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College Sports: Desmond Howard: Forget stats, it’s games like Saturday’s Texas-Oklahoma matchup where Kyler Murray can make a Heisman statement

ESPN’s Desmond Howard, co-host of College Gameday, took the time to answer some questions in advance of Saturday’s Texas-Oklahoma matchup at the State Fair of Texas. That will be the site of this weekend’s College Gameday.

Scott Bell: Have you been to the State Fair before as a part of the Gameday team? If so, how does it compare to other unique venues?

Desmond Howard: “It’s been awhile, but yeah, we’ve been there before. It’s a fun atmosphere, it’s a little different, but in a unique way. It’s nice to look up at the stadium and see it’s 50-50. That’s very unique. It’s bananas. You don’t see other stadiums for big games split right down the middle like that.”

SB: This is the first time both of these teams will be ranked heading into this game in five-plus years. How good is it for college football for both of these teams to be good?

DH: “It’s really great for college football. It’s good for the game to have traditional powerhouses be relevant. Texas is getting back to being relevant and winning and is ranked. Obviously OU has been playing good lately. They’ve been doing their thing and had a Heisman winner last year. So yeah, it’s good to have both of these teams playing at a high level.”

SB: You mentioned last year’s Heisman winner coming from Oklahoma. Obviously Baker Mayfield had a memorable season, but Kyler Murray is putting up some incredible numbers in that OU offense this year, too. How do you compare the two?

DH: “As a voter and former winner, I need to see the signature wins in big games. I’m not a big stats guy. I understand these guys are going to put up big numbers just by the nature of the offenses that they run. I’m not wooed by big numbers. I want to see their big performances in big games and signature moments in signature games. I’ll look at someone who’s a candidate for the award and circle three big games and say ‘These are the games I need to see something big at.’ This is one of those games for Kyler.”

SB: I’m sure you don’t want to tip your hand on your prediction in advance of Saturday’s show, but what do you see as the biggest key or matchup in Saturday’s game?

DH: “Turnovers can be big. Texas is good defensively at creating turnovers. They have a physicality to them that the Sooners must respect. It may be turnovers.”

SB: Oklahoma is unbeaten but has seen itself drop in the polls the last few weeks. With the Alabamas, Clemsons, Georgias, Ohio States and Notre Dames of the world all doing well, can you see a scenario where Oklahoma runs the table and still gets left out?

DH: “No. I don’t think they’d get left out. Oklahoma is a nice name. For them to run the table, they would have to beat some ranked teams like Texas and West Virginia. For them to run the table, they’ll keep climbing.”

SB: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your alma mater. Jim Harbaugh said on the radio this morning that the call against Karan Higdon was “the worst call in the history of college football.” What was your thought about that play when you saw it happening?

DH: “I sent out a tweet about it. I just assumed that they called the wrong number. Maybe it was a tight end or somebody and they meant 82 instead of 22. It makes no sense. There’s no way the head of officials could look at that play and justify that call.”

SB: With that call in mind, what do you think of the overall state of officiating in college football this season?

DH: “There are obviously some blown calls. I haven’t paid enough attention to see how many of the calls are ‘bad calls’ and how many actually affect the outcome of a game. When you look at that play, obviously Michigan went on to win that game, but that was a huge call. (Shea) Patterson went on to run for 20+ yards and it got called back and really changed the complexion of the game. Michigan was able to overcome that horrendous call. But if they hadn’t, that’s a big deal. There are going to be bad calls, I get it, but I guess haven’t seen enough football to really make a statement about overall officiating.”

More on College Gameday

Fan Information Friday and Saturday: College GameDay Built By The Home Depot

Week 6 – Red River Rivalry: No. 19 Texas vs. No. 7 Oklahoma

Location: Inside the Texas State Fair at the Classic Corral (Access available near gates 6 and 8)

Friday, October 5

Fans can visit the College GameDay set on Friday all day, where there will be a number of activities, as well as College Football Live (3 p.m. CT). You must have a State Fair of Texas ticket or OU-Texas game ticket to enter.

Saturday, October 6

· Join host Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, David Pollack, Maria Taylor and the rest of the College GameDay crew for the live show

· Airs 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. CT from the Classic Corral before the show moves inside the Cotton Bowl Stadium for the final hour (10-11 a.m.).

· Fans can arrive at 7 a.m. CT when the fair opens.

· Reminder: you must have a fair ticket or game ticket to enter. Don’t forget your signs for a chance to be seen on TV!

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