Fowler, Herbstreit Talk CFB Championship With Media

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN is building anticipation for its broadcast of Monday night’s college football championship game.

On Friday, the network released the transcript of its conference call with the media made earlier in the week. The network’s college football broadcast team of Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler tackled (awful pun intended) topics, such as Alabama’s place in college football history, Herbstreit’s own connection to Clemson and parity in the college football playoffs.

The full transcript of the conversations is featured below.

CHRIS FOWLER: Kirk and I have been privileged to do two legs of our Trifecta so far, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl. I’ll give you a brief rundown. We have been doing a slow motion road trip up the California Coast since the Rose Bowl, stopping in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, up the Big Sur coast, checking the elephant seals yesterday, taking in the scenery. Now we’re closing in, the four of us, heading up to Santa Clara. It’s been very therapeutic, relaxing. There’s football talk in the car, can’t get away from that, but also a nice way to chill out, see a part of the country none of us have seen before.

When we get up there, I think it will be very exciting to see a matchup we’re familiar with, two teams we know very well. To us, there’s not one ounce of matchup fatigue in this ‘Bama-Clemson collision, because I think it’s the two best teams. Any time you hand out the ultimate trophy, to me it’s incredibly compelling.

You have storylines on top of that, tremendous star power with two young quarterbacks who are true prodigies. Many of the faces are the same, but many of the faces are new from other years of this matchup.

I’m sure there will be more questions about that, but I can tell you for us and for our entire production team that has the privilege of doing this, we are revved up and can’t wait to see how this plays out.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: To echo what Chris is saying, just looking forward to this game. Two best teams since the beginning of the year even started based just on paper with Alabama and Clemson returning the players they’ve had. They’ve had their own unique ways of being able to get through some challenges along the way.

I know we have people that want to ask questions, so I will take more time to answer questions. But, yeah, pumped up and anxious as soon as we get done with this call to get up to the Santa Clara area and get revved up for the game.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with questions.

Q. Do you two of you think this game is going to go down to the wire and expect there’s little chance of this being a blowout?
CHRIS FOWLER: I hope so. I think this game is going to resemble the first year’s meeting much more than last year’s. Clemson has a defense much more dynamic than last year, two years ago when Deshaun Watson was giving Nick Saban a lot of stress. We always hope it goes down to the wire.

We’ve been on a roll with the national championship and some of the bowls the last couple years. We’re a little biased in that we always want a close game. I think it’s viewed that way by most people. It would be a surprise if it got out of hand either way for me.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think we’ll see a lot of points. Go back to the first matchup when Deshaun was there. He came close, lost in ’15. I think it was 45-40. Came back in ’16, somewhat of a shootout. When you think of Alabama’s type of defense, 35-31 when Clemson won it. Last year Alabama kind of dominated the game.

I agree with Chris. I think based on the way these teams have played, I think what Trevor Lawrence brings to the table, I think it’s a very different Clemson team, especially offensively, than who Alabama went up against last year.

Even though Alabama has an incredibly athletic defense, they’ve had a whole year, when I say young and inexperienced, in comparison to Fitzpatrick, Minkah, the group they had last year on the back end, those guys played so much football.

I think, yeah, there’s a chance it could be one of those games whichever quarterback has the ball last can lead his team down and win the game.

Q. Kirk, outside-the-box question. Lee Fitting, who was the long time head of College GameDay, now has more responsibilities in the company, including the NFL. We’ve seen some ESPN people who are traditionally college based move over to the NFL. Have you considered at all, even if it was for a one-time game, doing any kind of NFL broadcasting?
KIRK HERBSTREIT: In the past I never even gave it a thought. I’ve always been a college football guy. It’s funny, Chris and I were just talking about it yesterday, different opportunities throughout his career that have been presented to him, how he’s very selective in what he ended up doing.

In my case, I just wanted to stay in the college football lane. My goal when I first started 23 years ago is I wanted my face, my voice to be associated just with college football. That’s what I’ve tried to do.

I would say this: because of the way the college game — when I watch the NFL, I feel like I’m watching college football. If they ask me to do a game or they ask me to do some work, I did the draft last year, I’d have no problem listening to that and entertaining those thoughts.

I don’t know if I would do it. Where I was before, where I would absolutely have no interest in it, I’m at least now in a position where I would definitely listen if that’s something they might want me to do.

Q. I wanted to get your opinion on something. You guys get a unique perspective of these programs that most of the media doesn’t get. What do you see as the similarities between the way Dabo runs the show and the way Nick runs the show, especially considering they are very different personalities?
CHRIS FOWLER: That’s what makes this compelling. That’s what I was hinting at before: the plot lines, storylines of these two programs getting in each other’s way. Dabo being a former Alabama walk-on. His personality is extremely different than Nick’s, some of the other top coaches.

The similarities are an absolute rock-solid top-down commitment from each school. They pour resources in, human resources, financial resources, incredible attention to detail. The recruiting machine at each school, they know that’s the fuel that keeps the engine running. They’re both great at it in different ways, different styles perhaps. The way they round up talent is what sets them apart.

But I do think it’s a different style. Dabo would clearly say the Clemson culture is distinct from what Nick has built at Alabama, most other places. But I think he’s become a remarkably brilliant coach, comprehensive, all the skills you need at the job, very high end, not a lot of (indiscernible) coming when he first got the job.

He’s assembled a staff that has been able to be loyal, unlike Nick, who has constantly had to find new coordinators, which is a heck of a challenge, revolving coordinator carrousel in the biggest games. That’s not really what Dabo has been dealing with.

There are distinctions, but they separated themselves for a reason.

KIRK HERBSTREIT:
 I would say the differences are probably greater than the similarities as far as just the way they run their program. I would say, if you’re asking for similarities, I think it’s the competitive spirit and drive that both these guys have. It’s the creativity of trying to change things while they have success, not allowing complacency to set in. I think that’s a big part.

I have four boys of my own. I kind of understand and see this next generation. To be able to get these guys every year to challenge for championships, it’s remarkable.

I think it’s their desire to push, to push their staff, to push everybody that’s within their program, then to push the players in the off-season, have a great strength and conditioning program.

At the end of the day, I think the difference between Clemson from where they were before Dabo got there, probably the last 20 or 30 years, and now, is they’re recruiting at such a high level. I think it’s year after year after year. I mean, think about the players they’ve lost in the last five or six years, and think about who they’ve brought in to replace them.

This defensive line right now, people are thinking, Man, what are they going to do when this defensive line leaves? They’re going to be in trouble.

There’s a guy like Xavier Thomas waiting in the wings to take over, who could be one of the best defensive linemen in the country this year. He’s a true freshman. It’s things like that that both these programs have figured out how to recruit to their culture and how to maximize it every year.

Q. Have you seen a quarterback or a true freshman quarterback do what Trevor Lawrence has done this year? What kind of challenge will it be for him going up against Nick Saban and his Alabama defense?
KIRK HERBSTREIT: There have been quarterbacks going back since I’ve been on GameDay that were freshmen that made you step back, I can’t believe that guy is a true freshman. I don’t think I’ve seen a freshman that’s 6’5″, 215, has an unflappable personality towards the big moment. That is unusual, special. I keep saying, I can’t wait to see where he is in two years when he’s a junior. I can’t even imagine where he’ll grow.

