Audio replay of the call: http://es.pn/14cb2BL
Downloadable images: http://bit.ly/1wdLWU5
ESPN held a media conference call with college football analysts Lou Holtz and Danny Kanell on Thursday, Oct. 16. Holtz and Kanell – who were members of the Notre Dame and Florida State teams, respectively, that faced off in the 1993 Game of the Century – touched on a variety of topics, including Saturday’s No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Florida State matchup (October 18 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC). They also talked about the College Football Playoff, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Michigan State, memories of College GameDay’s first road show and more.
A transcript of the conference call follows:
Q.) Danny, how would you compare the two quarterbacks? They’ve both had their share of off-the-field issues, but it seems like this is a game where Everett Golson could make his legacy?
Kanell: Absolutely. Everett Golson is a completely different quarterback this year than he was his freshman year when he took Notre Dame to the national title game. That game, I think you could safely say he was a game manager, whereas this year he’s a difference maker on the field. He’s probably the biggest reason why Notre Dame is undefeated to this point because of his play on the field.
Q.) If I could follow‑up, obviously Notre Dame is a 12‑point underdog going in here. Do they need Everett Golson’s A‑plus game to win?
Kanell: Yes, I absolutely do think that. I think Florida State’s a different team where they have more talent around Jameis Winston where they can overcome if he has a poor game. But I think Everett Golson is an X‑factor in this game without question. He has to play well. He has to have a strong performance in order for Notre Dame to win.
Q.) About Jameis, you obviously played at Florida State and had a great career, what is your take on how they’ve handled everything with him?
Kanell: It’s pretty clear now Jimbo Fisher has pretty much fallen behind Jameis Winston, and he knows him better than anyone. That coach‑to‑quarterback relationship is a unique bond. When he goes to Jameis Winston, asks him something and looks him in the eye, clearly he’s put a lot of faith and trust in Jameis Winston. From the outside looking in it could look questionable because of some of the mistakes and transgressions that Jameis has had off the field, but Jimbo knows him better than anyone.
I think that’s what I would look at and say, all right, it’s the coach‑quarterback relationship. The trust is there, and Jimbo’s made it very clear that he believes Jameis on multiple fronts.
Q.) For Coach and Danny, when you played in that 1993 game, there was a very different postseason for college football, and there was a sense that if you lost a game that was it for National Championship hopes. I guess I should spin it, did you get the feeling going into that game it was a sort of this is a game we have to win or we have no National Championship hopes? Do you think that change now in college football has been fundamentally changed by the college playoff because it looks like these teams could conceivably meet down the road?
Holtz: Definitely. We felt that if we didn’t win that game we could not win the National Championship. We also knew by winning the game that wasn’t for the national champion, we still had another game, a Top 10 team. We had a bowl game to play. It would have been much better in ’89 and ’93 as well as a couple other years for us had it gone to the final four and said, okay, we’ll take four teams because there is a good chance Florida State and Notre Dame would have met again. But you could not win it if you didn’t win that game. It didn’t mean you were going to win it because you won it.
Q.) Danny, Florida State was so good that year, it had to have been even more pressure to win that game, and it must have been pretty stunning when you didn’t?
Kanell: Without question. The plane ride home was a long one, and it was quiet. We really felt like our season was over. The chance to win the national title and give Bobby Bowden his first championship was out the window. It was a long week of practice. Our coaches tried to harp on us and say, hey, look, there is still a chance that we could get back in it. I don’t know if we even believed them at the time. But I vividly remember because at the time we lived in an athletic dorm and the entire football team lived at Burt Reynolds Hall. When Notre Dame came to Boston College, you could hear the shouts and celebration across Tallahassee, for sure, because that’s the minute we felt like we were back in the hunt.
Q.) Coach, I know Brian Kelly and Jimbo Fisher would never admit this, but from your position as a coach, would you handle things or at least maybe internalize things a little differently if you had a four‑team playoff back then? Maybe pace your team a little differently? Not feel quite as much pressure to win every game? How does that work from a coaching standpoint on what you impart to your team, but how do you handle your own business knowing that one loss doesn’t necessarily eliminate you?
