Q: With Tennessee going to California, Kansas State going to Auburn and the damage that just one loss can do in college football, does it make sense to play those kinds of games.
Herbstreit: I’ve talked to Lee Corso and others, and anybody who has a coaching background has a totally different view than I would. I have more of, I guess, a player’s view, and I’m not trying to get to bowl games and BCS and that kind of thing. I personally like to see these kind of games. I think about Kansas State playing Western Kentucky and Eastern Illinois and the years with Troy and McNeese State, Louisiana Lafayette, and now all of a sudden they’re playing Auburn. I think that’s a great thing. It’s obviously a tough challenge for them. But I think if you took a poll of players in that locker room and said, “Do you want to play Auburn, or Missouri State? Who’s excited to play who?” I think it would be 100 percent across the board with those players looking to play Auburn. I think it’s great for the game. Coach (Coker) has been involved with plenty of games where his teams knew that if they did what they needed to do it was going to be a pretty easy day. And he’s had years when he opened with Florida State. And my guess is that in years when they opened with Florida State, and my guess is when they open with Florida State, through winter conditioning, spring ball, camp, you didn’t have to do a whole lot in getting their attention for what was coming up. I think that can be a healthy thing. I really think people in the polls pay attention and really give credit — I know I do in my poll — give credit to the team that goes to Auburn even if they battle like crazy and come up a little short, in my own mind I’m going to give Kansas State a lot more merit and credit for that than no matter what they do against Missouri State. I just think it’s very obvious, Appalachian State-Michigan, Ohio State-Youngstown State, Florida International playing some of these teams, it’s just about a payday and getting wins and putting yourself in a position to get to bowl games. I don’t think that’s healthy reasoning. It’s not a good thing.
Q: Along the same lines, we saw with Louisville last year, they got a great deal of credit and respect until they beat West Virginia and had a shot at the title game, then the detractors came out and the schedule went under a real microscope. For teams like Louisville, West Virginia, Rutgers, even though the Big East has improved, is it incumbent on those teams to play those kind of games, even if they have to go on the road to play an Auburn and risk not even being in the conversation. Is that something they have to do?”
Herbstreit: A hundred percent, a hundred percent, the answer is yes, yes, they have to do that. No matter what happens with the Big East. Even with South Florida getting into the mix and Rutgers being there and West Virginia and Louisville, you’re still going to find people who are gong to try to compare the Big East to the SEC and the Pac 10 and the Big Ten, and they’re going to say, “Wait a second.”
Like you said, you get into that November and December point — we do it all the time. We did it in a meeting a few weeks ago. And there was a question. If you have an 11-1 or 12-1 SEC school or an undefeated Louisville or West Virginia, who do you think should go? A majority of people — almost across the board — said the 12-1 SEC team. So the only way the Big East has a chance to get into that debate is to play better opponents than Murray State and Middle Tennessee and people like that.
Q: The most-often asked question I get is how would Louisville do against an SEC schedule. A point I think you can make is that they’re pretty much an SEC-caliber team when you look at the number of draft picks they’ve been producing and things like that. But is that a point that can’t really be made anywhere but the field?
Herbstreit: It’s one of those subjective debates that makes college football fun. I mean, if you have that debate with an SEC writer, he’ll laugh at you forever. And you can feel confident stating your case. I can tell you in looking at Louisville’s program and watching where they’ve come from over the last 4 or 5 years, I’m not saying they’d win the SEC East or West every single year, but I promise you they wouldn’t be a pushover. They would hold their own. They might not have the depth that you see at some of the powerhouses of the SEC, but I don’t think they’d walk out on the field and think, “Oh my gosh, these guys are really fast. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
I remember coach (Coker), they played you on a Thursday night and came up a little bit short, but athletically, and this was when Miami was rolling, athletically, they had a pretty good team.
ESPN analyst Larry Coker: They had an outstanding team and we had to come up with some big plays to allow us to win the game. No doubt about it. But I think the big thing is some consistency. I think that Louisville team came in very excited for a huge game to play Miami, but now you turn around the next week and go to Tennessee, go to Georgia, go to Arkansas, go down the list of teams you’d have to play, and I think that makes it a little bit tougher to be in that type of schedule week-in, week-out, instead of having to play a team like Miami or Georgia or whomever and them maybe have a lesser opponent the next two weeks and have a chance to heal up and recover and get back to reality.