This afternoon, I had the unique opportunity to have a brief talk with ESPN College Football Gameday/Final host Rece Davis. The interview was in connection with his work as an advisor for the Capital One Cup, so we led off with that discussion before moving on to football talk. It was an interesting experience, being the first time I've ever interviewed someone of importance. Rece was very accomodating and had a lot to say. Following is a transcript of our phone interview, sightly edited for clarity.
JM: Rece, I'll obviously want to get your take on some Wildcat topics in a bit, but first let's talk about the Capital One Cup. Our readers are already pretty familiar with what the Cup is and how it works, as I actually covered the final race in the standings back in June as the spring sport season was concluding. A big part of your role with the organization is in promoting the award and raising awareness during your studio segments; what other duties do they foist upon you as an advisor?
RD: [laughs] They spent a lot of time talking to us about -- especially in the early days of it -- about what we thought was important. You know, how to tabulate the standings, how to promote it, how best to get people involved, that type of thing. What we thought would send the right message about the competition. Capital One's been terrific. Giving fans the ultimate bragging rights in college sports, 'cause one of the great things about college sports bragging rights, is kind of a cool thing. And to have the ability to let fans follow along...
Hey, look, everybody's usually a fan of the school's football team, but fans also follow the other sports. Maybe they have some type of connection, they played there, maybe they have relatives that played there, their kids play a certain sport that is not in the limelight as much. They have a chance to follow along with that and see if their team can earn points for any sport. We award points for all 39 sports across men's and women's intercollegiate athletic programs. All of them count. All of them have an impact on the standings. I think that's the most fun thing about it. You can follow us on Facebook, at capitalonecup.com, on Twitter... whatever their preferred method of communication is, they can keep up with the Capital One Cup.
And at the end, you know, having that scholarship money available to the kids is really what it's all about. I mean, $400,000... that's a lot of change for student-athlete scholarships.
JM: Yeah, the Bama fans were really excited about it last year with the girls doing so well in the spring sports.
RD: Yeah, I mean, that's a perfect example. You take Alabama last year... now, Stanford won the thing, but with Alabama -- which you know, has been huge for years and years as a football-only school -- and to see that some of the fans got pretty excited when the women's gymnastics team and the women's golf team won national championships, and the men's golf team, I think, lost by a stroke or something, or by a hole or something like that, to Texas and finished second...
JM: And the softball team...
RD: They follow other things, even... softball team, right, exactly! Softball team won a championship, so, you know, it was something kinda cool to see. And I think it's not only with fans, but when you talk to some of the Florida kids on the men's side, or the Stanford women who won the cup the last couple of years, they'll tell you that because they wanted to win that cup that maybe they paid a little more attention to some sports on campus that their fellow athletes and fellow students were involved in simply because, "Hey, that can help us win the Capital One Cup." I'm sure it's probably because they wanted to be the ones chosen to go back to the ESPYs, but hey, you know what? Whatever works for motivation, right?
JM: Yep! Okay, let's talk K-State. Collin Klein's on his way to New York. After Baylor we're pretty resigned to him not winning it, but what sort of fight do you think he's going to put up in the final vote tally?
RD: Well... I think, you know, and I've been saying this steadfastly, if you're asking me honestly if I think he's going to win the Heisman Trophy, I'd have to say no. If you ask me do I think that he is a worthy winner of the Heisman Trophy, I would say absolutely.
That fraternity is special. It's unique in sports. I don't know that there's another one like it. I think that it is the most unique and, ah, top individual honor in all of sports. And I say that... not lightly. I'm fortunate enough, I've emceed the Heisman dinner. The dinner is on Monday night, following the award ceremony, and it's the time when the winner is sort of officially welcomed in to the fraternity. He gives a longer speech than what you'll hear on Saturday night, he's awarded the trophy and sort of welcomed into the club. It's a really special night. And I think when you see...
You know, look. Everybody... all groups have humans and I'm not trying to sit here and tell you that every Heisman winner doesn't have any human failings. But by and large, across the board, in that group of men who've won it, there are people who've accomplished some extraordinary things and part of the reason for their success has been because of the impact that that trophy has had on their lives and the impact that they've been able to make on other people's lives because they're in that fraternity.
That said... if Collin Klein wins the Heisman Trophy, he will fit perfectly in that group and be a worthy winner and worthy representative of everything the Heisman stands for. And there couldn't be a better person to win it in addition to being a terrific player. Now, do I think it's a long shot for him to win? I do. But I do think that... it doesn't change the fact that he's had a wonderful career, he's been an extraordinary ambassador for Kansas State, for himself, for his family, for his faith and everything he represents. I've got so much admiration for that young man, and the way he's improved as a player, the way he has led his football team... that anything he gets, he has earned, and I would be very happy to see him get any honor.