Holtz: Well, I would have approached it the same way. You play it one team, you don’t have to be the best team in the country, we do have to be the best team in the stadium today. But when you do lose, like Danny said, it isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t like we don’t have a chance now. I think it’s much better now. I think coaches feel a lot of pressure now to be one of the final four teams rather than just be the one. Your goal is to be in the top four right now. Your goal then was to be number one all the way through so there was a great deal of pressure. But it’s a little different. All you want to do is get in the playoff. If you can you get in the playoff, you’ve got a chance. If you don’t get in the playoff, you have no chance.
Q.) Coach and Danny, I’m curious for both of you to look at Brian VanGorder, Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, his team and his personnel, what your impressions of those are and are they good enough to really factor into the outcome of this game?
Holtz: I disagree with what Danny said before, and I have great respect for him, but I just have a difference of opinion. I don’t think Golson has to play an A‑game. I think Notre Dame’s defense does. The one advantage that Notre Dame has is the offense and defense. I think Notre Dame can run the ball and protect the pass. I’m not sure Florida State can. I think Notre Dame’s secondary plays the ball much better than Florida State.
With that being said, that was my observation before they gave up 43 points to North Carolina. Now is that an enigma or did somebody finally attack them? I know Brian VanGorder, when he was at Georgia, he’s an excellent coach. They’re very sound in what they do. But I would be concerned after the North Carolina game. Up until then, I felt Notre Dame’s defense was definitely for real.
Kanell: I’ll piggyback on what Coach said and specifically on Brian VanGorder. I think he’s one of the strongest defensive coordinators in the game with what he brings to the table. He brings a ton of stuff. I mean, you have to have a very smart, intelligent defense to pull off some of the schemes that he does, and that can present some challenges for Florida State. I would agree with Coach where in the trenches Notre Dame does have an advantage. Florida State has struggled mightily running the football, and that is one area where Notre Dame can absolutely go toe to toe with Florida State.
Q.) Just curious of your impressions of how Notre Dame handled suspensions of players involved in the academic probe, and just kind of your takeaway from all of that?
Holtz: Having been at Notre Dame, it doesn’t surprise me that they would investigate everything seriously. I was at the University of Notre Dame, I am surprised it took them so long to make the decision. How long could it take to investigate something? One thing I learned as a Coach at Notre Dame for 11 years, Notre Dame is going to march to their own drummer, they don’t care what people on the outside say, as a matter of fact, they don’t even care what the football Coach says. They’re going to do what they feel is in the best interest of the university, and uphold the integrity of the university. I’m just surprised it took that long.
I’m not surprised what they did, the manner they did, the decision they reached. I have no idea on anything involved but that’s just Notre Dame.
Kanell: I would say this is why Notre Dame is truly an elite academic institution with the standards they hold their student‑athletes to. It’s just a different set of rules that they expect their students to go by. I think that speaks to the challenge and how hard it is, not only to get top‑tier athletes into the University, but to keep them there. It’s extremely rigorous. The expectations are extremely high, but I think that’s why it’s a special place as well.
Holtz: In ’89 we’re defending national champ. I’m getting ready to go to the press conference to start the fall camp. Notre Dame informs me at noon that day that Tony Brooks drove his car on campus and emptied his clothes. He was not allowed to do that because he had parking tickets, he would not play for the entire year. He never set foot on the football field.
They informed me that Michael Stonebreaker had a car accident during the off‑season where he had been drinking. He was not charged with drunken driving or anything else. He, again, an All‑American linebacker, would not play the entire year. Neither one of them set foot on the field the entire year of ’89. And just that when Tony Rice came in, and I promised Tony that I thought he could get in, not knowing Notre Dame. They told me that they would admit Tony Rice, however, his freshman year he would not set foot on the football field or the Coach’s office. It would be the one year for spring practice, but have nothing to do with football until he could prove he could handle the work academically. That’s just the way Notre Dame is, and you accept it. When you go there, you understand that’s the way Notre Dame operates.
Q.) If you could just let me slip in a quick question about Minnesota. This might be near and dear to Lou’s heart. But the Big Ten west looks wide open right now. I’m wondering if either of you see any scenario where Minnesota could end up playing in Indianapolis at the end of the year?
