Musburger & Kirk Herbstreit


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ESPN held a media conference call with Saturday Night Football announcers Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit on Tuesday, Aug. 13. A transcript and audio recording of the call is available on

Teams covered during the call include Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Clemson, Georgia, Kansas State, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. Topics discussed include the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, BCS system, player safety and new rules interpretation, the state of Big 12 football and College GameDay.

Musburger and Herbstreit will work their eighth season together – and second with reporter Heather Cox – on the ABC Saturday Night Football series, the highest-rated and most-viewed college football series among all networks in 2012. They will open the 2013 season calling No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson (USA Today Coaches Poll) on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Q. I’m in South Carolina, obviously Clemson and South Carolina both huge stories this year and you guys opening up at Clemson. Both Brent and Kirk who have done a number of Clemson games obviously and have been there, is this Clemson team any different than some of the others where maybe they got people to buy into expectations? I’m thinking the Georgia Tech game back in ’06 where GameDay was and perhaps the opener in ’08 where they lost to Alabama in the Georgia Dome. Is this team vastly different from the ones that we saw where expectations rise and then something seems to go wrong?
Brent Musburger: You know, Pete, I’ll go first, I don’t know that we know yet until we see them. Obviously they read very well because they have got offensive names back.  So we’re familiar with the Tajh Boyd, etc., etc. But I don’t think we are going to find really how good they are until they go toe‑to‑toe with Georgia. I don’t know how you feel about Clemson right now.

Kirk Herbstreit: You look at them on paper and it’s hard not to love their offense. Even though they lost Ellington and Hopkins to the NFL; just because Tajh Boyd comes back, he seems to almost be just an extension of Chad Morris with his familiarity in the system.

It’s a very difficult system to prepare for, so having a veteran quarterback like Tajh I think is huge. I think they have a ton of talent around him. I think they are going to score a lot of points.

So I think their offense is ready to roll and I think their defense and second year now with Brent Venables, that will help them to maybe be a little further that along, and they are going to need to be further along because that first game, as we all know against Aaron Murray and a pretty explosive offense.

But I think it’s a very valid question and one that I have every year with Clemson. In their defense, the two teams that they lost to last year were both teams that were ranked pretty highly, losing to South Carolina, even though they were favored and losing to Florida State.

In the past, Clemson would drive me crazy because they would beat Florida State and then lose to an NC State or a Maryland or a team that they were better than and last year they lost to two teams that were pretty good teams. I think that was part of Dabo’s focus was trying to get this program to kind of take that next step with consistency. I think they have shown that in the last year or so and if they can get off to a big start by beating Georgia at home, I know all their fans are going to be very excited about what this team potentially could do. 

Q. Do you see Georgia having any decided advantage in this game in particular from a match up standpoint, and Mr. Musburger, I just wonder, obviously you called a lot of games, and what your familiarity is kind of with the history there is behind the Georgia/Clemson rivalry, and if this one is going to be up there for any of the openers you’ve had in the past.
Musburger:  It’s a terrific matchup on paper. You never know how it’s going to play out on the field.

Obviously they are neighborhood rivals. I was amused; a couple weeks ago I got a text from Clemson that said that if Clemson was in the SEC this would be the closest distance between two SEC teams and I think they decided Mississippi State and Mississippi as the one that’s closest in the SEC. So it’s a good neighborhood rivalry. I’m sure a lot of these youngsters have competed against each other at the high school level. I honestly see one disadvantage for Georgia, and that’s excluding the home‑field advantage here for Clemson.

But I think the fact that the Bulldogs are looking up and see South Carolina right down the road and it’s a conference opener for them, I think that could be a distraction for players and coaches alike, and Herbie, you said the Georgia early schedule is a nightmare for them.

Herbstreit: Yeah, they open up of course in Death Valley and a huge conference game with Clemson, and then they still have LSU, just in the first month alone. So they are going to find out really where they stand within the first four weeks of their season.

The thing about Georgia that I’m looking forward to in that game, much like Tajh Boyd, you’ve got Aaron Murray, who will be a four‑year starter in the SEC. Brent and I had Georgia on the road early last year, and they struggled, of course, in Colombia against Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks, and I think there’s a real sense of focus with this team.

I was down in Athens a week ago, and this looks like a veteran team, especially on the offensive side of the ball that really believes that they are going to have a great year.  I mean, we all remember how close they were in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game; not just winning the SEC, but getting a berth in the National Championship.  I think that’s really driven them in this off‑season.

