While grabbing a bite at Del Frisco’s or the Lonsome Dove might be reason enough for Kirk Herbstreit to make a stop in Fort Worth, it’s his job as an analyst for ESPN’s College GameDay that has continually brought the former Ohio State quarterback back to the Metroplex the past several years.
GameDay will kick off the season for the second straight year in downtown Fort Worth’s Sundance Square, marking the show’s third appearance in Cowtown including a 2009 stop on TCU’s campus.
Naturally, Herbstreit and his crew, which will feature Reese Davis in the anchor chair for the first time, talk plenty of Horned Frog football when in town. On Thursday, he stopped by the Star-Telegram to give his take on what could be a historic season for TCU:
With the season they had last year, are you surprised TCU co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie are both back in Fort Worth this year?
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Those guys were probably — the offense and they were running the offense — as big of a storyline as anything we had last year in college football. The way Trevone Boykin went from being an athletic guy to really being polished and making great decisions and typically being able to put his team in a position to put a lot of points on the board. For him to come back and both coordinators to come back, all that talent at receiver, up front and at running back, on paper, they should have as good of offense as we should see in the country.
I don’t know how long he’ll be able to hold on to both coordinators, but at least for this year, you get another ride with them with Trevone Boykin.
Was there something you saw in Trevone Boykin’s game from two years ago and last year that he made an adjustment and something clicked, or was it all the new offensive coordinators?
I think the success he had created confidence. I think when he became confident, it allowed the game to slow down for him and, let’s face it, with his ability to run and you have four wide receivers in the game, I’ve got to make a decision. Do I want him running all over the place? Or do I want him potentially throwing the ball against me? Early in the year, teams took away his running game and they left themselves 1-on-1 with those four receivers. As we learned, he’s a pretty good passer. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
When you have a quarterback that is spread out with receivers that can run and throw, the defense is always at a disadvantage. You’re always one man short somewhere. Are you short against the run game or are you short against the pass game?
I’ll be shocked if he’s not in New York City. Whether he wins the Heisman, I’ve got to believe he’s going to be there. We’ll just have to see what kind of year he has.
That final Big 12 showdown in Fort worth, Baylor vs. TCU, do you think both teams will enter that game undefeated?
I don’t know. I tend to think that the teams from Oklahoma are better than maybe some people are talking about. I think both the Sooners and the Cowboys have a chance to, not only be a spoiler, but a chance to really be competitive. I think sometimes with Oklahoma, people forget they still have some players that are pretty talented. I think the game last year, defensively, really got a way from them. They had some injuries and they weren’t able to play the kind of coverage they wanted to play. Offensively, I was very surprised after the way they played against Alabama the previous year in the Sugar Bowl, I think a lot of people thought Trevor Knight and that offense would really take off and it just never really happened.
I’ll be surprised if they’re not right in the middle of it. I think Oklahoma State also has a chance. The class in the Big 12 going into it is TCU and Baylor and the game on Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving, one way or another, for one or both is not only going to be big for the conference, but possibly big for who is going to get into the final four. If they’re both unbeaten, it will end up being the game of the year in all of college football.
Looking at the season on the whole, what is your outlook for the Horned Frogs this year?
I always know Gary Patterson is going to have a great defense. I know they lost a lot of good players. A lot of experienced players. I think they’ll be right back with a defense that is going to be competitive week-in and week-out. I think their offense will be as good as you’ll see in the country. Some of us are always guilty of looking at things on paper.
I think, sometimes, it’s so easy to get out of the emotional side and the psychological side of the game. I think Ohio State is dealing with that right now. Everybody is patting them on the back. It’s like, ‘Make your reservations right now.’ It doesn’t always work that way, because of the mindset of 18-, 22-year-old kids. They’re dealing with that as well. I don’t know if you can just go through it and say win, win, win, win. The games on the road are the games that really stand out to me as far as the teams that could potentially challenge, not just TCU, but everybody. So, I think they may trip up somewhere along the way, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
The Big 12 got shut out of the College Football Playoff last year. Do they get back in this year and who do you see as maybe being that representative if they do?
I think they have a chance. I tend to think Oklahoma could navigate their way through and be a surprise in the Big 12. I think a willingness to play non-conference opponents that are better than Lamar would be — somebody needs to let Baylor know they need to consider doing that. I’m not picking on Baylor. I’m just saying, if their idea is, our goal is to be undefeated and we’re going to play the non-conference that we’re playing and we’re going to try to win every game — if that’s their goal and we get to December and it’s an either-or situation and that team that’s an either-or with you played Top 5s or Top 10s or Top 15 opponents in their non-conference, you will lose that debate 10 times out of 10.
I think if you do that, it helps the Big 12, but I’m excited to see. There’s a lot of talent this year, like there always is. A lot of depth in the conference. There is going to be a lot of upsets. Who ends up surviving is going to be a lot of fun to see.
Travis L. Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Travis_L_Brown.