Holtz: Well, I went on TV the first week of the season and I picked Minnesota as a dark horse in the Big Ten. I like what Jerry Kill has done, and yes, they have a chance. The last three games have been difficult. I think they play Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska the last few games. We also have Iowa, but they’ve got Illinois, they’ve got Indiana in there. The thing I like is they can run the ball. They’re physical. They play good, sound defense. They play old‑fashioned football and they do not beat themselves. They did get beat up pretty good at TCU but just the way they play and looking at them, I pick them.
Kanell: I would say they absolutely have a chance in the Big Ten West. When you look at what they’ve got, they’ve got maybe one of the most underrated coaches in the game with Jerry Kill and the job he’s done building that program a consistent identity behind David Cobb running the football, and being able to do it successfully and basically coming out and saying all right, we’re going to establish the run and getting that done. Then you throw it in there that they’re playing in the division that is completely wide open right now, they absolutely have every chance.
Q.) I wonder if you guys can talk a little about the ’94 game and also the Orange Bowl, the ’95 season. I know those games are almost 20 years ago, but have you talked about those matchups as you’ve been on the ESPN campus?
Holtz: Well, let me start. In ’94 we were in a rebuilding mode. We had a freshman quarterback. We went down played in Orlando. We didn’t play really well, Florida State did. We were in the game because Bobby [Taylor] picked up a fumble, ran in for a touchdown and we were in the game in the fourth quarter. But we really were in a rebuilding year. The Orange Bowl, we lost our starting quarterback and had to go with a back‑up front crew to replace very little. Florida State had an excellent football team. We jumped off to a pretty good lead early in the game. We ran the ball well and came out with the one‑back set. First play we ran, I think we picked up about 40 yards. But we built up the momentum.
What I remember off that game is they got the momentum right before the half. We had the ball on our 20‑yard line, 4th and 8. I ran a fake punt and it was successful. We picked up the first down. But I had noticed with five minutes to go in the game we’re up by 11 and could not hang on to it.
The play, I’ll never forget it, it was right in front of me. The receiver, I don’t know who it was, came down, ran a post corner post route and beat our corner for a long 55‑yard touchdown pass. Very well‑executed, very well‑thrown. But it was a very, very good game. We had a chance to win it, but we just couldn’t hang on. Tom Krug did an excellent job considering everything. Florida State beat us up pretty good with their pass rush. Tom Krug took a beating, but Derrick Mayes had a tremendous game that day as wide receiver. I don’t remember much other than that.
Kanell: I vividly recall Bobby Taylor’s corner blitz where he hit me upside the head and had to scoop and score for the touchdown. ’94, for me personally it was a time where I was still very much growing as a quarterback and trying to figure out my way and trying to establish myself as a guy who could help lead Florida State to a championship. That game I had faced a lot of adversity because of that play and because we had sputtered along offensively.
There was a signature play in that game in ’94 in Orlando. It was maybe a 30 or 40‑yard gainer, and that one kind of just for me allowed me to breathe a big sigh of relief and it got some momentum for us. I think Mark Richt, the play caller at the time, said hey, we’re going to try to mash them a little bit toward the end of the game, and we really did on the ground. Then just coming out of there with a win was a big one.
Then the Orange Bowl. That was my last game as a senior at Florida State and I remember the pressure leading into that game. There were a bunch of streaks that were on the line for Bobby Bowden and the program as far as consecutive bowl wins, 10‑game winning season, and I wanted to go out with a win as a senior being my last game. It was a very physical game. I remember that. I remember getting knocked down several times. Then I recall coming back in the fourth quarter from behind and having Andre Cooper was the MVP of that game. That was my wide receiver. We had a real knack for each other for being able to throw the jump ball. We were always on the same page, whether I would put it up high or behind on his back shoulder or lead him down the field.
Then I would say that one of the most rewarding experiences for me in my career was after the game being able to bring my family on the field, my parents. I’ve got a photo still up in my office with my dad and I and the smile on both of our faces might be the biggest smile you’ve ever seen from both of us.
Q.) I cover Oklahoma and I’m trying to get a fix on the Sooners. They looked awfully good the first four weeks of the season and have really evened out. They lost to TCU and statistically were dominated by Texas. Won the game but didn’t look very good winning it. Do you have a sense of where this team is headed under Coach Stoops?