And Mark Richt was telling us that even though they last eight starters, I think all of them were drafted into the NFL.  They feel very good about this next wave of personnel that they are going to have to have step up. If there’s one concern I would have if I’m a Georgia Bulldog, it would be breaking in a lot of new faces in the secondary against a very, very confusing and difficult scheme to prepare for with a veteran quarterback and a lot of big playmakers.

If I’m a Georgia fan, my big thing is not giving up a lot of big plays to Clemson. If they can avoid giving up big plays and keep that crowd somewhat tame, then they have got a shot. That game on paper looks like a shootout. I mean, that looks like which quarterback is going to having the ball left could end up winning that. 

Q.  Brent, as specific as you can be, can you tell me how you go about your preseason preparation for the season?
Musburger: It’s an interesting question, because I wait for all of the early preseason football magazines to come out and I go up the road to Missoula, Montana and I scoop them up and I come down and I look at their ratings and goodness, SI and Athlon, Steele and Lindy’s and ESPN the Magazine and then I just sort of pay attention.

You know, I’m aware of what SportsCenter stories are covering, what’s breaking in college football and I really won’t get specific about Clemson or Georgia until, ohh, probably like ten days before the game, and then we’ll start to put together our charts and go from there.

But it’s funny, the magazine, you know better than everybody, has struggled mightily in the face of the Internet and everything. But the one magazine, groups of magazines that I look forward to every year are the college football publications, like a little boy on Christmas Eve. I like to see what the fellows are thinking about this year, and that’s about it. 

Q.  Kirk, do you regard Miami as a top 20 program this year, that’s sort of been on the for instance of the top 25 for most of the prognosticators and can you count as many quarterback/running back tandems better this year Morris and Duke Johnson?
Herbstreit:  I think they are top 20. I’m concerned with that dark cloud that’s still hovering around their program, and I don’t know if maybe you can shed some light on when that might go away. But as we sit here right now in the middle of August, it looks like they are going to have a free pass to be competitive and have a chance to compete in the ACC and maybe get to the post‑season.

If that’s not a distraction, I think for players and Al Golden did a really good job of keeping his team focused on just trying to win games, despite all of that craziness that seemed to be swirling around. You look at Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson, you can put those two on the field with a lot of teams in the country and not take a back seat to very many.

I think Stephen Morris is still somewhat off the radar. I don’t think people have a full appreciation for how good he is. I know he went to the Manning Passing Academy and I think surprised a lot of folks there, and I think he ended up winning the award as the top college quarterback there as far as some of the drill work that they did, so that got him a little bit more attention.

But we have been watching him throw the football around now for a couple years; and you combine his abilities with Duke Johnson’s big playability, and Miami should have a very balanced attack. Their defense was so young a year ago, and they are now a year older.

So I look for their defense to be ‑‑ if they can improve as much as I think we all anticipate them improving on the defensive side, and if they can get off to a good start by trying to beat the Gators early in September, then I think Miami could be a team to look out for in the ACC. 

Q.  This being the final season of the BCS, how will you look back on it and are there any games that stand out for both of you?
Musburger: Obviously there’s been a lot of negativity, some of which I certainly agree with, but I do have to give the BCS credit for one thing, and I do think it’s made college football more of a national game.

All of the great fans down in the SEC had to be aware of what was going on in the Pac 12 late on a Saturday and on into the evening. It became much more relevant as to what Oregon might be doing or Stanford or USC or any of those other teams. I think they deserve credit for that but I’m certainly glad, as you probably are ‑‑ but I’m glad as you certainly are, that at least we are moving toward a playoff, which will start next year with four teams selected.  And I await the outcry from the teams that are ranked 5th and 6th.

Herbstreit: I’m with Brent. I saw it ‑‑ and when I played in college, they had the Bowl Coalition, so the Big Ten and the Pac 10 were on the outside looking in, no matter what the Big Ten and the Pac 10 did.

When the BCS came in, it threw everybody into the same pool and everybody had a chance to try to have a great year and end up getting to the championship, which I thought was great. And I know that we could go on and on and on about some of the shortcomings of the BCS and what did end up happening.

But I, for one, happen to like that part ‑‑ the regular season was as good as you’re going to find. For example, August 31, that weekend, we are all fired up and when Georgia plays Clemson, there’s a lot at stake and BCU plays LSU, there’s a lot at stake.