I’ve heard a lot of analysts say, We’re waiting for him to have that freshman moment. I just don’t see that happening based on watching almost every snap he’s taken this year…

You can talk about his physical skills all you want. To me it’s the ability, in this offense, especially when they go up-tempo, the ability not to make mental mistakes, process the coverage, get out of a bad play into a good play. That is just unbelievable. To go along with the arm strength, the athletic ability, all the physical attributes.

He’s a once-in-a-generation type of guy. I think we all knew last year when Clemson lost to Alabama the potential of this offense when he came into it. Now we’ve seen that play out. Now they’ll get their big test.

All those defensive linemen, I heard one of their players made a comment yesterday or today, Kendall Joseph, saying, When we were walking off that field against Alabama, this is what we wanted, another chance. We felt like we got out-classed that night.

Now they get it with Trevor Lawrence. We’ll see if they can get it done this time.

CHRIS FOWLER: I think the most exciting thing about college football is the emergence of these prodigy quarterbacks. I think that’s the proper word. Kirk said ‘once in a generation’. The good thing is we’re seeing more and more of them.

I think these two are special because of the mindset that Kirk talked about, the poise, unflappability, as well as the obvious talent. It’s just a beautiful thing to watch Tua and Trevor throw the ball.

College football has become so much about the quarterback, there’s so many wannabes, young guys eight, 10, 12, 14, getting great coaching, developing their skills, being mentally ready when they hit college. It’s astounding for me who has been around for a long time, you have to recalibrate what the expectations are for freshmen because of guys like these two guys.

If you think about first-year starters, all three top Heisman getters, all CFP quarterbacks. Very different circumstances, but all first-year starters. You’re not supposed to be able to do this as a first-year starting quarterback, play that kind of high level.

I think it’s very exciting. I think it’s more than a quarterback dual Monday night. But that’s the main storyline people grab onto. Sit back and enjoy two prodigies in the ultimate pressure game and see how they play and see who emerges. It’s fun.

Q. I want to use the ‘perspective’ word. If Nick happens to win his seventh national championship, where do you put that, where does that place in college sports history in general?
CHRIS FOWLER: I think you have to talk about sports history. You have to start talking about Red Auerbach, Coach Wooden, very different landscapes and different eras. But I already think Saban has the most accomplished résumé in the history of college football, even if he never wins another game. To me it’s astounding to be able to do what he’s done with no signs of slowing down.

Whether it’s six or seven, it’s adding, in my opinion, to a legacy that’s unequaled in college football. I think you do have to have a much broader perspective throughout the history of sports to see where he would rank because, as Kirk pointed out, it’s not easy to do what he’s done.

You don’t get to have a guy eight or 10 years like you did when you had the Celtics. It’s more akin to Wooden’s machine at UCLA. I think it’s harder to win a championship in football than it was in basketball in that era.

It’s a good barstool conversation.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: It is. I’m with you. People want to compare him to whether it’s Bear Bryant, Bud Wilkinson, Woody Hayes, Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, those are all legendary coaches. If he’s able to win on Monday night, I think you have to love the sport of college football. I’m with Chris, and going way back, I know John Wooden had a ridiculous run, Red Auerbach with the Celtics, Phil Jackson, what he did with the Bulls and Jordan.

Here is the funny thing. It’s not slowing down. People in the NFL, they’re looking for cracks in that armor. Belichick, they lost a game. Brady is done. They’re waiting for the Patriots dynasty to be done.

With Alabama, they might lose a game, but for 10 or 11 years they’re either in the national title or they’re a play or two away, they get upset, that close to being in it again. We’ve never seen anything like this. It’s not slowing down.

They just maybe signed arguably their best recruiting class they’ve ever been able to put together in December. I told Chris, I think next year, they’re going to lose some great players, but with Tua coming back, I think this team scores 45, 50 a game next year again. I think they could be better next year than this year.

People that hate Alabama, they can’t stand their dominance, it’s not fair, blah, blah, blah. Whatever they have to say… I just tend to pull up a chair and appreciate it. 30, 40, 50 years from now people are going to be talking about that run of Nick Saban and Alabama.

We’re lucky enough to be sitting right in front of it watching it. I choose to appreciate it instead of nitpicking or questioning or complaining about it. I think it’s incredible and fun to watch.

CHRIS FOWLER: The championships are there. Ralph would know this fact. They have more weeks at No. 1 in the last 10 years than the rest of college football combined. Think about that. That’s, like, wire to wire, start to finish. That’s incredible.

For the Clemson side, let’s not forget, if they get the win, they’re cementing a mini dynasty, too. They’re not just chipping away at Alabama, but they’re also building something themselves. They would have taken two out of three against the Tide in championship games. They’re not going anywhere either.

It’s a tussle for this trophy. It’s also a collision of these two dynasties that have gotten in each other’s ways. I think Clemson is on the rise. Dabo is young, not going anywhere, I don’t think. It will be fun to see what they achieve in the years to come. Nick has to retire at some point, you’d think (laughter).

Q. Is yet another Alabama-Clemson final good for college football or is it not? An old Celtics-Lakers rivalry, Cowboys-Steelers? Would it be better to have more diversity in the final?
CHRIS FOWLER: You have the two best teams. You can’t ask for more than that. Star power, storylines. Are there fans out there that are envious of the success of these two programs? Absolutely. Would they like to have a piece of it for themselves? I totally understand that.

I think there’s massive need for fresh blood in the Playoff. I think you want to have different teams to compete. What’s bad for the sport is the notion there’s four, five or six programs capable of winning a championship, many more capable of making the Playoff. I don’t like the idea that the power is concentrated more and more at the top.

As for a championship matchup, when it comes down to playing for the trophy, I don’t know how you can complain about the two best teams. Unlike an NBA series, it’s not best of seven. They meet once a year for all of it. The names and the faces, there’s continuity, but they to change more in college than pro sports. There’s that.

Is it bad for the sport? That’s sort of in the eye of the beholder. Not in my opinion. We need more regional distribution of title contenders. We need one from the west, the Big Ten to be in the mix. That’s just logic.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think you’re right about that. Any time you get the same two teams, you’re always going to get people talking about changing the system or adding more teams. All that I think is natural when you go through this.

As far as it being good or bad for the game, I enjoy competitive games. I enjoy the competition. I think if you tune in to watch this game, it’s going back and forth, it’s 7-7, 14-7, 14-14, all the way into the fourth quarter, 34-31, the team has the ball last…

I tend to think people who like football would find that very intriguing, no matter who is playing. It’s the two best teams. I don’t think they get caught up in all the issues or questions about is it good for the sport or not.

I think what would be great for the sport is to have a competitive game on Monday night. But it would be fun. It would be fun to have a team from the Pac-12 or the Big Ten, the Big 12 having a chance to make a run and get into the championship, of course.