Holtz: I think that I picked Oklahoma. I happened to do the bowl game. It was the pregame show with the Sugar Bowl and I was shocked at how well Trevor Knight played. I mean, he had averaged about a 50% completion for the year. He had like five touchdowns and six interceptions. Then for him to put on that performance and the Oklahoma team, the way they played together and focused and being on that sideline and seeing them, every time Alabama scored, they responded well. I don’t see that same thing in the last couple weeks. I don’t see the total togetherness.
I’m sure Coach Stoops will try to get that back, but they just started making the plays on defense, but the big thing, they aren’t making them on offense as well. You go the first half against Texas, I have great respect for [Texas’ Vance] Bedford. He played safety at Texas when I was at Arkansas, and he runs the same type of defense. But they only gained 19 yards against us. You’ve got to sit back and say, man, we’ve got some problems. But this happened during the middle of the year. I want to tell you, your chemistry changes, guys aren’t playing, guys get injured, guys have girlfriends. You don’t know what that locker room’s like.
I can tell you the locker room before the Sugar Bowl had to be tremendous because of the way they played. I’m not sure everybody’s on the same page right now. But that happens. Is it a reflection on Coach Stoops? These are the situations that you have to cope with as a Coach, and right the ship, and I’m sure he will.
Kanell: I would say with this Oklahoma team, it wasn’t that long ago that most of the analysts around Bristol and around the country were saying that Oklahoma might have been the one elite team because it didn’t look like they had a lot of weaknesses.
The good news for Oklahoma is they may not be the elite team now, but there truly isn’t an elite team. Mississippi State right now is making their case and they’ve had an impressive run. But Oklahoma has run into a tough part of their schedule. They’re facing better teams and getting challenged more. You can look at the TCU game and say we’ve lost. But TCU is a good squad. They lost on the road and were able to contain a TCU who just loss with 58 points on the board against Baylor. Against Texas, I watched that game pretty closely. I was in studio with Mack Brown who had a lot of interest in that game, and it was the first half. Like Coach said, they didn’t do anything in the first half offensively, and Texas pretty much dominated that game from a physical standpoint. They had played better.
But in a rivalry game, you find a way to win. In today’s era, there are a lot of parities. It’s all about finding a way to win. And Oklahoma, even with the one loss, I’m sure there is in panic around Norman saying what’s going on? We’re not blowing people out. You’ve got everything sitting right in front of you. Your biggest games remaining are at home when you look at Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State, so everything is there for the taking.
Holtz: The other thing Oklahoma had is they have to be happy TCU lost because if they win out, they’re going to at least be tied for the conference championship. So they still control their own destiny.
Q.) Obviously the winner of this game controls its destiny for a playoff chance. But what do you think the chances are if either team loses to get back and be found? And which one has a better chance because of the schedules and all of getting into the playoff hunt where they lost?
Holtz: I think Notre Dame, both of them have an excellent chance with this loss. I think the team that wins this game is really punching their ticket to the final four. You look at their schedule remaining at Notre Dame. They have an open date after this game. Then they play Navy, Arizona State is having severe problems on defense. They have to travel out to this other town which is always a rivalry game. But they should be okay.
I think looking at Florida State and Notre Dame, both of them, regardless of the outcome of this game should win out. If both sides do that, both of them will be in the game again and have a chance to possibly repeat this performance.
Kanell: I do feel like it’s more of a must‑win game for Florida State. I’m sure if Florida State lost this game the immediate reaction after would be well, they’re done. Because they play in the ACC which is one of the weaker conferences in college football, because the remaining schedule, there aren’t too many tests where they can make a statement down the road as it looks now.
Now if you’re Florida State and you did lose, you’d immediately start rooting for Miami and Florida to play well so you can have stronger wins. But I think the team that probably has the best chance to move on with a loss and get back in the hunt is Notre Dame, just because of the schedule that they’ve got set before them and because of their signature win against Stanford at home. Then significant road tests, where if they can pull that off and go on the road at Arizona State and at USC, in the middle of those is Northwestern and Louisville, two pretty good Power Five schools that would absolutely be back in the hunt.