The best regular season ‑‑ and Brent is so right when he says, I don’t know how many times he and I might be calling a big game in late October or even into November, and Brent would even say on the air: “You know, Oregon is on the ropes, do you think the people down in Tuscaloosa are watching this one.”  You know, after they lost to Texas A&M, they had Stanford, and before the BCS, you think the people in Tuscaloosa could care what’s happening between Stanford and Oregon?  Absolutely not.

Yet it knocked down all of these regional barriers and everybody was paying attention to everybody. And I think that was what was great about the BCS and if there’s been one memory for me, it’s been just having the good fortune to be next to Brent calling the last, I don’t know how many, seven Rose Bowls and the last four or five National Championships; and for me to be able to be involved in games of that magnitude and calling them with Brent, that, for me, will be my memory of the BCS era.  It’s hard to pick just one game. 

Q.  How good do you think Michigan’s offense can be with Gardner at quarterback ‑‑ and also, would both of you like to see Michigan and Ohio State play in back‑to‑back weeks?
Musburger: I’m not sure. I really liked Gardner when I saw him. We were doing a game somewhere and he came in for a few plays at quarterback and then I remember, I guess it was early last year, they were going to convert him to wide receiver or whatever it was, and then he got a chance back at quarterback.

And he strikes me as a playmaker, and someone who could move the ball.  Obviously Michigan and Ohio State, back‑to‑back weeks, which could happen this year, the way the Big Ten is still aligned; it’s a very good question, and I suppose it depends on how the games unfold.  If they split, okay, maybe we should have a game flee.

I haven’t given that one a lot of thought, but that certainly could happen this year.

Herbstreit: I know for people who love the rivalry, this has been a big issue ever since they went to the Legends and Leaders; the potential of Ohio State and Michigan, not just playing late in November but then playing again in the Championship Game. That’s why moving it next year when Maryland comes in with Rutgers, I think a lot of people are excited.

But it’s I think a relevant concern for this year because I think Michigan’s offense has a chance to be really, really good.  And if they find a tailback ‑‑ and I know that the health of Fitzgerald Toussaint and the growth of Derrick Green, the true freshmen, those will be two big things, but how can you not like Devin Gardner? He’s 6‑4, whatever, 215 pounds, he fits perfectly into what Al Borges wants to do.

I think Al Borges, to his credit, did the best that he could in a very, very difficult set of circumstances with Denard Robinson, because Denard will always be haled and remembered by Michigan fans as being a hero. And yet, when you’re Al Borges trying to run more of a West Coast, pro‑style offense, it’s hard to try to make that spread running‑style quarterback work in your system, but they made good strides and they did the best that they could.

I think the future of Michigan football with Brady Hoke as the head coach is more like Lloyd Carr, obviously Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller win with defense, win by running the football and win with more of a Tom Brady, Elvis Grbac type of quarterback. That’s really what I think Gardner is going to provide for them.

And I really believe that, as I said, if the running game can go along with it to take some pressure off the passing game, then I think Gardner can have a great year. I’m not a big fan of seeing Ohio State and Michigan, round two; if they both have great years, despite what happened in that last game in Ann Arbor. I think traditionalist people who follow game and have played in the game, you like to see it the one time and kind of move on to the next year.

It would be interesting if those teams have the type of years that many people think to see them playing not only once in Ann Arbor, but potentially match up again seven days later in Indianapolis.

Q.  It’s been a pretty interesting three years for Texas ‑‑ but Mack Brown is now saying that it’s a year you can expect them to make another run.  Curious what you guys expect from Texas this year.
Musburger: Well, we know one thing: They have always got outstanding, talented football players, simply because Texas is up there with Florida, California and now Georgia in the way the high school programs turn out with very talented athletes. So I don’t think there’s an excuse for Texas not to have a good season, and I think Mack Brown realizes that and I think he has felt some of the pressure from the fans and the media down there.

I don’t know about you, but I saw Texas as one of the sleeper this is year. If you’re looking at sort of a long shot to make a run, they might be able to do that down in the Big 12. I don’t know how you feel.

Herbstreit: Well, 19 starters back on a team that people forget, they still won nine games last year. It feels like they were 6‑6, but they went 9‑4. And I think that there’s two issues for me with Texas, that you want to see how much they have improved; No. 1, how consistent can they be at quarterback.

