Q&A: Kirk Herbstreit doesn’t have Oregon in his final four

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit had a moment to speak with the media prior to tomorrow’s Gameday for the matchup between No. 3 Oregon and N0. 7 Michigan State. Herbstreit, who is a former Ohio State quarterback, discussed what he liked about Eugene, Oregon, the state of the Big Ten and what to look out for in the upcoming game.

I hear there is a pretty good game today

We love to come to Eugene. We’re not used to 90 degrees in Eugene, but this is one of our favorite stops. Between the Duck and the beautiful scenery that you guys have here — great food — there’s great spirit. The fans love their team, so we love coming.

What does that mean for you guys to be able to set the scene for college football that week and being here with this game, a top 10 matchup between a Midwest and a West team?

We don’t ever take that for granted. We’ve been really fortunate for a number of years now to travel around to the biggest game every week. We’re now kind of associated with the big game. At the Rose Bowl, I was thinking about ‘wow’ Michigan State’s going to be playing not just Stanford in the Rose Bowl, but what an opportunity next year when they’re going to go to Eugene and take on Oregon. Two huge platforms for them.  They took advantage of the first one in the Rose Bowl and now here they are back out in the West Coast and playing a team that a lot of people feel you can’t go into their stadium and beat, so I think it’s exciting.

Thoughts on the game?

As far as the game, I played in the Big Ten, I’m proud of the Big 10, but the reality of the Big Ten of the last seven or eight years has been down. Michigan State beating Stanford in the Rose Bowl was a great start and this weekend, Michigan State playing in a huge high profile game, Notre Dame is playing Michigan in a high profile game, Ohio State is playing Virginia Tech…..I think it’s a great opportunity. Big Ten fans want to know how they get a better rep as far as their conference. You play these kinds of teams and beat them. So we’ll see if the Spartans can do that.

Michigan State has drawn a lot of comparisons to teams like Stanford for their physicality. What stands out to you about this Spartan team?

If we’re talking about the Michigan State team last year, they were about as physical and nasty a team that I’ve seen in the last 20 years of doing college football. I’m not saying they can’t beat that defense this year, it’s just we don’t know yet. We haven’t seem them with these new faces to see if they can be this kind of defense. We know about (Mark) Dantonio, how he coaches, we know about Pat (Narduzzi), we know his beliefs, we know the kind of kids that they recruit, but until we really see them in this game against Marcus Mariota and that tempo offense, you’re kind of hoping, speculating if you’re a Michigan State fan, but you really don’t know. This is exciting because it’s the first game of the year for these teams, where we’re going to learn a lot more about them. Not just this weekend, but about how serious a player both of these teams are as far as them trying to get into the final four at the end of the year.

The Spartan offensive line is a little banged up. Are there any concerns there?

Everybody seems like their focusing, deservingly so, on Marcus Mariota and the Michigan State defense and I think that’s obviously a great story, but if I’m a Michigan State fan, the Michigan State defense keeps them in the game. And if I think if they (Michigan State) win or lose, it’s going to be based on the way Connor Cook and the Spartans offense plays. That’s what’s so different: Michigan State historically, they’re always kind of like the defense leads the way, the offense is just playing efficiently and based on the way they played in the Big Ten championship game (last year) against Ohio State, the Rose Bowl and now with Connor Cook coming back, Jeremy Langford, all these receivers, even with a banged up offensive line, I think on the outside looking in, there’s expectations that this team can score. If they’re going to win this game, my belief is we won’t be talking about the Michigan State defense, we’ll be talking about Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford and the Michigan State offense.

What are you hoping to be surprised by this Ducks team?

I really want to see them without Chip Kelly be able to take that next step of showing stability. Me personally, I still have questions if this program can maintain where it was with Chip and until you see it, it’s only fair to have those questions. This is a great game and a great year for them to show people that ‘hey, we’re not going anywhere.’ Chip Kelly got a lot of stuff going, but we’re going to maintain it, take it to the next level. This is a big opportunity because I don’t have them making it to the final four at the end of the year. But if they (Oregon) were to go out and play great in this game, people like me and anybody else, will be like, they’re legit. It’s just that Michigan State has a lot at stake here, I think Oregon has just at much at stake because there’s still Stanford out there, there’s USC, there’s UCLA. There’s a lot of teams that are trying to take that spot to win the Pac-12 and get in to the final four, so the surprise for me would be for them to drop the hammer and say we’re still Oregon.

Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @Haydaykim


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Hayden Kim

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