Q.) I know it’s probably unlikely, but can you come up with any scenario where two teams in the SEC West could make it to the final four this year?
Kanell: I personally don’t think it happens, but there is absolutely a scenario where it could. Right now the state of Mississippi, which has been the hottest thing in college football this year, if they continue to run the table and they’re undefeated going into their egg bowl, their rivalry matchup, and they play a tight, tight game that comes down to a field goal, and both look impressive against each other, then the winner would go on to the SEC Championship game and dominate that game and beat whoever the SEC East representative is, so you’d have two really impressive looking teams from the SEC, there would be a chance.
But I think you would have to have a collapse around the country as far as Florida State would probably have to lose so you would open up a spot there that wouldn’t have been taken by an undefeated Florida State. The Pac‑12 would have to have a down year where you could have a two or even potentially a three‑loss champion. There are just a lot of different scenarios that have to play out.
I personally don’t think it will happen. That, for me personally has something more to do if I was on the committee, I would want to see conference champions represented in there as opposed to somebody who would lose the last game of the season and be represented.
Holtz: I think that for the SEC, I do believe the SEC has two of the four best teams in the country. But I think the rest of the conference, I think winning your conference championship should be mandatory. That’s just how I feel. If you don’t win your conference championship, you shouldn’t be in the National Championship. That’s just happened too much in recent years. North Carolina State was good with David Thompson, and they played Maryland in the finals of the ACC Tournament. Maryland had John Lucas and Tom McMillen. N.C. State wins in overtime. Maryland cannot go to the NCAA Tournament because the conference champion should go. I think that’s the way it should be. We have five major conferences. Four of them should send a representative. And if Notre Dame proves they’re better than any of the conference champions, they should be considered as well.
I just don’t like it. You don’t win your conference, you shouldn’t be a national champ. That’s just how I feel today.
Kanell: I would add to what Coach said, the perfect solution is to have eight teams, five conference champions and then you could have three at‑large. So you could have two teams from a strong SEC or strong Pac‑12 or whatever conference was having a good year. But that would just make way too much sense for college football right now.
Holtz: It would make more sense if we went back to January 1, after January 1, we’ll take the top four teams in the country, because at that time they’d have eight teams and consequently every bowl game would be very important. I promise you, the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl with the semifinal stage is going to have the national interest. There are going to be a lot of other great games. I don’t know who will be in it, but you’ll have a lot of other great games and an awful lot of interest. You said we’re going to take a bowl game that will have great interest in it.
Q.) I want both of your thoughts on the final drive of the 1993 game and the significance of that game overall for both programs. Just what it meant to college football in general, the 1993 matchup?
Holtz: The final drive should have been completely irrelevant. We’re ahead 21‑7, and we draft some passes wide open. We’re at 21‑7 halftime. The first 26 minutes of the second half we scored ten points, Florida State scored 10 points, and we’re up 31‑17. Four minutes or less to go in the game, Florida State has 4th and 20 on our 20, 4th and 20. They throw a pass, it hits our linebacker in the helmet. If he doesn’t have a helmet on, he would have had a concussion. Ball bounces up in the air. Florida State catches the ball. That made it 31‑24. We get the kickoff now, we’re fighting the clock. We run the ball three times. We don’t get a first down, we punt, we hold on. We had a prevent defense, so to speak, some people call it prevent, some call it victory, I call it prevent victory. But with the speed that Florida State had, and the elusiveness of Charlie Ward, we didn’t want to give up the big play.
But if we did get down inside on the 20, now we can clamp on you. We don’t have to worry about you getting behind on it, et cetera, and that was the nature of our defense. Florida State was a great football team. Bobby Bowden was a great coach, but more importantly a great person. I’ll say this about Florida State, they’re class people with a class name. Florida State may have beaten us seven out of 10 times. That’s very, very possible. I honestly felt on that particular day we were the better football team. If it’s not 4th and 10 and our linebacker just knocked it down, then everything else is irrelevant, and they aren’t talking about that last play.