I think if you really go back and watch Vince Young hand the baton to Colt McCoy, that was seven or eight years of just outstanding play at that position, and the offense scored a lot of points. And then you go from that night to Brenton, Iowa there, watching Garrett Gilbert step in for Colt from the 2010 season and beyond, they have really struggled for consistency at quarterback and they have not been able to blow people off the ball. It’s a bad combination for an offense. Yet, still they scored 35 points a game a year ago; so how will they play at quarterback.

Then watching their defense last year, it was mystifying.  I mean, they missed more tackles I think than any other team that I watched film all year a year ago, and most of those guys returned, and you just wonder, how is their off‑season gone ‑‑ how I think angry are they.

If I’m a Texas football player and I’ve had to be around for the last two or three years, and listen to what’s being said about my coach and my teammates and myself, I would think that they are going to show up somewhat with a chip on their shoulder and I think they are going to have to.

I think Texas, potentially, on paper, it’s hard to imagine them not having a good year. But until they go out and kind of play with an attitude and play in a bad mood, I think everybody has to really reserve judgment until you see the 2013 version of who the Longhorns are; but on paper, they look to be a team to look out for and have a legitimate shot at competing and winning the Big 12 and maybe getting back to a BCS Bowl game. 

Q.  Alabama obviously is going forward to threepeat; who do you see could seriously challenge them in that attempt?  And in the second question, Alabama obviously has a quarterback battle going on, they have narrowed it down to three, and they will focus on a couple guys, Nick Marshall, the transfer and Jeremy Johnson, the true freshman. Can you just explain how important this decision will be for, and with this offense, first year as Auburn’s head coach and how important it is to pick the right quarterback starting off the season.
Herbstreit: The first one, I think that there are teams that you could probably bring up from each conference that think that they have a shot to get up there and compete. Out west, there’s Stanford and Oregon, and I think depending on how that game goes, the team that’s still standing out in the Pac 12 could have a shot.

I think people feel that Ohio State with Braxston Miller, Ohio State offensively, should be really, really talented this year, and they have a lot of freshmen that are going to participate and they seem to be the team to beat in the Big Ten.

I think in the SEC, you know, I know that the talk right now with A&M has been about Johnny Manziel whether he is or is not going to play and all of the off‑the‑field problems.

But before that, there’s just so much talk about Alabama and A&M and Alabama and A&M and Alabama; I think people are sleeping a little bit on LSU. I think this is the type of team that Les Miles really likes where you have a quarterback with a year under his belt and you have got Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator and a ton of skill around him. The defense is John Chavis, and so you know they are going to be good.

I still think the winner of the Alabama / LSU game is going to Atlanta and also go to the National Championship. I think within their own conference, I think within their own division, they had better be careful and look out for LSU, even though that’s a home game.

As far as making it a selection, obviously any time you’re a first‑year head coach and trying to turn things around, who you end up ultimately selecting to be the trigger man is a huge decision. Gus Malzahn’s offense requires a guy who can run and can throw. I’ve heard from a number of people that Nick Marshall is a dynamic athlete. In fact, he started at Georgia and Mark Richt was telling me last week that this guy, if he gets in there, he’s got an ability to do things that very few people do as far as running with the football.

So my guess will be that Nick Marshall kind of has the inside track with his age, and if he ends up being a dynamic playmaker, I think we all know, and in that offense, signing the right guy as early as you can can help you turn things around, after going 3‑9 a year ago, they are going to need to find a guy there that can help them make plays, because they just have not been able to do that the last couple years without Cam Newton.

Q.  With all the concerns at safety and hits, could that impact the appeal of college football for fans watching on television back home if the game becomes maybe less impact ‑‑
Musburger: That’s an interesting question, because the rule change that is in effect starting this year, I happen to think that it will still be as attractive as before, and I happen to think they should protect the athlete as much as they can.

I was a little distressed to read that the great hit in the Bowl game by Clowney, South Carolina, on Smith at Michigan might have been a penalty, and might have resulted in an ejection. But I’m very happy to see that the ejection part of it can be reviewed by instant replay, but not the penalty.

Herbie, I don’t know, you’ve talked about the safety of players; I know you agree with me, we have to protect all of the athletes.

Herbstreit: Absolutely. I think what the rule is all about, and really starting with the NFL probably five or six years ago, and it’s filtered down to the college game; the rule has not necessarily changed. It’s just now the penalty is what is more severe, obviously and I think that more than anything is to try to get the attention of these players to let them know how serious the coaches are and the officials are and the leaders of this game are in trying to make sure that they are doing the right thing.

