Herbstreit Sees Big Things for Iowa

Hawkeye fans have been wondering for years when ESPN'S Gameday would be coming to Iowa City. HN Senior Writer caught up with Kirk Herbstreit on Tuesday at the Big Ten meetings to ask when that might happen. Find out what he said, his thoughts on the Hawks going to the National Championship game, why he thinks Iowa struggled last season and much more in this premium Q&A.

KIRK HERBSTREIT

We come here to Chicago again and Ohio State and Michigan are the top two picks. Where does Iowa fit in that mix?

As long as Kirk Ferentz is there, Iowa is a Top 3 team. They've established themselves. Penn State is up there. I'm a big fan or Kirk Ferentz. I just have to think he's a lot like Jim Tressel or Pete Carroll or Mack Brown or Bob Stoops. It's one of those things that if (Iowa) can keep him, than Iowa's not going to be any worse than an 8 win-season. It's going to be one of those things where, "Oh, we won eight or nine this year. Last year, we won 11. Next year, maybe we win 10." They're not going to go away. I don't care if Drew Tate leaves, as much as they build their offense around him, they'll be another guy. I don't know who it is. He has created an environment. The players like him. The parents like him. Beyond that, he's created X's and O's on offense and defense that allows him to every year plug in holes. They just lost Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge. Really? Next in line. Move Eddie Miles to the middle. Boom, boom, boom. That's called building a program. The program becomes bigger than the individuals. He gets that. He understands that. That's why they're not ever going to go away.

You put Coach Ferentz in the class with guys like Mack Brown and Pete Carroll. Do you think his name plays like those others on a national basis?

To me it does, but I'm a freak. This is all I do. This is all I eat and breath. I'm not patting myself on the back, that's just what I do. I deal with these personalities every day during the season. I have an appreciation for coaches who aren't just hyped by the media and the fans. I liked Kirk Ferentz when they were 4-7. There was just something about him that I really respected. He and I kind of gravitated toward one another. So, without a doubt, I put him up there. And to be able to go to Iowa, and I love Hayden Fry – he's a guy with a great legacy – to year in and year out rub elbows with Ohio State and Michigan and to be pretty consistent with it in the last four years, that's something. When you're in those kind of bowl games at a school like Iowa, that's saying a lot. This year, I see another January 1st bowl game and the year after that. I don't have any hesitation putting him up there with those other coaches.

I don't know how in-depth you've studied the Big Ten to this point. But what do you see are the keys for Iowa from what you do know?

Well, I haven't looked to there point where I'd be able to give you and in-depth analysis. I will tell you that last year's team seemed to be under more pressure. You had Drew coming back. He was the man the year before. You had Albert Young and Greenway and Hodge. There was just so much hype. The expectations were so high, that I really think that they tried to live up to those expectation and they forced things, especially in the Iowa State game. The next thing you know, they got to the Ohio State game and ran into a team that was really good on defense. That didn't go well. All of a sudden, they were looked at almost as a failure. You can really learn a lot about yourself and as a team when you go through that. I'm guessing that they're going to learn not to look at things on the outside. If I'm Drew, I don't feel like I have to live up to a certain standard. He was the preseason offensive player of the year. Sometimes when you get that, you feel like you have to make that throw. It's no that you're selfish. It's that you feel like the standards are so high that you force things; you force the game instead of letting the game come to you. He was guilty of doing that last year. I'm sure he's learned from that. Now, they come back this year, they don't have any great receivers going in. There's no Greenway-Hodge. The whole thing has kind of died down. This is a year where he can really have a successful year. There's a lot to be learned about last year. If they can get off to a good start and get passed Iowa State…I expect them to be 4-0 and ranked in the Top 10 by the time Ohio State comes to town.

What do you feel like the atmosphere will be like for that one?

I've been telling Ohio State fans that last year I sat here last year with (Penn State's) Michael Robinson and Alex Zamitis. They looked me in the eye and I could tell they were serious. All the other players were, "Like, yeah, we're going to do this and that." The Penn State guys were serious. I took away from that that team is on a mission. Everybody was talking about Ohio State and Texas. I was telling people to watch out for the Penn State. That program is hungry for revenge not only on Ohio State but the nation for ripping on Joe Paterno. They mean business. Sure enough, the Penn State game was a nasty one. Now, I'm telling Ohio State fans this year when they're talking Texas again to watch out for Iowa. Iowa. Iowa. At Iowa after Drew spiked the ball in frustration. Ohio State humiliated them. It was embarrassing. I'm telling you right now, Ohio State at Iowa will be one of the best atmospheres in the country, assuming Ohio State beats Texas and Iowa beats Iowa State. That will be one of the best atmospheres for the whole year in college football. The winner of that will position themselves for a serious run at the national championship. I will tell you squarely, right now, Aug. 1, Ohio State at Iowa, you'll have two teams in the Top 10. The winner is going to go to the national championship game. It's going to be one of the games of the year.

Will College Game Day be there for that one? We have people in Iowa wondering where you guys have been.

Yeah. If Iowa beats Iowa State and Ohio State beats Texas, I will virtually guarantee that College Game Day will be there. Myself and Brent Musberger and Bob Davie will be broadcasting the game live on ABC.

I know we have to pick a favorite or two, but is this a pretty wide open race in the Big Ten?

I think it is. Every team has question marks. Iowa has to replace receivers, corners and linebackers. Ohio State lost its top eight tacklers. Michigan lost five games in the fourth quarter. Where are they at mentally? You can just go down the line. You can actually do that for the entire nation. Texas, you can do it. USC, you can do it. Oklahoma, you can do it. Name a team, you can do it. It the past, there seems to always be a team or two to stand out. You can't say that about anybody. In that sense, it's a wide open race in the Big Ten, too.


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