Kanell: I guess I would go along with Coach. I didn’t play in the game. I was a holder for the kick, but I remember the incredible atmosphere. When you think about college football and the types of games you want to play in, there is not one you can picture being much better than that, especially the way the game played out. That was my first time in South Bend. There is definitely an aura about that stadium, about that environment. I can never get out of my mind how close the fans were to being on the field. Just the coaches told us, hey, make sure you have your helmet. Don’t put them down on the bench. The fans can grab them.
If you go back and watch the last play of the game, you can see fans and their toes are on the field. Now we’re so paranoid and they have coaches that keep people away. But it was great. We loved it. We were excited about going into that environment. Just from the standpoint from our end, even though we trailed most of the game because of Charlie Ward, they brought us back so many times in the fourth quarter or whenever we trailed, there was never a sense of panic, no matter how late in the game it kept going. Then there was sort of a feeling of shock because we felt like we were the best team in the country, and felt like we let it get away from us. Like we talked about before on the call, we felt like our season was over when we lost that game.
But it was such an incredible environment. For me personally, I had actually played the week before against Maryland. Charlie was hurt. And I’m sure there was some gamesmanship from our coaches saying we’re not sure what Charlie Ward’s status is and would he play, and I was terrified. I had just started my first game as a collegiate quarterback the week before. I had watched Charlie closer in that Notre Dame game than ever before and just kept praying that I would not have to go in that game because it was a different speed of athlete on the field for that one.
Holtz: I won’t dispute that Florida State was the best team in the country. You were a great football team.
Q.) Coach, obviously Florida State riding a school record 22‑game winning streak, and 25 years ago you were in the middle of a 23‑game winning streak. I’m curious, what is the mood of the team when things are really rolling along like that. Do you feel invincible? How does that confidence build?
Holtz: Well, to have a 23‑game winning streak, it takes two seasons. So you look at your football team, and we never talked about the streak. But to do that streak, you’ve got to play well on the road. Once you go on the road, and we told the team all the time, make sure before you pack your pads, let’s pack our discipline. Let’s pack our togetherness. Let’s pack our defense. Let’s pack our kicking game. If we took those with us, we’d be okay. But you expect to win.
But I tell you what you do. You reach a point, and this is what Nick Saban faces, Urban Meyer faces, all coaches that are used to winning, and even Jimbo Fisher, when you win it’s a relief. You can’t celebrate a win because everybody expects you to win. Thank goodness it’s over. When you lose, it’s absolute, complete rejection, dejection, disappointment. I can’t tell you how painful a loss is when you’re used to winning. That’s when people get out of coaching.
When I left Notre Dame, I never thought I’d coach again, but it got to the point where you couldn’t enjoy a win. You didn’t win big enough. You didn’t do this, you didn’t do that. We finished second in the country, and everybody calls you an idiot. You just keep going with it. I’m sorry it didn’t continue, but we lost to a very good Miami team down there.
Q.) It sounds like the pressure builds faster than any joy as you continue to win?
Holtz: Absolutely. There is no joy in that winning streak. It’s just oh, we got by that one. I don’t care if you’re playing Navy. You’re scared to death. You can’t enjoy a win because everybody expects you to win. So you’re not enjoying the winning streak, et cetera. You’re not even aware of it as you go along. But I can tell you this, losing is an absolute catastrophe.
Q.) As you look back now, how great of an accomplishment was that?
Holtz: Well, you think of all the great teams that have been to Notre Dame, you think of all the great coaches at Notre Dame, and nobody’s ever won 23 games in a row. Now I think the streak is longer being undefeated, but there are some tie games in there. But you have to look at it and say you know ‑‑ but you have to remember this. When that streak was going on, you count how many were in top 20 football teams. You’ll find the majority of those wins. In ’89 when we’re doing that, we beat seven conference champions.
In ’88, we beat the number two, the number three, and the number four team in the final poll. I think we end up beating six teams in the Top 10. So when I look back, I say it was really incredible, not that we won 23, but we won those 23 was impressive.
Q.) Connor Cook has had a pretty solid season so far. He’s a junior. Do you think there is any chance that he leaves early for the NFL? And if he does, what are his prospects?