So to me I think the intent is the right one, but the first time Brent and I or somebody else has game where lo and behold, a guy has a big hit and it’s kind of in that gray area and he’s ejected. And they end up going upstairs and holding on and saying, okay, he’s thrown out of the game; unless it’s an obvious blatant hit, this is going to become by December one of the big controversies of the 2013 season.

If you look at the video that they have sent all of us to examine and to be familiar with, I think the thing to remember with this hit, like the Clowney hit after Rogers Redding, who is the supervisor of all officials, after they really reviewed it and talked about it, that was a clean hit. I think one of the other supervisors of the Big 12 in the ACC mentioned that might be an ejection.

There was no intent there by Clowney where he left his feet and lunged and tried to clearly knock a player out of the game. I think what the officials are trying to really focus on is that the traditional play with the receivers up in the air, trying to make a play, and a safety kind of comes in and clearly leaves his feet and hits him right in the head gear with his shoulder pad or his helmet and it’s a targeting shot.

And especially when he leaves his feet, and uses his helmet almost as a weapon; when you see something like that, I think that’s where the officials are really going to try to get the message across that that would be an ejection.

I think that the tough part for Brett and I and a lot of other broadcasters is there’s a lot of gray area there. And one week, one crew might see it one way and the next week another crew might see it another way. When you have that kind of discrepancy, I think ‑‑ and imagine trying to be a player and some officials allow it and some officials don’t. So I think they have to be consistent with this rule or it’s going to create a lot of headaches for a lot of people and a lot of arguments for these coaches when they are standing on the sidelines watching these games.

Q.  The Georgia quarterback, Aaron Murray, what do you like about him, how much does he have to prove and how much of a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate can he be if he has a good season?
Musburger: First of all, I think he came within about ten yards of taking the Bulldogs into a National Championship Game, or certainly at least winning the SEC last year. So I don’t know that he has much to prove.

Herbie and I, unfortunately, a person caught a bad game and did not play well admittedly at South Carolina last year. But he’s one of the premiere leaders in the country and he’s on everybody’s early list for Heisman Trophy candidates. Johnny Manziel seems to have turned that into a big burst (inaudible) all of a sudden you may have noticed. So this could be a big start for him, or Tajh Boyd. Herbie, I think you agree with that.

Herbstreit: I don’t know if he necessarily has anything really left to prove. He started three years at Georgia on his way to his fourth year as a starter. If they end up scoring on the last drive and find a way of beating Alabama, he would be one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the history of Georgia.

To be fortunate to be able to come back and have a senior year after all that he’s accomplished already, I think the only thing he has left to prove is maybe to himself, whatever his goals might be. I was with him a week ago and this guy is everything that’s right about college football.  He has a look in his eye and he is a guy that I really believe is more concerned about the team and success of the team than any individual accolade they might receive. They are loaded offensively around him and Todd Gurley could be the best back in the country, Keith Marshall back there, the two freshmen from a year ago, they are going to be loaded out at wide receiver; the offensive line has some experience after going through some injuries a year ago.

So he is one, he and Tajh Boyd both; it’s ironic that they are playing one another. I expect huge things from both these guys and I think that when you watch them, one of the things that you’ll be reminded is the benefit of having experience and how much that allows you to see the game a lot slower and be able to make better decisions.  Having him on the road in that hostile environment I think will be a bit point for Georgia trying to win that game on the road.

Q.  This is going to be the 18th year on the Game Day set with Lee and Chris. What has worked for you three as far as your chemistry and made the show so successful, even when there’s been other people added to the cast, particularly you three, what’s worked over the years?
Herbstreit:  I think the No. 1 word is chemistry, for whatever reason, it’s just from the very first time that we worked together, there was just an understanding and appreciation for everybody’s role, and I’ve always ‑‑ when I first started, the guy that I replaced was Craig James and Craig and Lee kind of had a fun, like argumentative‑type relationship.

When I first started on the show, people kept telling me, you’re nice, you need to argue more with him and things like that. And I kept saying, you know, I have to be kind of true to who I am and let our natural chemistry either develop or not develop, but I really felt that it was important not to be phoney and to just be ourselves.

And I think what you see now 18 years later, that’s just grown over time and the greatest thing that I love about our show is despite what some fans might think, they never ask us to say anything. They never ask us, hey, can you guys have a fun argument about this topic. It’s just they give you the sheet and they tell you what the topics are, and if you happen to agree, then you agree; and if you happen to disagree, you disagree.