Q. Kirk, you mentioned your boys a few minutes ago. Two of them are going to be playing for Dabo at Clemson. Will they be enrolling in January or August? I think it was your first trip to Clemson in 2006, you mentioned how blown away you were with everything there. Did your boys appreciate Clemson for a long time from afar or was their decision more sudden?
KIRK HERBSTREIT: Typically I will go home and over the years talk about different coaches, different programs in normal conversation around the house. But make no mistake, they are complete brainwashed Ohio State fans. They have been their whole lives, all four of my boys.

When they got into high school football, decided to go to camps over their high school career, they went to an Ohio State camp, Alabama, they went to Clemson this past summer. Did well enough for Dabo and for his staff to kind of reach out to us and talk about a preferred walk-on to have an opportunity to go there. It was completely up to them. I had no idea if they were going to play football in college or not.

After that camp, I think they were more confident that they might have an opportunity. Of course, putting their time in, trying to put on some weight, get bigger, stronger, faster, all those kind of things.

I think what they fell in love with was when we sat down with Dabo, and he told them his story, what they did. They really didn’t know anything about his time at Alabama, how he grew up, how when he showed up to practice the first day, he’s like 15th string or whatever it was, how discouraged he was, how he kind of worked his way up and eventually got to play, and went on to be part of a national championship team. He said he has friendships for a lifetime. He talked about how he runs his program. Whether Trevor Lawrence or a preferred walk-on, he treats everybody the same.

As he’s telling the story, I’m looking at my boys. It’s weird to be a dad when you’ve been talking to Dabo forever. I can tell my boys were just more and more drawn into what he was saying. When we left, it was over. They were like, I want to go play for that guy, be a part of that program, be a part of that culture.

As much respect as I have as a dad for that program, when they said that’s what they wanted to do, of course I was excited for them to have that opportunity, looking forward to them going down. I think they’re leaving in early to mid June to have an official visit set up for next weekend, not this coming weekend, but the following weekend. I’ll be a part of that just like a normal dad. It’s a chance to see the boys have a kind of final opportunity to talk with Dabo and Jeff Scott, all the coaches. We’ll go from there.

But I’m incredibly thrilled for them to have a chance to go there and be a part of that.

Q. Kirk, from what you’ve seen from Clemson’s pass protection this year, do you see that matchup playing out differently than last year’s game when Alabama’s defensive line took that over?
KIRK HERBSTREIT: Yeah, that’s a great question.

Like most people, once we found out this is the matchup, I went back and watched that game. What stood out to me is a couple things. Number one, Clemson started most of their drives inside their own 20 yard line. The game seemed to be played on their end of the field a lot. That’s very tough when you’re playing against a talented Alabama defense to call plays when that’s the case.

The second thing that stood out to me is they could not throw the ball downfield. Most of what they did was quick throws, getting the ball out fast, jet sweeps, tried the run. The problem is, because Alabama did not fear that vertical passing game, they had everybody up close to the line of scrimmage, basically begging Kelly Bryant to throw it downfield.

They never were able to do that, so you’re dealing with nine, 10, 11 guys up close against that quick, short passing game. A lot of times those guys are covered. When they’re covered, Kelly is holding onto the ball. Anthony Jennings, who had a huge game, and company, were getting sacks.

To me, we could talk about the offensive line, but there’s so much more to it. The big thing is, Trevor Lawrence and these receivers have got to get the ball down the field in the air. When you do that, it opens up the running game and makes the offensive line have a much better matchup against a very talented defensive line led by Quinnen Williams. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, all kind of plays in together.

I think the vertical passing game, being able to stretch that Alabama defense back, could go a long way in helping the running game, which could go a long way in helping the offensive line not get into such obvious passing situations like they were a year ago.

Q. As we draw further away from when Miami was truly elite, like the Alabama, Clemson level, could you envision that happening again any time in the next several years? What do you think of the Manny Diaz hire?
CHRIS FOWLER: I think it’s hard to envision anybody getting to this level. That’s what we were talking about earlier. This is the stuff we’ve never seen in the sport before. Miami’s run was tremendous. I know Miami fans have incredibly high standards. They don’t feel like Miami is back. Is that realistic? First thing’s first: let’s temper things a little bit and try to win the ACC.

I think they need to reverse negative momentum. Manny Diaz’ hire I think has a good chance of doing that. People will want to see what the offense looks like, how he describes it, before committing. Obviously there’s enormous potential. As a most-of-the-year resident down there, I’m biased. I’d like to see the ‘Canes back.

There are certainly challenges. The facilities are there. The brand I think is still strong. But the memories of recruits don’t reach back to the days when Miami was great. People around South Florida understand that. You have to recruit nationally these days. It’s going to take a little repairing.

Again, I think a dynamic offense is what people are going to want to see before casting their lot with Miami when they have the choices of all the other top teams.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think we all miss Miami. It’s been a long time. I also miss the OB. I know they’ve done a nice job in renovation. That is such an unusual set of circumstances when you have to ask your students to drive as far as they have to drive to be able to attend their football games and provide a really hostile environment.

It is what it is. I think the Orange Bowl, that setting, they’ve not quite been the same program since they lost that environment. I know it was an older stadium, I understand we have to move forward with today’s world, but I would love to see them build a campus stadium. If that could ever happen, I’m sure politically it can’t, but that’s my personal take.

I think Manny Diaz is an energy guy. He obviously did a heck of the job with a defense. His reputation as a great defensive mind precedes him. Now he has to be a head coach, stand in front of room.

They’ve been playing good enough defense over the last few years to win a lot of games. As Chris said, they have to hire a key offensive coordinator. They have to go find quarterbacks. We were talking about it on GameDay the other day, you have to go back to Ken Dorsey, maybe all the way to Testaverde when they had an elite quarterback that would go on to the NFL, play, do well in the NFL. Think about that. In that state, with that program, its tradition.

Whoever they bring in, you’re going to have skill as far as wide receivers, runningbacks, but they’ve got to go find a difference maker. I’m sure in that competitive state, whoever they hire as the OC, they’re going to have to be able to hire a guy that’s going to win a lot of recruiting battles because people are going to want to go play for him.

Manny will get the defense right, a great face for the program. I think we’re all kind of sitting, waiting to see what they can do offensively before they can ever think about trying to win the ACC and get into the Playoff.

Q. Chris, when you said the massive need for fresh blood in the Playoff, is that a challenge to teams in various parts of the country to play better, or are you saying that you think there needs to be better access for those teams to be part of the field?
CHRIS FOWLER: Well, I think without getting into an expansive conversation, any Playoff bracket is better served when there’s contenders that are distributed around the country, just so fans in different parts of the country become more invested with it.

One of the Playoffs, it’s hard to top that: Oregon, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State. A very dynamic bracket with a lot of geographic diversity. That was ideal.

We haven’t had a West Coast team. Washington obviously made the bracket one year. But you’d just like to have teams from all over playing into November in true Playoff contention. It makes the regular season more interesting, more compelling for fans.

But, hey, there’s not much room. ‘Bama and Clemson have gobbled up two of the spots, the other two have been up for grabs. There is an access issue as long as those two programs are dominant at the top.

