The 2007 college football season kicks off this weekend, and College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit is ready to hit the ground running. Since joining ESPN in 1995, Herbstreit has become one of the network's foremost gridiron commentators thanks in large part to his work with GameDay cohorts Chris Fowler and Lee Corso. Adding to his playbook, Herbie also took over analyst duties last season for ABC's Saturday Night Football. TVGuide.com spoke with the Centerville, Ohio, native as he prepped for GameDay's opening broadcast, airing Saturday at 10am/ET, from Blacksburg, Virginia.
TVGuide.com: Between GameDay and the ABC Saturday Night broadcasts, you're a pretty busy guy. Give me an idea of what your standard autumn weekend is like.
Kirk Herbstreit: It really goes on all week. It starts Monday morning with a GameDay conference call at 9 am and from that point on it's a whirlwind. Staying in touch with the latest information is really important. I do that most of the week — working the phones and talking to coaches. Typically on Thursday, I'll go to the Saturday Night broadcast site and use that day for prep — watch tape, talk to coaches, talk to players and familiarize myself with that setting. Then I'll fly to the GameDay location on Friday. I'll get into that mind-set all day Friday, then do the show Saturday morning from 10 until noon. I'll catch a plane right after that to go back to wherever the Saturday night game is.
TVGuide.com: Geez. It sounds like you need to talk to ESPN about getting your own private jet.
Herbstreit: Yeah, that would work. They do fly me privately from GameDay to the Saturday night game, but the rest of the travel is not private. If you can help me get that done, I'd appreciate it.
TVGuide.com: I'll see what I can do. So what's your favorite — being in the booth or being in front of that live audience for GameDay?
Herbstreit: I love both. I love working with Chris and Lee and the production group on GameDay. We have as much fun doing the show as it appears. The live crowd just stokes your energy and emotions. With that said, when I'm in a booth and I've prepped all week and I'm totally ready to go, when I watch that particular game unfold, I love that as well. It's two totally different responsibilities. GameDay is more entertainment. You keep it lighthearted and fun with some analysis. In the booth, it's more Xs and Os and it's your job to tell why each play happened the way it did.
TVGuide.com: Once again, USC is the preseason No. 1. Do you see them cruising right through their schedule this year?
Herbstreit: I don't think they'll just go right through it. Even two years ago when they had a Heisman Trophy winner coming back for his senior year in Matt Leinart and an eventual Heisman winner in Reggie Bush, they still got tested. There were a lot of weeks where you were asking, "Are they going to be able to hold on?" So while they may be the best team on paper, we all know and are continually reminded in college football that it's not about who's the best team on paper, it's about who has the chemistry to maintain for 12 weeks. My opinion is that I think they'll run the table, but they will have four or five games that show they're human. It won't be just a walk in the park.
TVGuide.com: What will be the strongest conference this year?
Herbstreit: I think the SEC, as always, is the best conference in college football. Nick Saban taking the job at Alabama only makes the conference that much deeper. You've got eight or nine teams that are top-25 caliber, so by far that's the best conference. I think the Pac 10 could potentially fall in at that No. 2 spot. USC gets the national attention, but Cal, UCLA, Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State are all pretty good. It's cyclical. Conferences go through peaks and valleys. The Big 10 has four really good teams with Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan, then there's a drop-off. So it's kind of a down year there.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of Ohio State, how do you separate Kirk Herbstreit, former Buckeye quarterback, from Kirk Herbstreit, college-football analyst?
Herbstreit: I've always loved Ohio State, but I've been doing this for 12 years now. As an analyst, I have no problem just analyzing what I see. Unfortunately, Ohio State in the last five years has been right up there with USC as far as being one of the more consistent programs in the country, so how are you going to criticize them when they win 10 games every year? When it warrants it, I have no problem criticizing Ohio State. But if it's to do it just to show I'm not biased, I'm not going to do that.
TVGuide.com: Do fans ever hassle you about being a homer?
Herbstreit: Sure. One thing I've learned in this business when it comes to college football predictions is that the passion, the emotion and the alcohol mix for some pretty strong opinions. It's the perfect storm. People have no problem airing it out with you. Non-Big 10 fans think I'm a Big 10/Ohio State homer and Big 10 fans think I'm an SEC homer. You can't win. So I just watch games and say what I think.
TVGuide.com: You've got four small boys at home, including your son Chase who was born last year. Are they being groomed to be players, analysts or both?
Herbstreit: Right now, I'm grooming them to get into Star Wars. They play soccer and basketball and T-ball, but I'm not big on them playing football. If they want to play when they get older, then we'll talk, but I don't raise them in a way where I brainwash them about football.
TVGuide.com: What if they came to you wanting to broadcast?
Herbstreit: I would be all about that. Then again, I've been pretty spoiled at ESPN. My experience with broadcasting has been one of pure enjoyment.
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