Holtz: I think that depends upon him and the Coach and how they approach it. I always told seniors that you had a great career because our seniors were here to guide you and direct you. And you have that same obligation to the players coming up, plus we had a chance to win a championship. I would not pull Michigan State out of that championship race right now either. I think they’re playing very well.
Connor Cook is 16‑2 as a quarterback starter, which is an unbelievable record if you look at Winston and Golson. But I think he’s an excellent quarterback. I think you have to look at what other quarterbacks would be coming out. I think Marcus Mariota is really talented, et cetera. I think you have to look at where you’re going to be drafted and where the future is. But I’ve told this to other quarterbacks and other players and it’s turned out to be true. If you stay ‑‑ and this was Todd Lyght, Todd Lyght was an All‑American junior ‑‑ Todd, if you stay, I’m going to pay you $5 million if you’ll stay at Notre Dame one more year. Because, you see, Todd, you’ll probably go in the second round this year. Next year you may be a Top 10 pick.
He ends up being the sixth player in the draft, so he ended up making more money by staying for us. Now I didn’t pay him, but he ended up making more money. So I think you have to look at the family background. Rocket Ismail came and said if I’m offered $18 million, if I stay another year, do you think I’ll get a better deal, a better job? I said no, I don’t think so. And his family was such that they felt they needed the money. So I think there are many so circumstances. Danny can talk about it more from an athlete. I can only talk about it from a Coach.
Kanell: I think Connor Cook’s an exceptional quarterback. I’ve been impressed with his development through the latter portion of last season where I really felt Michigan State should have been talked about more as potentially playing in the national title game. I thought they got completely overlooked and should have at least been considered throughout that process. When you look at it, I used to be hard core, you have to stay your entire career, and the most important thing is your degree.
But as I’ve grown older and hopefully wiser, I think you have to look at every situation individually and look at what your opportunities are. Like Coach said, who else is coming out? Where your own comfort level is. How is your maturity as a young man? Are you ready to step into the professional ranks and step into a franchise where you might have to lead grown men that are ten years older than you? Where are you personally? I think a lot of that has to come into the picture. If you do stay now, there are some benefits to staying which you’re seeing more and more guys. A lot of people aren’t aware of it, but you’re seeing schools will pick up the premium payments for an insurance policy. If so if you come out, you decide to investigate, you load up on an insurance policy where if you did have an injury and you weren’t drafted or even as high, you can go and get insurance for that and the school can assist. I think it comes with the entire process. You have to weigh your options and make the most informed, best decision for you personally.
Q.) Where do you see Michigan State standing in the whole playoff conversation? What is needed out of Michigan State to overcome their reputations? That’s been something a lot of people talked about so far this year?
Holtz: I think as I evaluate it, I think the Big Ten is a little underrated or at least it’s improved. I think you look at Indiana and Illinois, they play good defense. Indiana can run the ball, Illinois can throw it. But I think Ohio State is vastly improved. They get better each and every week. Their quarterback has improved tremendously. Their defense is getting better. Ohio State plays Michigan State. I think the winner of that game has a chance to be one of the final four provided they win out and win the championship.
But I think Michigan State is a very good football team. I can’t believe how many points they gave up to Purdue. That’s a shocker. Because one player has been constant, it’s a Narduzzi defensive team at Michigan State is not going to give up many points. That surprised me. But I do believe they run the ball well. Connor Cook, and the receiver. Remember this, two years ago they had quarterback problems. They also had receiver problems. Nobody talked about the receivers, but they couldn’t catch a cold.
Kanell: I absolutely think they have a chance. I think it’s been Ohio State and Michigan State, and the winner of that game has an outstanding chance to represent the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff. When you look at Michigan State, I think you have to win out. You have to root for Oregon, and hope that Oregon wins the Pac‑12 and has an impressive year. You go out and take care of business. Everybody wrote off the Big Ten. After that loss to Oregon, that was that first weekend when Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech.
There were some ugly losses across the board for the Big Ten. Everybody was down on them. There was still so much football left and there still is. You can’t get caught up and worry about it. I think Coach Dantonio has done an outstanding job of getting his team back on track. You talk about teams with identities. Even last year’s defense which was exceptional, they lost a lot of talent, but it wasn’t for the NFL. He has a defense that’s always going to come ready to play now they have this three‑pronged attack on offense between Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford, Tony Lippett, where they’ve got three solid weapons that bring really good weapons on the offensive side of the ball. So this team could be in the top four when it’s all said and done.