There’s a philosophical debate about whether or not a Playoff exists to create access or whether it exists to determine a champion. Does the NFL have playoffs expanded so more teams can make it, more teams can be on TV? Sure. Ultimately it’s about determining a Super Bowl champion.

That’s the same thing in other professional sports and with the NCAA tournament. Do you want a bunch of teams that can say, Hey, we made the Playoffs, the coach is happy, didn’t get fired.

If you have an eight-team Playoff, did quarterfinals at campus sites, somebody going into Tuscaloosa as the 8 seed, winning that game, Death Valley and win. Upsets happen. But there’s a good chance you would have had at least three of the same four teams in the bracket. A very good chance you have the same two playing for the championship.

You add a layer on so some teams can say, We made the Playoff. I think it’s going to happen eventually, but I want it to be done for the right reasons.

Q. Premature question. If ‘Bama does win on Monday, considering how dominant they were in the regular season, considering they’d be the first 15-0 team in a century, where do you think they’d rank among the best teams ever?
KIRK HERBSTREIT: This specific team or the dynasty?

Q. This specific team.
KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think the offense with Tua makes this Alabama team different from some of the previous teams that Nick won the championship with. But I don’t think the defense this year is of the caliber of some of those defenses we saw with just, I mean, you talk about domination, they were giving up nine points a game one of those years.

Whether it was 2009, 2012, the team they had last year with Minkah, I think when Lane Kiffin came, everyone raised their eyebrows, he definitely helped Nick Saban change his style. Before that Nick Saban was kind of fussing he didn’t like up-tempo offenses, RPOs, linemen downfield. To his credit, he said, The heck with trying to stop this stuff, I’m going to get one of these myself. So he changed. Instead of winning with defense, ball control, special teams, field position, he said, We’re going to start spreading people out ourselves.

I think Lane Kiffin, when he made that decision to change things… But I know they’re scoring a lot. I know Tua is incredible. I don’t know even within Alabama’s era with Nick Saban, I don’t know that I would say this is the best team ever, whether they win Monday night or not.

CHRIS FOWLER: I see it a little bit differently, to be honest. I think there’s different ways to judge best team. You could look at personnel, the number of guys that go on to great careers. 2001 Miami is in that conversation. Or you can look at achievement, dominance.

For me, I don’t think I’ve seen more dominant teams than Nebraska had in the middle ’90s, winning three out of four, the team that demolished Florida, put 52 on them in the Fiesta Bowl.

I think 15-0, winning all the games by 20 until the Georgia game, I’m not saying it’s going to happen, I already said I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think it’s in play as one of the great single-year runs, whether the defense is as good as other teams.

They’re winning games big. They’re controlling it. They didn’t stumble like some of the other Saban championship teams. They didn’t absorb a loss.

You go wire to wire, wearing a massive target, for me, I mean, it’s up there. It would be right up there in the greatest seasons we’ve ever seen. Certainly a contender for the No. 1 spot in my view.

Coverage of the 2018-19 college football season championship is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Monday on ESPN.  Fowler and Herbstreit will have the call for the game.  Maria Taylor and Tom Rinaldi will also be on hand, for additional commentary.

More information on Monday night’s matchup is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

Website: http://www.espn.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/espncfb

 

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ESPN’s ‘First Take’ To Preview NFC Wild Card Matchup Live From Texas

Courtesy: ESPN

The National Football League kicks off its post season this weekend, and ESPN will be on hand to cover the first weekend of the playoffs.

The network announced Monday in a news release, that its hit show First Take will air live from Arlington, Texas where the Dallas Cowboys will host the Seattle Seahawks in one of the weekend’s four Wildcard matchups.  The program’s on-site broadcast marks the third time in as many months that First Take will broadcast from AT&T Stadium.

ESPN Vice President of Production David Roberts said in the release, that Friday’s broadcast will be a positive presentation.

“The energy from the fans at the previous shows in Dallas has been truly unique,” Roberts said.  “Add in that the Cowboys will be playing in a win-or-go-home Wild Card showdown this weekend, and it should make for some unforgettable moments between [Cowboys critic] Stephen A. Smith and the Dallas faithful.”

Friday’s broadcast is free and open to the public.  Doors open at 7:30 a.m. CT/8:30 a.m. ET.  The broadcast starts at 9 a.m. CT/10 a.m. ET and runs until 11 a.m. CT/noon ET.  Friday’s event will air live on ESPN and stream live via the ESPN app.

Friday’s broadcast is just one part of an extensive weekend of NFL coverage from ESPN.  The network’s Monday Night Football broadcast team will cover Saturday’s Wild Card game between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans on ESPN.  Kickoff is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. ET.

In the college ranks, ESPN will broadcast the College Football Championship live Jan. 7.Clemson and Alabama will compete for college football’s top prize in the game.  Coverage is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET.

More information on ESPN’s NFL post season coverage is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.espn.com/nfl

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NFLonESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ESPNNFL

 

More information on ESPN’s college football coverage is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

Website: http://www.espn.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/espncfb

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Imagine Dragons Tapped To Headline CFB Championship Halftime

ESPN has announced the halftime entertainment for the College Football National Championship.

Grammy Award-winning band Imagine Dragons will perform at halftime live from Treasure Island at San Francisco Bay.  Network officials made the announcement Monday. Fans with passes to Treasure Island will get in to the show for free. A trailer for the band’s appearance is streaming online now here.

Courtesy: ESPN

According to a news release from ESPN, the band is scheduled to perform a handful of songs from its most recent album Origins.  The band’s performance is just one part of a season-long partnership between ESPN, Interscope Records and Universal Music Group Nashville.That partnership also saw ESPN feature Imagine Dragons’ hit song ‘Natural’ as ESPN’s college football anthem.

This is the second year that ESPN has partnered with Interscope Records for its college football broadcasts.  The network featured Kendrick Lamar as the halftime headliner for last year’s College Football Championship.  Alabama defeated Georgia in overtime in that game, which was watched by 29.9 million viewers, making it the second most watched cable presentation ever.

More information on ESPN’s College Football Championship coverage is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

Website: http://www.espn.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/espncfb

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Clemson, Alabama Face Off Live In College Football Championship Rematch Monday Night

Courtesy: ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The stage is set for this season’s college football championship, and ESPN will carry full coverage of the rematch from last season’s title game between Clemson and Alabama.

ESPN will begin its coverage of the College Football Championship presented by AT&T tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET.  The game will be broadcast live from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Samantha Ponder and Tom Rinaldi will have the call for the showdown between the Tigers and Red Tide.

The worldwide leader in sports and its networks will offer extensive coverage of the game throughout the day leading up to kickoff.  That extensive coverage from ESPN’s networks includes Coaches Film Room on ESPNEWS, Finebaum Filmroom on SEC Network, Homers Telecast on ESPN2 and much more.

Additional coverage on the day will air on ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line, and ESPN3.  Those that won’t be near a TV during Monday’s college football championship can still catch the game in full online via WatchESPN and on the radio via ESPN Radio.

The game will also be simulcast live in Spanish on ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes Radio and Eduardo Varela will have the call for ESPN Deportes.  Kenneth Garay and Sebastian M. Christensen will have the call for ESPN Deportes Radio.

