5 thoughts from ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit on college football season

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit held a conference call with reporters from around the country Wednesday to discuss the 2017 season.

Here are some highlights from the former Ohio State and Centerville High School quarterback:

1. “I’m fired up to get the season started, probably like you are,” he said when asked about the first game he will broadcast this season: Ohio State at Indiana on Aug. 31.

ESPN GameDay will be in Bloomington for a Thursday night affair.

Herbstreit pointed out a team of the caliber of the Buckeyes, who are No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll, going on the road in conference at night to start the year is rare, and he sees Indiana as a team that thinks it can finally get over the hump to compete in the Big Ten East.

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2. He believes Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson have confidence in Dwayne Haskins’ ability to run the offense if J.T. Barrett goes down with an injury.

Haskins was in a battle with Joe Burrow to be Barrett’s backup, but Burrow had surgery for a broken hand this week and will be out at least a month.

Herbstreit said he was hearing Burrow had a very consistent camp, likely benefitting from growing up the son of a coach, and that helped him hold off challenges from the highly regarded Haskins.

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3. Two days after watching the Buckeyes take on the Hoosiers, Herbstreit will be in Atlanta to see No. 1 Alabama take on No. 3 Florida State.

He compared that to a national championship game in September, though he predicts both will still make the College Football Playoff.

He looks for Alabama sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts to be improved as a passer and praised FSU sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois for the toughness he displayed last year behind a shaky Seminoles offensive line.

4. Penn State lost the best receiver from the 2016 Big Ten champions (Chris Godwin), but opposing defenses will still have to decide how to stop Saquon Barkley, described by Herbstreit as the best running back in the country.

They will still be susceptible to giving up the big play if they choose to load the box, and he expects offensive coordinator Joe Morehead to come up with some more wrinkles to punish teams for overplaying against Barkley.

He also wonders how good the Nittany Lions pass rush will be.

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5. Herbstreit wants to see how Clemson is at quarterback before making a final judgement on the defending national champs, who should have another great defensive line.

Clemson is recruiting in the last five years at a level matched by very few teams in the country, and it will only get better with new facilities.

However, the reigning champs will have a bullseye on their backs and a schedule that looks more difficult on paper.

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