But it’s just guys sitting around talking about football and we have got a lot of great graphics and stories and things like that. But I’ve just been so appreciative to work with guys where we just ‑‑ whether we are on‑camera or off‑camera, there’s just a very, very ‑‑ there’s no ego. It’s just guys that get along with one another and like to have the same position for college football.

Q.  What level of expectation do you have for Gary Anderson as he takes over the Wisconsin program; what can fans reasonably expect from his first year here?
Musburger: Well, it’s interesting, I had been around him as an assistant, I can’t say I spent a lot of time with him and last year Herbie and I did the Rose Bowl and he had been hired from Utah State. It impressed me immediately that he showed to practice and stood on the sideline as Barry Alvarez got the Badgers prepared for the Rose Bowl.

And in talking to him, I just got the sense, I don’t know how Herbie feels, but I got the sense that he knows what he’s doing and that he’s a strong leader, and to tell you the truth, I’m not expecting a big fall off on the part of the Badgers. I’m impressed with that hire. I don’t know how Herbie feels.

Herbstreit:  For me ‑‑ Barry Alvarez is not the coach, but he’s responsible for bringing in Barry Alvarez’s kind of guy.  Whether you’re looking at the basketball program or you’re looking at Bielema, who took over for him, or now you’re looking at Gary Andersen, he brings in Barry Alvarez kind of guys, guys that want to roll up their sleeves and just get after it, and they recruit players. They just have that same temperament.

I’m in complete agreement with Brent. I hate to put a bulls‑eye on Gary in the first year, but they have been to three straight Rose Bowls, and I know Ohio State and Penn State both were not eligible for the post‑season. But you look at Wisconsin, sure, they have got some tough games. Obviously they have got to go to Ohio State, non‑conference and they have to go out early to tempo to take on a pretty good Arizona State team.

But I really believe and as much talk as there is about Ohio State, and I think it’s legitimate, but if there’s one team that Ohio State needs to be careful of within their own division, I think it is Wisconsin, with a couple of veteran quarterbacks, in Stave who comes back and Curt Phillips, who played late and they have Abbrederis back and the running backs are outstanding. I love Melvin Gordon. We’ve seen James White and what he can do. You know they are going to have a great line. Chris Borland is back to lead a pretty physical front seven .

I hate to say it’s kind of the same old, same old, but it’s going to be a very similar‑looking Wisconsin team that we have seen these last three years which has allowed them to get to Pasadena.

So I think if they somehow beat Arizona State September 14 on the road and they get their swagger going and they get their confidence going, that game on the 28th in Columbus will become very, very interesting. But I think whether they win or lose that game against Ohio State, I think Wisconsin is a legit team and a very competitive team this year.

Q.  A lot of the games were close ‑‑ do you view that as a schedule thing, that if the games had been at home ‑‑ like this year has a more favorable split, and that’s why you’re bullish on Michigan or do you think that that was just an aberration?
Musburger:  Well, you don’t want to get too carried away early, actually, by any of these teams. And that includes Alabama. They have still got something to prove. I suppose it’s the weakness of the preseason polls that they matter so much.

I thought, first of all, that the coaching staff that has taken a charge at Michigan has done an excellent job.  I think Herbie agrees with me on that.  Michigan had slipped and really never took to the wide open offensive Rich Rodríguez and that’s not a knock on Rodríguez as much as it is the culture at Michigan.  But since they have regained a little bit of the old Bo Schembechler days, they appear to be back.

But I still think we have to play the season before we jump to any conclusions. Do you agree with that, Herbie?

Herbstreit:  I said this since they hired Brady Hoke, the fit there is perfect. Brady has Big Ten roots. He played high school at Ohio and he’s an assistant with Michigan where they were having some great years and went on to become a very successful head coach at Ball State and San Diego State.

The timing was good. And even though by some people’s standard, they took a little bit of a risk bringing him in, I think anybody who knew him knew it was a good fit. He’s recruiting well and they are only going to get better and better based on obviously the way he’s recruiting. They have done a remarkable job the last two years to win 11, and even 8 last year with their schedule, considering that they have been trying to make this offense go with Denard Robinson.

Now that they have more of a pro‑style fit with Gardner, you expect him to continue to get better.  I think the loss of Jake Ryan, depending on how soon he can comeback, that’s a significant loss for their defense.  I still feel they need to upgrade the athletic ability on that side of the football, and I think they had like 22 sacks a year ago.  Seems like the only time they were able to get pressure is when they blitz, which is great if you get to the quarterback, but if you don’t get to the quarterback and you leave guys open in man coverage, that’s high‑risk, high‑reward.