Along with its broadcast on ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes Radio, Monday night’s game will also be broadcast worldwide.  ESPN International will carry the game for fans in more than 179 nations around the world through its networks and streaming services.

More information on the ESPN networks’ coverage of the 2017 college football championship is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

 

 

Website: http://espn.go.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/espncfb

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Folwer, Herbstreit Talk College Football Championship, Dynasties, More With Media

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN has released the transcript of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit’s recent discussion with the media about Monday’s college football championship.  The pair opened the discussion with a talk on Alabama’s domination in the college football realm.  From there, the discussion turned to talk of offensive coordinators, the Heisman vote, and players’ skills among much more.  The full transcript of the conference is included below.
The College Football Playoff National Championship title game will be once again be called by Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit. The duo participated in a media conference call today to discuss the matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson, which will take place Mon, Jan. 9, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Transcript of the conference call is available below.

 

  1. Could both of you comment. Alabama is obviously extending their run to nearly a decade. We’ve seen dynasties come and go. How much is too much of one team dominating the conversation? Do you feel like people are getting bored with Alabama being here every year? Or does it make for more drama that someone has to try to knock them off?

 

CHRIS FOWLER: Maybe the answer is both. I think anytime any team rules the top of a sport, or any individual for that matter, a certain percentage are going to get fatigued. On the other hand you get an opportunity to frame something that is among the most incredible stories in the history of the sport.

You’re not supposed to be able to dominate at the top any more the way Alabama has done. They’ve defied conventional wisdom by doing that.

On the one hand you’re describing an incredible reign, sustained achievement. On the other hand, there are many people, even within the SEC, that would like to see a fresh story, new people at the top.

That’s what makes it so difficult to do what they’ve done. You wear a huge target and you wear it year after year and you manage that and you overcome that.

So in one respect you turn up to a game like this, one of the major plot lines is marvelling at what Alabama is continuing to do. Not that there has always been this many games, but nobody has ever gone 15-0 at the highest level of this sport. They have a chance to do it, as Clemson did last year. Five in eight years, that’s not supposed to happen.

On the other hand, you have this dynasty. Plenty of people I’m sure would love to see them toppled and love to see someone else take over. That happens throughout sports, throughout history.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Speaking for myself, I enjoy it in sports, just being a fan of sports, whether it’s college basketball, even Chris following tennis with some of the individuals that get on like a Roger Federer type of run, a Tiger Woods in golf, what we used to see with maybe a team like Bobby Bowden and Florida State, now with what we’re seeing with Nick Saban, some of the Nebraska teams in the ’90s.

I can just speak for myself. I love it. I love when we have a program that raises the bar and that everybody is aiming for. We kind of mock it and tease it, Hey, we want ‘Bama kind of thing. Yet when I think you talk to the coaches and players in this sport, whether it’s in the SEC or around the country, they see that coach and they see that brand. That’s who they’re trying to bring down.

Whether the viewers at home get tired of Alabama, I guess it’s up to each individual. For me personally, I really enjoy it.

 

  1. With all the supposed drama over the OC, seems like at Clemson, a couple of names that people didn’t know, like Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott have done a remarkable job these couple of seasons following Chad Morris, which Dabo could have gone out and gotten anybody to take that position. What do you think of the job they’ve done? And Dexter Lawrence, what has he brought to the line as such a young guy on Clemson’s side of the ball?

 

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I would just say I’m glad you brought that up because you’re right. Seems like the next few days, a lot of talk about Lane and Sark. Unless you’re really a diehard Clemson fan, what has gone on notice was initially Dabo Swinney looking around and bringing in Chad Morris.

If you looked at how their offense was evolving, they were okay, but they weren’t as consistent. I think that game against West Virginia was maybe a wake-up call for them in that bowl game.

When they brought in Chad Morris and that offensive style, they brought it to a whole different level. When it looked like they got things going, you’re right, he had an opportunity to become a head coach. A lot of us wondered what direction he might go.

The proof is in the pudding. What Tony and Jeff have been able to do, that offensive staff, they’ve been blessed to have Deshaun Watson to help them. They are cutting edge. They’re innovative. I thought the game they had against Ohio State is a classic example of what they’ve been able to do in attacking a team’s weaknesses, being innovative and creative, having a quarterback that understands it. They’re doing it at a very fast pace.

I think that’s the exciting matchup for me personally in this game, not just Deshaun Watson, but it’s going to be Tony Elliott, Jeff Scott and Deshaun in that offense.

After what they did to this defense a year ago, matched up now against Nick Saban, you’re already hearing the Alabama players come out saying, We were embarrassed, this time it’s going to be different, they’re going to get the real Alabama.

I think we all want to see the real Alabama defense against Deshaun Watson. Those coordinators have done a hell of a job.

CHRIS FOWLER: What’s interesting, too, they’re both ex-Clemson walk-ons. When they sit in a room together, they finish each other’s sentences. Very interesting dynamic. Sometimes the co-offensive coordinator thing, which has become a little bit en vogue, it’s difficult, problematic. But those guys’ personalities blend very well.

Obviously their styles during the week and on the day of the game blend very well. I’d echo what Kirk said about the creativity. When you have a month to prepare, Urban Meyer and his staff – rightfully so – have gotten a ton of credit. A lot of brainpower in that Ohio State defensive side of the ball, with Schiano helping out, Bill Davis as a consultant, Fickell, of course.

It was a mismatch in terms of creativity, innovation and preparation for that game on Clemson’s side. It was a masterful game plan, play calling. Of course the execution, but Watson really helps. I’m glad you brought it up as well. Those guys have gotten not nearly enough credit.

For Lawrence, I thought Dexter had a quiet game. You always expect to call his number a lot. We have done Clemson a bunch this year and marvelled at this guy. You can’t look at him and think this is actually a true freshman. What was he like in high school a year ago? How fearsome would it have been to carry the ball against that guy? He’s broken in.

I think the productivity, to use the scout’s phrase, which means just a whole bunch of tackles. You’re not supposed to have that many tackles at that position. You’re not supposed to have that many tackles as a true freshman.

You put those two together, it’s one of the most startling defensive seasons that I’ve ever seen because of the nature of the position and his youth and how well he’s played it.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Fourth on the team in tackles, which again, you don’t see that for a defensive lineman. His personality for a young guy in this world of five-star recruits, high profile, kind of what’s in it for me, me, me, he just kind of has fit into that group seamlessly with Watkins up there, Wilkins, who is a high-profile guy a year ago. Ferrell is another freshman that’s playing well for them. Austin Bryant. They have a big-time, high-level group there they just keep rotating big bodies in there. You’d think he’s been there for three years the way his personality has been in there.

CHRIS FOWLER: They have a way to chart efficiency. The number of impact plays per snap. He’s number one on the team for that. That says a lot. They refer to tackles or pressured or batted balls. In that metric, he’s number one on the defense, which says a whole lot, given the quality of players they have over there.

