The irony was not lost upon Kirk Herbstreit, mainly that the veteran ESPN football analyst was debating college football between basketball games of Champions Classic in at the United Center in Chicago on Tuesday. While the venue was perhaps unfamiliar, the message was still the same, and the response was similar.
“The venue was great. I think that people inside the arena were really excited to see us unveil the top six football teams, even though only Michigan State may have had a team in the mix,” Herbstreit said in an exclusive interview this week.
With another exciting week of college football under his belt, Herbstreit realizes that the conclusion for this novel has yet to be written, but he still is enjoying the journey. “The ratings [for Tuesday night] were ridiculous. I talk to so many people who get a kick out of the Tuesday night ranking show, it’s almost become must-see TV,” Herbstreit explained. “College football is very different from the NFL because where you stack up in a subjective ranking matters. Can you imagine if we were stacking NFL teams for their playoffs? It would be insane.”
The narrative changed again on Saturday, as two unbeaten team lost, with Ohio State (10-1) being defeated by Michigan State (10-1) by a 17-14 score, while Oklahoma State (10-1) lost to Baylor (9-1) 45-35 in Stillwater, Okla. last night. Ohio State will most likely drop out of the top four, with an unlikely Big Ten candidate, Iowa, probably moving into playoff position. Michigan State and Baylor will also move up, and the Spartans will also control their destiny with an impending Big Ten championship clash against the Hawkeyes on the horizon, with the winner almost guaranteed a trip to the college football playoffs.
Top ranked Clemson (10-0) will continue to lead the poll, and the Tigers will face one- loss and 17th ranked North Carolina in the ACC championship game on December 5 in Charlotte, N.C. Before that happens, both teams have some work to do, with Clemson facing intra-state rival South Carolina, while the Tar Heels meet pesky North Carolina State on Saturday.
The University of Alabama (9-1) will probably remain in second position, at least until their showdown will Auburn next weekend, after a lay-up against Charleston Southern this week. If the Crimson Tide gets by the War Eagles, then a date against the Florida Gators awaits them in the SEC title game. Luckily Florida survived a challenge by Florida Atlantic in overtime on Saturday, but they are already guaranteed a spot in the championship game.
If not for the Ohio State and Oklahoma State losses, fourth ranked Notre Dame could have been vulnerable this week, as the Irish won a sloppy affair, 19-16, at Fenway Park against Boston College (3-8). Right now Herbstreit gives the Irish the benefit of the doubt, but he does sound the warning bell about their performances moving forward. “What Notre Dame has done in overcoming the loss of seven starters, including their starting quarterback and running back, has been impressive. But then again, they have not blown you away with how they have looked in recent weeks, and that will become an issue, whether people want to admit it or not.”
In addition to being a vocal cheerleader for the sport he loves, Herbstreit has also teamed up with college football sponsor Allstate for the “It’s Good Sweepstakes,” which will award one lucky winner and three friends with a trip to New Orleans for the 2016 Allstate® Sugar Bowl® before traveling to Phoenix for the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship. The winner will receive $100,000 and a meet and greet with Herbstreit as part of the grand prize package. Fans can enter the sweepstakes at AllstateCFB.com through December 6.
“Whether your team is in it or not, these are once in a lifetime trips for the winner, plus $100,000. You know, it’s been a great year so far, but it’s only going to get better,” Herbstreit said.