They play Notre Dame early and they are at Penn State middle of October.  You can make a really strong case that they have got a great shot, at least a pretty good shot at being 7‑0 as they get ready for just a very, very challenging November where they are at Michigan State, Nebraska, they are at Northwestern and Ohio State.

I think the team could be better, but we’ll see how they are able to navigate through that November.

Q.  You guys don’t have Nebraska on a primetime Saturday night this year, which might speak a little to perception nationally of him right now.  But a little curious if you’re putting together a preseason top 25 where you two see them at right now, and if you see a game or a stretch in their schedule that’s kind of maybe the prove it time for them this year.
Musburger:  Well, I think that you would put Nebraska in the top 20. Maybe not high, and certainly not in the Top‑10 right now but I think they deserve consideration for the top 20 and Herbie, they could still become a major factor in the race for the Big 10 Championship.

Herbstreit:  Oh, yeah, that division is going to be an absolute interesting race, when you think of Nebraska and Northwestern and Michigan and Michigan State, that’s going to be a heck of a fight.

I’m concerned about their defense. Last year they gave up a lot of big plays. They lost some experience. They lost seven defensive starters from that defense.  As we sit here right now before seeing this new defense, it’s only fair to wonder ‑‑ are they going to be better, even though there’s going to be a lot of new faces on that side of the ball.

I know that Bo is one of the better defensive minds in the game, and I know that it had to drive him crazy, not just last year, but the year before, where some of the games just did not look like Nebraska defense. Offensively, there’s a lot to be excited about with Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah, and a lot of receivers are back.

But they have got to cut down on turnovers. That was the thing that really hurt them a year ago. In terms of a game that is kind of ‑‑ UCLA, you could make a case for early, because the Bruins are pretty good and they ended up beating Nebraska a year ago.

So that game, and then as they get ready for a tough stretch of Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State; you could say that Northwestern, or even the Michigan game on the road in Ann Arbor, are kind of a make‑or‑break type of game for them to try to compete and win that division this year.

Q.  For Miami, how important is it to them as a program to have one of those breakout seasons, because it has been nine or ten years in the ACC they have not been to a title game.  Just for the health and reputation of the program to get back there, how important is it to break out of that sort of mediocrity this year?
Musburger: Interesting program. Obviously they go way back to the days when Herbie was still playing when the games every year were a factor in the race for the National Championship, back in the 80s, and now they have been on the down and they have been in trouble and they are trying to get this latest brouhaha put behind them, and the NCAA certainly has not looked good as they have gone after Miami.

So you have to be very impressed with how Coach Golden has put this program together.  Yes, I know 7‑5 is certainly not acceptable to the cane fans, but in our phone call today, we mentioned the fact they could wind up being a sleeper.  We all know one thing about Miami, the school is located in the heart of great football talent up and down the southeastern part of Florida and they are lethal when they recruit down there.

So Herbie, the Canes would not surprise me ‑‑ I’m like you.  I think they could jump ‑‑ outstanding quarterback and outstanding running back and they can go from there.

Herbstreit: And you and I had their Florida State game last year, and it was a reminder of how young they were fighting through this transition period with all golden and all of the off‑the‑field issues that he’s had to deal with.

I mean, you start to think about, just seems like it was yesterday, that you could name every starter on their defense and every skill position player from Miami. It was just, boom and no matter who you were a fan of, you just knew the Miami players.

Man, now you start to think about, where they were a year ago, with so many freshmen and sophomores playing.  And I know their fans were frustrated because they gave up just a ton of points. But I think a lot of that had to do with just the youth and inexperience on that side of the ball.

But the thing I remember walking away from that game and thinking, was, there’s a youthful energy that is going to pay off for them down the road, and I’m assuming these guys who were freshmen and sophomores who played last year, have had a good off‑season, have gotten bigger and stronger and are going to come back and become better players.

And if they get better on defense, the way I think a lot of us think they are capable of doing, because they are athletic ability, and now experience, they are going to score on offense with Morris and Johnson and Dorsett, I know it’s been a tough haul here for the Miami Hurricane fans, but I’d be again, very surprised if they are not competitive and have a chance to get to the ACC Championship game this year.