 

  1. This game with Clemson’s offense versus this Alabama’s defense is almost the irresistible force paradox. Can Clemson move the ball on this Alabama team, and what are they going to have to do to be able to do that? Alabama, it’s so hard to score on them. Then we’ve seen so many teams kind of ascend to this height, but is Clemson one of the teams that is built for sustainability? Has Dabo built the kind of program where they might not win five of eight, but can they make multiple trips into the College Football Playoff?

 

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Number one, there’s so many things there. Clemson’s offense has an ability, because of the system and the quarterback, to score on anybody that they play, providing that Deshaun is kind of on. Last year he was, what, 30 of 47, for 405 yards and four touchdowns against them. They had ample amount of time to prepare for them.

When I watch ‘Bama, the one thing they’ve kind of been spoiled with, is they have an ability to stop the run, and keep two safeties deep to prevent any kind of deep passes downfield. That’s kind of an oxymoron in today’s college football, when you have an ability to keep two safeties back, and also at the same time stop the run. They did it against Washington. Did not have a quarterback run game.

If they do that against Clemson, you’ll see Deshaun Watson run it 20 to 25 times until they get out of that look, then they can start to throw the football.

That will be a little bit of a game within the game, is how Alabama is going to try to play with their safeties, and whether or not they can stop the run and take away the deep ball at the same time.

If they’re effective in doing that, Clemson will punt, like Washington did, almost every series. You got to make them pay for that would be the big thing.

Then just getting Deshaun Watson into his flow, which means to me running and throwing. I expect him to carry it at least 20 times in this game. I think the matchup on the perimeter against Humphrey and Averett, the other corner, will go a long way in determining how this game goes as well.

The ball is going to have to get out fast because of that pass-rush. That means the receivers have to work their tails off to get open and get separation.

CHRIS FOWLER: I don’t see why they wouldn’t move the ball and score points. Alabama came off a shutout in last year’s semifinal. Clemson lit them up. They didn’t have Mike Williams or Deon Cain in that game. When you look at Monday night, the two most dangerous receiving weapons potentially, Cain isn’t as productive or consistent as Leggett, but he certainly has the ability, those guys weren’t even out there last year, especially Williams, who is a complete difference maker.

Deshaun, as Kirk said, has to be sharp, pre-snap, post-snap, process things as quickly as he did against Ohio State, which is a serious challenge. At times they made it look really easy, but it isn’t easy to do what he did. His mind works very quickly. The execution is amazing, as good as we’ve seen in this sport.

He throws picks, that’s what he has to be worried about. You cannot get baited into interceptions. You cannot give Alabama a defensive touchdown. Every opponent goes into the game saying the same thing, yet they fall prey to it. Washington makes a bad decision, throws a ball out there in the flat. Anderson takes it back to the house. It’s a different game right before halftime. That’s the kind of mistake that teams make again and again with them.

Deshaun has made them pretty frequently. They overcame a couple of interceptions. That’s not a good formula to try to do against Alabama.

I think that there’s probably some sleepless nights and some anxious moments on the Alabama side as they get ready for this offense, knowing what happened last year.

Clemson’s program, you watch how Clemson is recruiting. You watch how they recruit in the region. Even to get into recruits somewhat nationally. They have a fertile recruiting area around there.

What they have to sell is a little bit different. They sell it in a different way than some programs. It really is this people first, family, loving environment. Yes, you can win a championship. Yes, you can get to the NFL. But you’re not going to come here and be a cog in the wheel. You’re not going to be a piece in the process. You’re going to be an individual that we look after and take care of and nurture.

I think that’s a message that seems to resonate really well to parents and players. Clemson has a whole lot to sell. I think he and his staff are recruiting as well as just about anybody. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be sustainable.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think they’ve reached that status of an elite program. It’s been five or six years now that they’ve been able to recruit consistently. They have a brand-new, multi-million dollar facility which they’re moving over to which will be great to kind of continue. You know how it is with facilities, kind of showing the commitment to the program.

The big thing will be just continuing to get quarterbacks, which they’ve done. They have some guys that already signed, a guy who is a junior, a verbal.

Dabo has a way about him. It’s very, very real. I think parents feel that when they talk to him. I think he has a pretty good track record of recruiting at a very high level, graduating kids, taking care of them.

For him, if you bust your tail, aren’t a five-star recruit, you’re a walk-on, you do everything right on and off the field, he’s going to play you. He does it. That word gets out. So it’s not just about the Deshaun Watsons. It’s about the entire roster. It’s hard to keep an entire roster happy and win at the same time.

I think because of his personality and appreciation for top to bottom on the roster, being a former walk-on, he has a really unique ability to relate to every single guy on the team. That to me, with the resources that they have, the facilities that they now have, there’s no reason that Clemson is going to go away anytime soon.

 

CHRIS FOWLER: That’s a great example. Look at this year’s team. I’ll give you a couple quick examples. Gallman, not highly recruited. Jordan Leggett, not highly recruited. Boulware, barely recruited. Renfrow, walk-on. Mike Williams wasn’t a six-star guy either. His talent is obvious. Deshaun, obviously everybody wanted.

The team is built around guys with different kind of backgrounds. Yeah, they have plenty of the five-star guys, they’ll continue to get them. They’ll also continue to get guys that maybe aren’t as heralded and just really developing. I think those guys will always have a place in Clemson’s program.

Then you look at what happened with Watson graduating in three years, Williams graduating, Leggett graduating all in December, all as juniors. You just throw that out there to parents and players and say, This isn’t spin, this is reality. It’s a very strong selling point.

 

  1. Nick sort of downplayed the change in offensive coordinator based on Alabama’s ability to game plan and script certain situations. How legitimate is that excuse or defense? As an offense, how do you expect Sarkisian and Jalen to respond when things don’t go necessarily as planned?

 

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think the thing that at least I’ve heard him talk about is, he feels like it’s being blown out of proportion because it’s kind of business as usual as far as the workweek. The preparation for any college offense, I think sometimes we tend to lock in on who the coordinator is. When you get behind closed doors, you realize there’s five or six guys kind of watching film together, formulating a plan together, all that. Sark has been obviously around. That’s why I think he’s saying it’s business as usual.

I think the major difference that even Nick Saban can’t predict is going to be the four hours on Monday night. Steve Sarkisian hasn’t been the quarterback coach or the running back coach or kind of normal involvement as an assistant coach. He’s been an offensive analyst. I don’t even know what that means. But I know there are some limitations on Saturdays in the fall what he can and can’t do.

Now you go from that role to you’re standing on the sideline calling the plays in an up-tempo offense with a true freshman quarterback. To see that won’t be potentially a factor one way or the other is not right. Of course it is.

It might be better, by the way. We don’t know if it’s going to be better or worse. It’s without question going to be different. He hasn’t even called plays in a scrimmage. Now he’s calling plays in a national championship. I’m talking about this offense. Obviously he’s done it at Washington and USC. By the way, he’s more than capable of doing it.

In these circumstances with this offense, we’ve never seen it. So it’s definitely a big storyline during the game itself.

