This week I had an opportunity to chat with Kirk Herbstreit, an ESPN/ABC college football analyst. Herbstreit and “College GameDay” will be in Norman on Saturday morning to preview the Missouri-OU game that evening, which will air on FSN Southwest.
Are you surprised Missouri-OU has turned out to be such a big game?
No. In the preseason I felt this would be the preview of the Big 12 championship game. I felt Missouri would be the team to beat in the Big 12 North. Granted, I didn’t think they would be this good at this stage of the season, with the youth they had on defense. I think Chase Daniel is quietly, from a national perspective, putting together a Heisman Trophy type of season as far as the numbers he is putting up. I want to put an asterisk next to that quotation. The defenses that he has seen and competed against, in comparison to what he will see Saturday, are two totally different things. He has been able to move the ball up and down the field against defenses that athletically could not stay on the field with Missouri’s diversified attack, running and throwing. And he’s put up some huge numbers. He, in this game, has a chance to really burst onto the national scene if he is able to continue with the way he has played up to this point against the Oklahoma defense. Much easier said than done. But if he has a solid game and Missouri somehow pulls off an upset, Missouri becomes a story and Chase Daniel becomes a Heisman frontrunner. But as I said that’s a lot easier said than done.
What are your impressions of the Sooners?
Their first three or four games I thought they were playing as well as anybody in the country. While everybody was focusing on LSU and USC, I know on our show Lee (Corso) and I continued to talk about Oklahoma being in that mix. They had been just short of perfect in their first few games — in dominating fashion. And they’re up 24-7 late against Colorado, I think they lost their focus. They let off the accelerator. They made some mistakes on offense, which up to that point had been uncharacteristic.
(Last week against Texas) I thought they got back to getting their confidence back and got back to playing with an attitude in what we saw the first few games. It appears that they’re back up, kind of dusted themselves off and now they’re ready to make a run to get into the mix. And make no mistake, they’re still right in the mix, not only the BCS, but for fans who like to look way ahead, they’re right in the mix for a national title hunt.
Do you expect some of those teams ranked ahead of OU to lose?
Yeah, I think so. There is so much football still to be played this year. They’re going to be upsets. We see them weekly, let alone six weeks. I know people get frustrated with one loss, when you’re spoiled the way it is at Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Ohio State and Texas. It’s discouraging when you have a loss. But if there’s one thing we learned this season and ’07 is that anything that can happen on any given Saturday. And if you just take care of business yourself, you keep doing that and all of sudden you peek back up to see where you are, and you might be surprised where you are in the BCS standings. The BCS standings come out this Sunday. When you’re playing a team like Missouri, it’s only going to help you not only with the Harris and the coaches polls, but also with the infamous computers. If you knock off a Missouri team right now that’s having their way with teams, that’s going to go a long way in affecting where you stand in the first BCS standings. This is a big game on that front.
Did the experts overrate OU’s ability after the Sooners’ easy victories over non-conference teams North Texas, Miami, Utah State and Tulsa?
I guess I look at it this way. When you play teams that are inferior, it’s how you handle those teams, for me, that is more of a barometer. I look at it like there are a lot of teams that play inferior teams, but they do what they have to do to get by. But Oklahoma punished those opponents. I’m always impressed by teams that play those second- and third-tier teams and dominate them. They take their will and kind of kill their will right way and they did that. I think Miami athletically is a pretty good team, and they got after them. Right now they are playing not so great, but people will see athletically that they are a pretty good team. And Texas is still Texas athletically. I don’t know how many more teams Oklahoma will play that are as gifted as Texas. Miami, Texas and this week against Missouri, as far as athletic ability and talent, are probably their biggest challenges until they go to Lubbock to take on that offense that puts up almost 600 yards of offense a game. Plus it’s on the road. This (the Missouri game) is a stumbling block. Going to Texas Tech is their last stumbling block, until they go to the Big 12 championship game. I think that this game Saturday, if you look at the entire picture of their schedule, is a really significant, huge game for where they are trying to go.
What are your impressions of OU quarterback Sam Bradford?
I love that guy. I can’t get over that he’s a freshman, a redshirt freshman out there with the way he makes decisions. He’s blessed with an offensive line that’s just flat out a bunch of bullies. They are physical and they get after it. He’s blessed that he has tailbacks that run with a great deal of passion and anger, they run hard. And then he has got a reat group of receivers. But you still have to go out there and make decisions. And what have they given up? Three sacks on the year. They give him time to throw and he is back there as confident as he can be and making great decisions. Outside of that Colorado second half, I’ve been blown away with this guy and how calm and cool he is, and what a great athlete he is. To get to the Big 12 championship game and into the BCS, you have to have a great defense and a quarterback who is going to make good decisions. Up to this point, we’ve seen Bradford able to do that.