Holtz: I must say, don’t underestimate Ohio State. That’s not to say they lost to Virginia Tech, because they’re getting better each and every week, and I’m anxious to see that game.
Q.) This week the win percentage of Jameis Winston and Everett Golson they’re both a combined in college, your thoughts on how these two can continually find ways to win, and what it means to have a quarterback that’s wired that way?
Holtz: Well, if you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have a winning team. I’m going to tell you. There is no other position in baseball, maybe a goalie in hockey or soccer, that dominates the game more than quarterback does. But they also are surrounded by some very good talent. Everett Golson, as Danny mentioned earlier, he just managed the game, now he’s a play maker. The reason I think both these players win is they have good talent around them. They have good coaches, and they realize talent.
But these quarterbacks can beat you four different ways. They can beat you with their arm, they can beat you with their head, they can beat you with their feet. Some of the plays that Jameis made last year was incredible as well as Golson does on a consistent basis. The other way they can beat you is with their heart. They’re winners. They’re competitors, and Danny knows that’s inbred in certain quarterbacks and not in others.
Tony Rice had that, that he was going to find a way to win. One time Tony Rice held the record for the most consecutive passes completed. Just something about it. People underestimate the leadership, the heart, whatever you want to call it. They had their head, but their heart and leadership is critical.
Kanell: I’m with Coach. I think that’s the most important thing when you look at the quarterback. Evaluation is he a winner? And I think these young quarterbacks who have done that as well as anybody in the country. I’d rather see a guy who comes out of a game and his stat line might not be that great, but he found a way to get it done and lift the play of the players around him. And that’s probably what both of these guys do better than most in the country is they really lift the players around them on the field and in the huddle.
I think they both have a presence. I’ve gotten to sit down with both of them. They have a presence about them, sort of an intangible quality that you’re drawn to them. You want to play for them. You feel confident when they’re under center and they’re taking the snap that something good with happen. But I will say this, both quarterbacks have to play better than they have as of late. If you look at the last two or three games, both have been a little sloppy with the football.
Everett Golson started off the year exceptionally well protecting the football. He fumbled the ball six times, lost it five times, got a little sloppy with interceptions. And the same thing with Jameis Winston where the first half of games whether it was N.C. State, going back to the Oklahoma State game he’s been a little careless in the first half too. This is a game where it could come down to the final possession. And every possession is going to count. There is no meaningless possession where you can afford a bad mistake. So they both have to clean up their play, in my opinion, to get it done in this game.
Holtz: The thing about Golson, you’re playing North Carolina. Gave up 70 points to Carolina, 50 to another opponent. This is my Heisman game. Put up big numbers, make the great plays, do all these things and do things that you don’t normally do. Against Florida State, I’m sure Coach Kelly’s going to say we don’t need the great play. We need to eliminate the bad play. Forget about everything. Go out, play the game, play intelligent, and don’t try to do stuff you aren’t capable of.
Q.) I was wondering if you could reflect on the first College Gameday, first one going on the road and what a big deal that was at the time and how it spawned sort of this show that sort of intertwined in the fabric of college football?
Holtz: Well, I remember vividly. People say what do you remember most about the game against Florida State? The first time GameDay went to the site. I knew Lee Corso since 1961 when he was an assistant at Navy and I was an assistant at William & Mary. He said would you come to our GameDay set. Now they didn’t have it at the stadium. They had it up in the Joyce Center, which was just outside my office up one flight of stairs. I said, yeah, after I get done. So as soon as I get done, I go up there and they put the ear piece in, I do the interview. Now in my life, and I’m an old man – my birthday candles cost more than the cake – I’ve never had an earache in my life, but that Sunday my ears started hurting. Monday I had a very bad earache. Tuesday it was excruciating. They called the team physician, he came over and looked at my ear, took a pair of tweezers and pulled the ear piece that ESPN left in my ear out of my ear. That’s what I remember about GameDay.
Contact: Mike Humes at 860-766-2233 or [email protected]