I think Mike Locksley’s role and what he’s allowed and not allowed to do, he’s been an integral part behind closed doors and dealing with a true freshman quarterback in Jalen Hurts. With this system, where Alabama used to be more power football. Now it’s more up-tempo, quarterback run game, which is right where Mike Locksley has been most of his coaching career.

Both of them are going to be involved in a very unique way in this preparation without Lane Kiffin being there.

CHRIS FOWLER: Interesting, too, you mention the true freshman quarterback. It’s his 15th game, but it’s a championship game. Anybody that played them will say the feeling is different. Even though you’re poised and mature for your age, it’s a championship game against a very complicated defense, a defense that is known for throwing a whole bunch of stuff at people. They’ve confused far more experienced quarterbacks than Jalen Hurts in the past with what Venables does.

I think you can expect another aggressive, grab-bag approach that doesn’t make it easy on the quarterback. I think if they can’t line up and smash you, Scarbrough can’t make 120 yards after contact like he did the other day, it certainly makes the play-caller’s chore a little more difficult.

I think it’s fascinating. I really do. If Sarkisian hadn’t been on a big stage in a pressure situation you’d be more concerned. What Kirk said is right. There is rush when you call plays. There is unfamiliarity with the system when you jump into a system and do it for the first time and it’s in the ultimate game. I don’t care who you are. But at least he has been there in a big moment.

What’s interesting is we’ve seen plenty of circumstances where it’s almost play calling in the name of vanity. I don’t think Saban wants that. I think there was not much tolerance for that when a play-caller goes in there and tries to get ‘too cute,’ or call plays to show how smart you are. I don’t think that’s what Sark is going to be charged with doing, even though it’s his very first time doing it on a massive stage.

You have to call plays around what’s going to work best with the personnel you have on offense against that defense. That does require some discipline, it really does, because Clemson doesn’t make it easy on you.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Your point about how do you call the game to the best of your ability. If you watched their game against Washington, as much as they struggled with continuity, self-destructing with penalties, they did a good job with the special teams of pinning Washington inside the 10 yard line a number of times.

As a play-caller in a game like this, as good as Clemson’s defense is, sometimes a punt is okay. Sometimes playing field position and relying on that Alabama defense to try to get a short field with a turnover, especially with Deshaun Watson sometimes turning the ball over through the air, that’s sometimes okay.

That will be a big message I would think to Jalen Hurts this week, is throwing it away, not taking sacks, not turning the ball over, punting the ball and playing field position. Worst case is not necessarily a bad thing for ‘Bama with the defense and special teams that they have.

CHRIS FOWLER: What’s so fascinating is we just don’t know how well they’re going to stop Clemson’s offense. The chore becomes different. If it doesn’t become a field position kind of game, you have to open it up. Then it becomes more interesting what they’re calling on offense.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: He’ll call the play, like any coordinator will, based on the flow of the game, how well their defense is holding up, field position, things like that.

 

  1. I’ve been banging this job for a couple years now. I’d like to ask you guys, why has there not been more public pressure for reform when it comes to the timing of the Heisman vote? A lot of people out there think that Deshaun Watson should have been back-to-back Heisman winner, let alone the winner this year with the way Lamar Jackson finished. It’s not just Watson. You have 2005 Reggie Bush against Vince Young. A lot of people thought that Vince Young might come out on top if the vote came out after that game. Baker Mayfield, the way he played against Auburn. Most coveted award in all of sports. Why can’t we have the vote after the most important game has been played?

 

CHRIS FOWLER: I mean, they’ve done it 82 years, and they’ve done it this way. It’s tradition. Obviously when the award was conceived, post-season play wasn’t what it is. I don’t think that they see any need to shift it.

Your argument is passionate. You definitely have a horse in the race in your mind. I think if you looked at year’s past, sure the winner might have been different had it been different after the bowls or the playoffs. That would have happened quite a lot over the years.

The voting is done at the end of the season. In some ways there’s a fairness to it in that you do have a chance to be involved in the award, even if your team isn’t in a major bowl or in the playoff.

Listen, I think you can have whatever opinion you want. I don’t reveal my vote. Obviously enough people felt that Lamar Jackson had done enough throughout the totality of the season to survive some turnovers and some losses down the stretch. Clemson fans obviously wouldn’t agree.

Having said that, as brilliantly as Deshaun plays, stats become a big part of evaluating a player. You could argue too much. But he threw a lot of interceptions, a lot of interceptions for someone who would have won the Heisman, regardless of how productive he is.

A few of the picks early in the season might have gotten in the way of people voting for him. Who knows what went into their decisions.

To your point, I don’t think that’s going to change. I think they’re going to continue to award the trophy at the end of the regular season.

 

  1. I would like to know what are some of the key matchups that you all believe can determine the outcome of Monday’s game? Also, do you think there are any experiences that Clemson can draw on so that they can possibly pull out an upset from last year?

 

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think the biggest matchup is going to be Deshaun Watson against the defense in general, the coverage, the multiple coverages. Obviously the offensive line is going to have to help out, the receiver’s going to have to win. I think in general Nick Saban’s mind and angst after last year’s performance, how he decides to defend Deshaun Watson is going to be a great matchup.

I think if you’re looking for just one-on-one type of stuff, we talked about Mike Williams, Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow who had a huge game last year against these guys. They match up favorably.

If you’re going to attack Alabama in any way, you’re going to do it through the air. These guys have the quarterback and receiver to give them a chance to be effective with some downfield passers. The receivers against the secondary. Deshaun against Nick Saban I think is going to be a great matchup. Then with all the talk about Sark coming in to take over, it’s not just going up against any defense, he’s going up against a defense right now of Brent Venables that’s coming out against a shutout against Ohio State and is probably playing with as much confidence if not more confidence than any defense in the country, including Alabama.

Specifically on that side of the ball, I would say, to me, the Alabama offensive line, which is not your traditional dominant offensive line, especially on the inside, how do they hold up against a really, really good defensive front from Clemson I think is another matchup that could go a long way in determining how the game goes.

CHRIS FOWLER: I like that matchup, too. I think you look at Alabama’s offensive line, it’s very left-handed. Robinson over there. Pierschbacher is a good guard. But Clemson’s guys, the rotation we talked about earlier, which is basically four sophomores, a couple freshman, one junior and one senior who keep each other fresh, all of them can make impact plays. All of them cannot just eat up blocks, but invade the backfield when they need to. It’s hard to do that against ‘Bama.

I think if you looked at this offensive line, the very high standards they have at that program would not rank as one of the great ones they had. Opponents would tell you that.

I think it’s a terrific matchup. If you can clog the middle, let the linebackers run, do what they do behind you, it forces Alabama into some uncomfortable situations.

I like that matchup, too.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think as far as experience, last year’s experience is the best experience that gives them confidence. I mean, in their minds they blew the on-side kick, they let a kickoff return get out from Kenyan Drake. But I think in their minds they probably gained more confidence in standing in the middle of the rain going toe-to-toe with Alabama for four quarters than anything else that they can look at on film.

They’ve been there, they’ve done that. They competed. They didn’t secure things in special teams. They ended up losing the game. But it wasn’t as if they got blown off the field and had to regroup and think, Oh, my gosh, what are we going to do this time. They were right there stride per stride, had a quarterback play out of his mind in that game. I think a lot of us left that stadium thinking Deshaun Watson is a bad man, including Nick Saban.