Q.  LSU enters this year under the radar, per se, where do you see them factoring into the SEC west and going to the east, how do you see the race shaking out between Georgia, South Carolina and Florida?
Musburger:  Well, you know, it’s popular to say that Texas A&M is going to jump up there. But I think that they have been so distracted here over the last few weeks that under the radar is very hard.

I think Herbie said that earlier, and I certainly agree with him, very hard to say that an LSU team is ever under the radar, but I think this one has been. And I agree with what Herbie said that Coach Miles is coming back with a quarterback that he had last year and goodness knows, they have always got defensive talent on that side of the football.

LSU would not surprise me if they made a run at the championship and they caused Alabama a lot of trouble when they finally play. I don’t know how Herbie feels about that.

Herbstreit:  Oh, yeah, I did say it earlier ‑‑ even if Johnny Manziel didn’t have any of these issues, I still like LSU before that, just because I think A&M is now becoming a team that is going to be targeted and people are going after. I think LSU is kind of sitting in the weeds a little bit. Think about how many juniors left early last year off this team to declare for the NFL Draft and think about if they had just half of those guys coming back to be able to compete.  But in a weird way, I think that may end up paying off for them.

I think the biggest loss that they faced on the defensive side of the ball was Kevin Minter. He was chief’s guy, he was the leader, got them lined up and was kind of the brains of the operation. And when you lose a guy that knows the defense as well as he did, knows how to get everybody lined up, he knows how to time up the blitzes, that’s a big loss.  You don’t just plug in another five‑star recruit and say, be Kevin Minter. It takes some time to grow.

If they find some leadership on that side of the ball, I think the offense is going to be dynamic, and I know people have been frustrated with them in the past because they have been too conservative. But I think the combination with Cameron and Zach Mettenberger with a year under his belt, I think the offense will be very balanced and people will be very happy about that.

Interesting game, first game of the year against TCU, Patterson’s defense looks to be back to where they were when we used to talk so glowingly about them. They are more of a veteran group this year, and even though their star defensive end will not be playing in that game, that’s a challenging game for TCU.

But if they can win that game, without a doubt, I think LSU is a team to look out for; and as Brent said, I think the game in Tuscaloosa on November 9, the winner of that game is going to go to the SEC Championship Game.

Q.  Any particular story line in the Big 12 you’re taking a look at? You were talking about Texas earlier, and Kirk, you just talked about TCU, but Baylor is a team that seems to have a little bit of swagger and thinks that they have got a chance to make some noise.  Any other storylines you guys are looking at in the Big 12?
Musburger:  I’m going to start with Oklahoma State and then I’ll turn it over to Herbie.

It’s interesting opener for them on a weekend where at Clemson, they will be playing Mississippi State at home and we will see how they come out of that. I like the fact that their home schedule includes obviously Oklahoma, and they play Baylor a couple weeks before that. They do have a game late at Texas, but I sort of am keeping an eye on the Cowboys.

I think the coaching staff down there has done an outstanding job and they know how to score some points.  They always get a little bit overlooked, and I know that Oklahoma is a big brand down there along with Texas.  But Herbie, I’m going to keep an eye on the Cowboys here, especially in that Mississippi State game.

Herbstreit: It’s funny, you and I have not spoken and I have Oklahoma State to win the Big 12, so you and I are seeing the same thing there. I think everybody has to be impressed with their offense, but I think the defense has a chance to be better this year.

So I like Oklahoma State in that story line. They are no longer a team that battles for three or four years and gets up and competes with the guys and they kind of go away for a few years, I think scratch and claw their way back.

I think Mike Gundy deserves a ton of credit and obviously the facility and the way they have upgraded, they are a legitimate top program now, not just in that conference, but in the country. I think Oklahoma State has definitely arrived with arrived with Mike Gundy’s leadership.

I think TCU, I think this is the year we them being more competitive in the Big 12. As we said they have had some off the field problems of their own and they seem to be poised to have a better year.

Baylor, I think at this point, with Art Briles, we all know that whoever is quarterback is going to put up crazy numbers and this year it’s going to be Petty. But Lache Seastrunk, anybody that’s watched film him play would realize that he’s one of the most explosive running backs in the country.

Obviously touch on Oklahoma, you go all the way down to Kansas State with Bill Snyder, 22nd year; I know he loses his quarterback but everything I’ve heard about this Jake Waters is he’s a legitimate player and coming out of the junior college ranks is one of the best players at that level. If he can pick up this offense ‑‑ the Big 12 has got a lot of depth and there really isn’t any leak that you can let your guard down and you could lose to about anybody in that conference.

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