Few people in television can understand and articulate both college football and college basketball as well as Rece Davis, one of the top sports journalists on ESPN. The host of College GameDay Final and the college basketball version of College GameDay has earned much acclaim for his work and ability to traverse various sports in a knowledgeable and personable way. He was also the 2008 winner of the Best Sports Host award given by Cable Fax. My recent interview with Rece Davis included a discussion about some of college football’s best teams, contenders for the Heisman Trophy, the Capital One Cup, and the upcoming men’s college basketball season.
MH: How will this weekend’s games shape the National Championship in College Football?
Rece Davis: Looking at it on the surface, there aren’t a lot games that one would think would have a huge impact on the National Championship race other than Florida State playing Miami. From my judgment of watching the teams so far, I don’t think that Miami is in the same class as Florida State. That sounds very condescending and disparaging but I don’t mean it that way because Miami is doing a great job and they deserve a ton of credit for being undefeated and for coming from double digit deficits in three straight games to find ways to win. Accomplishing that shows great character, great resolve, and tremendous coaching but I think that Florida State is a cut above that level of team. Florida State, Oregon, and Alabama have separated themselves just by a hair over Ohio State and to me there’s a pretty big drop after Ohio State to the rest. Miami is sort of in that next tier of teams. I think that there is a pretty significant gap between where Miami is right now and where Florida State is. That would be the obvious game that would shape the National Championship race. But on Halloween weekend you never know that the guy with the sickle is coming for your Adam’s apple so this time of year you wonder, “How did that happen? How did that team lose that game to knock themselves out of the race?”. There will always be surprises but to me this is one week where it doesn’t appear that a lot could happen that would shake up the race for the National Championship.
MH: It appears that the Heisman Trophy candidates are dwindling as the season wears on. What are your thoughts on some of the contenders for the Heisman Trophy?
Rece Davis: I would agree that the contenders have dwindled. There are three clear cut frontrunners but that doesn’t that they are the only guys in the race in the month of November because November is the month in which conference championships are won, games are played on the biggest stages, and reputations are made but (Oregon quarterback) Marcus Mariota, (Florida State quarterback) Jameis Winston, and (Texas A&M quarterback) Johnny Manziel, I believe, are in front of the pack. Manziel, if you really break down the numbers, is probably having a better statistical season than he did a year ago. I know he’s a better quarterback, he’s a better passer from the pocket, but he was so exhilarating last year that I think that we were a little bit spoiled and we take it for granted what he does on a weekly basis. Marcus Mariota has been magnificent as well, averaging ten yards per pass attempt and about ten yards per carry, and Jameis Winston has been the the latest transcendent young quarterback to come through and to really captivate opponents and captivate a team to believe in him. He has that real ‘it’ factor that can carry a team a long way and can really captivate the imagination of voters. The one guy on the outside who could potentially make a run and get an invitation to New York is (Alabama quarterback) AJ McCarron. There is a lot of appreciation in the college football community for what AJ has accomplished over the course of his career and I think that because of that that people are taking a little closer look at the efficiency with which he operates on a weekly basis. If Alabama were to continue to win and McCarron were to continue to play at a high level, I would be shocked if he actually won the award, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he got an invitation to New York and at least got in the mix over the last month of the season.
MH: The college basketball regular season is soon approaching. What are some of the storylines for this upcoming men’s college basketball season?
Rece Davis: The storylines in college basketball are dominated by the influx of young talent whether it’s Andrew Wiggins at Kansas, who people are conceding will be the first pick in the next NBA Draft, or the plethora of new talent that John Calipari brought in at Kentucky. Those guys are going to be really difficult to handle by midseason. The one thing that people have to be careful about with both Kansas and Kentucky is that while Wiggins scored 16 his first time out on the floor, expecting the young talent to be fully finished products and fully integrated to play cohesively as a unit immediately. There might be growing pains in the early part of the season for those teams but by the time we get to the NCAA Tournament, those two teams barring injury should be a cut above most everyone else. Certainly, Louisville’s opportunity to repeat as National Champions with as fine a coach as we have had in this era, Rick Pitno, they will have an opportunity to so. Duke will be very good as well. Duke has an influx of freshman talent and while we spend a lot of time talking about freshmen, a guy who I covered called several and called several of his games at Mississippi State, a left handed talent Rodney Hood, is a terrific player. He is eligible this year at Duke and he will surprise some people, not to Duke coaches or those in the SEC including coaches that played against him when he was at Mississippi State his freshman year. But a lot of other people may be surprised with just how good he is going to be and I think he will make a lot of noise as the season goes on.
MH: How do you think the race for the Capital One Cup will end up?
Rece Davis: Football carries as it does many times but every sport is important. It is great to get off to a huge start for the Capital One Cup but knocking out that 60 points that a school gets for winning the National Championship. The thing that I enjoy about being part of the Capital One Cup is while the competition is great and we want the fans to follow along on Facebook or Twitter and keep up with the standings, the thing that I enjoy the most is how athletics provides opportunities for young men and women to pursue goals both off and on the field. Capital One provides $400,000 in scholarship money for young men and women who play sports which shows Capital One’s commitment to college athletes which is something that is very important to me. I feel thrilled to be able to work with people like Doug Flutie, Clark Kellogg, Barry Larkin, Brandi Chastain, Jennie Finch and Lisa Leslie and so many tremendous athletes. We’ve had Robin Ventura before he became a manager in the big leagues, and other great athletes and that is sensational.
MH: It has been great speaking with you. Continue the great work with ESPN.
Rece Davis: I appreciate that. It is nice talking with you as well.