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ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit talks College Football Playoffs, Heisman Trophy, Twitter trolls

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit spoke with Newsday about everything ranging from the College Football Playoffs to dealing with Twitter trolls during a phone conversation on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 to promote Allstate's It's Good Sweepstakes. Here's what he had to say about everything

Herbstreit on College GameDay and why it works

Photo Credit: ESPN

"I've been doing it 20 years now, so I've seen it from the beginning to where we are now. I don't know. I just feel like the last eight or nine years, we've been in a really good spot as far as the sport has grown immensely. I think as the NFL has become kind of "the" sport in our country, college football has gone along for the ride. So I think football -- major college football level and the NFL -- kind of separated themselves from everything else based on attendance and ratings and things like that. And then you mix in how passionate our fanbase is, and a sport that its postseason is subjective, I think you have a lot of rabid fans and a lot of passionate fans. And you mix in strong opinions on our show -- you get people who are really, really excited about our show, you get people who are really, really frustrated with our show. You get a feature from Tom Rinaldi or Gene Wojciechowski. You might be crying one minute and laughing the next. It's really a mix of emotions when you watching a show of ours. And, you know, we're right in front, usually, of a huge atmosphere that's authentic and real and not manufactured. I think having the show out on the road has been really huge for the show. And then these crowds that we get every single week, I mean, I don't know, there's 10-15,000 people around our set just going bonkers about their school and their team. I think it's kind of symbolic of tailgating and college football. I think people, they've really embraced it."

Herbstreit on the College Football Playoff

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jonathan Daniel

"I still think with three weeks left, I still think you're going to see a lot of wackiness going on. This thing's far from over. If you just look at Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State . . . I'll be surprised if they all win out. We're all just kind of assuming that those three WILL win out, and then that last sport between Notre Dame and Oklahoma State or Oklahoma or whoever it might be, that seems like the most common discussion. But what if Clemson loses to North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game? What if Ohio State loses to Michigan or Michigan State? What if Alabama gets upset by Florida, or they lose to Auburn in the season finale? Those are the kind of things that, while they seem improbable, actually happen quite often in our sport. This is one of those sports that whenever you think you have it figured out, something else happens, or kind of expect the unexpected. That's college football. I couldn't dare guess as to what's going to happen because there's so many things that still could happen that are, as I said, very unpredictable."

Herbstreit on College Football Playoff surprise contenders

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Matthew Holst

"I think as we sit here this week, you have to say Iowa and Oklahoma State would be the two teams that, if you went back in August and you thought, 'OK, when we get to the middle of November, do you think these teams could be there,' I don't think a lot of people outside of the state of Iowa probably thought the Hawkeyes would be there, and I think Oklahoma State looked like a team that would be improved, but I don't know how many people thought they'd be 10-0. I mean, that's amazing to think, with a big win over TCU and still has two games coming up, this weekend with Baylor and then the big one with Oklahoma next week. I don't know if very many people thought either one of those teams really would be up in the top six right now."

Herbstreit on the Heisman Trophy race

Photo Credit: Allstate

"Leonard Fournette at that point [entering Alabama-LSU] was just the odds-on favorite by everybody's evaluation. He was having a monster year. And then he went to Tuscaloosa, and I don't remember hoe many yards he ran for, but it seemed like he ran into a brick wall every time he carried the ball. And then it just so happened to be that his counterpart on the other side, Derrick Henry, went crazy for over 200 yards. He kind of became the name everybody talked about. I've been doing this a long time, I don't know if I ever remember just three weeks of football left it being this wide open. Derrick Henry is probably in the lead, but I think you have guys like Zeke Elliott at Ohio State, who's had a great year but hasn't had a chance against good competition or hasn't had a chance on a big stage. He'll be afforded that in the next few weeks, so we'll see if he can take advantage of that. I think Deshaun Watson is having a monster year at Clemson, quarterback of the No. 1 ranked team, and really a key component to why I think they're sitting where they are is his leadership ability and ability to make plays. And then I think you have to look at Baker Mayfield, quarterback at Oklahoma, who has been having a great year but I think last week and the way he played on the road at Baylor caught the nation's eye. And now all of a sudden Oklahoma is ranked up in the top seven, probably trending as well as anybody in the country, he all of a sudden becomes a guy that people are paying attention to. So those would probably be the main guys at this point that I would bring up. Whoever gets hot in these last three weeks will probably be the guy that ends up winning the trophy."

Herbstreit on how he deals with Twitter trolls

Photo Credit: ESPN/John Atashian

*laughs* "You know what, I don't know if you get involved in that much, but it's become a sport to me. I actually enjoy it. It sounds crazy. But I get 95 percent of the people that communicate with me are just wonderful, fans, they love the game, they're passionate, they ask great questions. But you have the lunatic fringe from each fanbase. When I first started doing it, I would try to reason with those people. What I learned very quickly was they're just angry at life. They're not angry with me or you, they're angry with everybody. If they're not cursing me out, they're on to the next guy cursing that person out. They're just in a bad spot in life, or whatever it is. So rather than take that abuse, what I've done is I always kill them with kindness. 'Hey, have a great Sunday! Nice to hear from ya! Take care!' Like, I'll deal them just a quick little backhanded compliment. But I like to expose them for their family and friends and employer to see how they feel it's necessary to talk the way they do. I think it's important to shed light on those guys as much as I can. I think my followers have fun with it. I have fun with it. And then I more often than not mute them, so I never hear or see them again. No harm, no foul. It's good entertainment. It's amazing what the people say, that's for sure. That's all I'm trying to do is kind of make light of it and have fun with it. I don't take any of it personally. I think it's part of Twitter, and I think if you take it personally that's not the best thing to do. Like I said, I think it's more of a reflection of how they may feel about themselves than it is about how they feel about you or me or anything like that."


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