JM: How about the Fiesta Bowl? What do you see happening in Glendale? Do you think we can keep up with Oregon's speed there? (Ed. note: that didn't come out the way I intended it; I meant to say "defuse" rather than "keep up".)
RD: Well... NO. I mean, nobody can keep up with Oregon's speed! That's a fool's errand. What you need to do is try and counter their speed and offset it. Now, that, I think you can do. I think that when you have guys... let me ask you this, is Williams okay? Is he gonna be good to go, 100%?
JM: We're kind of unclear on that. We've actually been focusing more of our attention on Zimmerman and whether he's gonna be able to get back on the field.
RD: Okay. Well, if you can assume that everybody, all hands are on deck and close to 100%, you've got Zimmerman back there in the secondary, and you have Meshak ready to go on the end (and I thought he had just a sensational year), certainly Arthur Brown, who had a sensational year... if everybody's ready to go, I think that Kansas State has the horse to make Oregon work for what they get.
That's what Stanford did so beautifully. Stanford kept them from getting too many explosive plays. I want to say -- and you may have to look at it to make sure, but I'm working off the top of my head here -- I believe they only had four explosive plays against Stanford. One of them was the long run by Mariota that ended up... he didn't score and Stanford ended up getting a stop on fourth down. You make them drive the field, you increase your chances. Where Oregon kills you is two ways: the explosive play for the score, and the explosive play to get the tempo going. You know, Coach Holtz says it all the time. These tempo teams are a lot faster when it's second-and-one or when they've picked up a first down on first down than they are when it's second-and-nine or second-and-twelve. [laughs] He says all of a sudden when it's second-and-twelve and then third-and-eight, they get a lot slower, and the tempo is much less of a factor.
So I think that if Kansas State can limit the explosive plays, and make Oregon work its way down the field, that it greatly enhances their opportunity to win the game. Obviously, an Oregon defense which has also been banged up -- and I think that's probably one of the undersold stories of the season -- was that their defense was playing really well until they started suffering an inordinate number of injuries.
JM: Yeah, they lost their entire defensive line at one point.
RD: Yeah, they did. And some of those guys are back, and not quite 100% in some of the games... that's a good group. But they'll have their hands full in trying to deal with Collin. Collin is so patient running the ball, and Hubert's been good, and they've got some underrated threats on the edge, you know, Harper and Lockett are guys who can make big plays down the field.
I think it'll be a very entertaining game. I'm lucky enough, I'm gonna be in Glendale to see it, so I'm looking forward to that, and I think it'll be a terrific football game. Next to Notre Dame and Alabama, to me, that's the game I'm looking forward to the most.
JM: And there's my segue. You're a Bama guy. How excited are you about Notre Dame and Alabama?
RD: [laughs] Well, first of all, let me say: I went to school at Alabama, but I have to be an ESPN guy. My standard response is always "I'm on scholarship at ESPN." That said, I think that there are a few names in the sport that instantly sort of make you perk up, sort of make a little chill run up your spine when you know they're playing against each other.
And I don't know that there's any matchup that you could get -- you might get some matchups that would equal Notre Dame-Alabama; I don't know that you'd get any that are better. And when you consider not only the tradition, and the history, but... you know, it's tough for two programs to have a rich against each other when they've only played six times and one team's won five of them... but they do. They have one of the most memorable bowl games in the history of the sport. I would say that the Notre Dame victory over Alabama in '73 in the Sugar Bowl.
From Alabama's standpoint, that matchup has probably provided the most memorable and most celebrated hit in the history of Alabama football with Cornelius Bennett nearly... really destroyed Steve Beuerlein the only time that Alabama ever beat Notre Dame, in Lou's first year at Notre Dame. That hit was almost a cathartic one for Alabama fans because they'd had so much frustration at the hands of Notre Dame. It's a hit that's celebrated forever.
So you've got two teams that've only played six times, and two of the most memorable moments in the history of both schools -- Bennett's hit, and Tom Clements' pass in '73 to [Robin] Weber are two of the most memorable moments in the history of their programs. And to have them playing again for the national championship, third time they've met with national championship implications is, you know, I think it's really special. Plus our "comrades in arid regions", if you get my drift, who like to put numeric values on the game... there are a lot of people who are anxious to have a little rooting interest, or a little skin in the game, if you will [laughs], and I imagine that will only heighten the sense of anticipation for this game.
JM: Alright, Rece, it looks like we're out of time here. I really appreciate you taking the time, it's been a pleasure.
RD: Oh, always. Always happy to talk to you. No problem.