John Clay: ESPN's Herbstreit kicks things off

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 26, 2009 

  • Coming Sunday

    Previews, predictions and features covering Kentucky and Louisville, plus the SEC, state and nation in the Herald-Leader's 2009 college football special section.

I know, you're ready for college football.

We're all ready for college football.

It's eight days before the first kickoffs next Thursday. Two days later, the local Cats bang helmets with Miami (Ohio) at Paul Brown Stadium. How will we pass the time?

We're in luck. Kirk Herbstreit. You know him. He's the one your wife swoons over. He's the former Ohio State quarterback forced to sit next to Lee Corso on that College GameDay program. (Kidding, Lee.) Don't be fooled. He knows his stuff.

Tuesday, ESPN offered up Herbstreit for an hour teleconference with the nation's scribes to talk about anything and everything to do with collegiate grid.

(Matt Millen was along for the ride, but whenever Millen opened his mouth, we thought Lions, losses, and zoned out.)

So now we offer some Herbstreit highlights.On Tim Tebow (top, pictured with Coach Urban Meyer): "There's the Tiger Woods effect. You start to say Tim Tebow, and people are like, 'Oh, don't bring him up. I'm tired of hearing about him. I know, he's great.' They're tired of hearing about it. You better get used to it. Why not celebrate this?"

On Florida possibly running the table: "Sometimes you can lose your edge, you can let your guard down and a team like Arkansas or Ole Miss can give you everything that you can handle. It happens every year for these teams in college football because of the emotions of the game. You let your guard down for one week, and someone can get you because that's their big game of the year. ... I think they're going to be challenged more than people expect, but I think they will win the SEC. I think they'll beat Alabama in Atlanta and think they'll end up playing Texas in the national title game."On the Oregon at Boise State game Sept. 3: "Every year people ask, 'Who's this year's Utah, or who's this year's Boise?' I think it's Boise State (with quarterback Kellen Moore, right). When they play that game, if I look at the rest of their schedule, with all due respect to Fresno State and playing them on the road, I think if they beat Oregon on opening night, I think they finish undefeated at 13-0, and I think they'll play in the BCS."

Rank the top three Heisman contenders: "I'd say Colt McCoy (bottom) because of the players he has returning, and he's not been able to win it yet. No. 2 would be Sam Bradford, breaking in four new offensive linemen and the top two receivers he needs to be able to replace. And I think Tim Tebow at three, only because we set such high expectations for Tim Tebow."On Southern Cal at Ohio State on Sept. 12: "In my opinion, Sept. 12 for Ohio State, and really for the entire Big Ten, I think that is a huge game for the conference because of what's happened in some of these bigger games in the last two or three years.

"In our subjective world, you can only go by the non-conference and bowl games. And the Big Ten has struggled mightily in those two areas. So Ohio State is not only carrying their own flag, but they're carrying (Commissioner) Jim Delany's flag and the Big Ten flag, as well."

On Notre Dame: "If Jimmy Clausen doesn't make it happen now, in his third year as a starting quarterback, then I think (sophomore) Dayne Crist is going to be warming up. After three years, now we're going to find out if Jimmy Clausen is worth the advertising that we heard when he showed up at the College Football Hall of Fame with his rings on."

On Alabama: "I love (quarterback Greg McElroy). I think Greg McElroy will be one of the big surprises in the SEC this year. I think, as a junior, he has enough experience, just being around the program, being around John Parker (Wilson), being around (offensive coordinator) Jim McElwain to understand what this offense is about. ... I think he's going to have a huge year."

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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