Alabama won the trophy, but Deshaun Watson won a lot of people’s hearts that night, for sure. If I’m a Clemson player, I’m looking at that film knowing that I can play with Alabama.

 

  1. With Deshaun’s propensity to throw interceptions, Alabama’s ball hawking defense, say Deshaun throws two or three interceptions, Alabama takes one back to the house, how much of an impact do you think that will have on the outcome of the game?

 

CHRIS FOWLER: I don’t know. Study the impact of pick-sixes in most games. It’s extremely favorable for the defense that can create one.

I don’t know. I’d defer to Kirk in how able Watson is able to change what has become a pretty frequent pattern. He trusts his guys to make plays to an extreme degree.

A lot of his picks aren’t necessarily awful decisions. They’re 50/50 balls that he has so much belief that a Leggett or a Williams can win that matchup, so he’ll put the ball up there. Against guys as good as Alabama has got, you’re not going to win all of them. They win their share.

Whether or not he regulates that, modulates that, the instinct to allow his guys to make plays, plays a little bit more cautiously.

It’s devastating to give up a pick-six, especially if the game is not a shootout. Clemson almost survived all the special teams issues that Kirk just described and they still had a chance at the end despite all that. But, boy, you’re living with a slim margin for error when you do that.

Alabama is hard enough to score on without letting their defense get in the end zone, so… I’m sure that’s going to be talked about a lot at Clemson. If you give up a turnover, you ask your defense to go out there as they did against Ohio State and minimize the damage or prevent the other team from getting in the end zone.

Remember Alabama’s offense had great field position throughout almost the entire game against Washington. Definitely in the first half. They only scored one touchdown. They had the ball at midfield or in plus territory a lot, and didn’t cash in. Even if you give up a turnover and don’t let them score, the defense has got to go out there and try to prevent the damage from happening.

KIRK HERBSTREIT: Yeah, all of college football games are games of momentum swings, back and forth, sudden change, how your own defense responds to a turnover. If there’s a pick-six, I think in Clemson’s case, you’re very fortunate to have a quarterback that’s played a ton of football, has an ability to bounce back from mistakes. If you look at his track record, it’s not like he goes in the tank after he potentially throws a pick or a pick-six.

I’ve always been really impressed by him. We’ve called a lot of his games. Just when you think the average quarterback, Wow, he threw a pick in Tallahassee, what is he going to do? He gets the ball back the next series, it’s like it never happened.

Yes, it will obviously affect the game, momentum, energy in the stadium, score on the scoreboard. I don’t think it would lead to potential further damage just because he may throw a pick.

I think he needs the defense to step up, like Washington did last week, when they were put in some tough spots.

More information on ESPN’s college football coverage is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

 

 

Website: http://espn.go.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CBFonESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/espncfb

 

 

 

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ESPN Offering Extensive Coverage Of College Football Playoff Championship

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Next Monday night the 2015 – 2016 college football season finally comes to an end.

A season of hits and hard work finally comes down to just one game next Monday night when Alabama (SEC) and Clemson (ACC) face off for this year’s college football championship.  And ESPN will have full coverage of this year’s championship game.  Kickoff is set for 8:30pm ET on ESPN.  Chris Fowler will have the call for Monday night’s game, presented by AT&T.  He will be joined in the booth by Kirk Herbstreit.  Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi will also be on hand on the sidelines for additional commentary and reports throughout the game.

Those that won’t be near a TV Monday night can still catch the game as it will be simulcast on ESPN Radio and online via ESPNRadio.com, the ESPN app, SiriusXM, Apple iTunes Radio, Slacker Radio, and TuneIn.  Mike Tirico will have the call for the game’s broadcast on ESPN Radio.  He will be joined in the booth by analyst Todd Blackledge.  Holly Rowe, Joe Schad, and Bill Lemonnier will all be on hand on the sidelines for additional commentary and reports for ESPN Radio throughout the game.  Additional information for Monday night’s broadcast of the College Football Championship will be announced as the week progresses.

As the days tick by and anticipation builds for this year’s College Football Championship, ESPN and the ESPN networks will have plenty of in-depth coverage ahead of the big game.  College Football Live will come live from the campus of both Alabama and Clemson.  It will also have a live broadcast from the University of Phoenix Stadium, the site of this year’s championship game.  Joe Tessitore will be live at Alabama’s campus.  He will be joined by analysts Mark May and Booger McFarland, and reporter Tom Rinaldi.  Chris Cotter will be live from Clemson alongside Danny Kanell and analyst Joey Galloway.  Reporters Samantha Ponder and Marty Smith will also be on hand for additional commentary and news.  On Friday, Chris Cotter will anchor College Football Live on site at the University of Phoenix Stadium.  He will be joined live by analysts Joey Galloway, Jesse Palmer, Mack Brown and Todd McShay, and contributor George Whitfield.  That broadcast will air Friday at 1:30pm ET on ESPN.

Along with broadcasts of College Football Live ESPN will also offer college football fans live editions of SportsCenter in the days leading up to the College Football Championship.  David Lloyd will host SportsCenter  Thursday at 1pm ET.  Lindsay Czarniak will host the 6pm edition of SportsCenter Thursday and Friday evening.  Thursday’s broadcast will air live from Alabama and Friday’s from Phoenix.  Saturday morning, SportsCenter will air live from College Football Playoff Media Day from 8am ET – 12:30pm ET.  Matt Barrie, Joe Tessitore will be on hand for the early edition of SportsCenter while John Anderson and John Buccigross will be on hand for the late edition of SportsCenter.  On Monday, SportsCenter will be live from 9am ET to 2:30 pm ET on-site from the University of Phoenix Stadium.  There will also be a follow-up edition of SportsCenter following the game.  Lindsay Czarniak will wrap SportsCenter’s coverage of the College Football Championship Tuesday night at 6pm ET.

The ESPN networks’ extensive coverage of the 2015 – 2016 College Football Championship includes not only coverage from its flagship news broadcast and one of its college football broadcast but also on Face To Face with Hannah Storm.  Monday afternoon at 2:30pm ET, Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will sit down with ESPN’s Hannah Storm for a special interview.  The coaches will discuss their respective teams’ seasons, the championship game, and much more in a special half-hour edition of the program.

Over on the radio side, Mike and Mike will broadcast on-site on Monday and Tuesday live from the University of Phoenix Stadium as will Rusillo and KanellMike and Mike will be simulcast both days from 6am ET to 10am ET on ESPN2. Rusillo & Kanell will air both days at 1pm ET live from Phoenix. As an additional bonus for fans NFL great Steve Smith, Jr. will join Golic and Greenie Friday morning on Mike and Mike. His appearance comes on the heels of his announcement that he will be returning to the Ravens in 2016 instead of retiring as he had previously announced. Smith will be live from 7:30am – 10am ET.

More information on the ESPN networks’ extensive coverage of the upcoming College Football Playoff Championship is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

 

 

Website: http://espn.go.com/college-football

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.