NBC Big Ten set, picture via Matt Cassel Twitter.

College football’s regular season is almost over, but there are still plenty of important games to be played. To learn more, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with Matt Cassel. The former USC and NFL quarterback is in his first year as a studio analyst for NBC’s Big Ten coverage. We spoke to Cassel about his new gig, the Ohio State vs. Michigan game, and other topics. 

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: Has this new job been harder or easier than you expected?

Matt Cassel: “It brings its own challenges. I’ve been doing (TV) for a few years prior to this. At the same time, you have to understand that it’s your profession and there is a lot of hard work that goes into your preparation week in and week out. I also believe there is a learning curve when you start a new show, and there is a chemistry with your teammates. You grow each week. That’s been amazing, a lot of fun and exciting. The other great part about television is you don’t get hit as much.”

What stands out about Ohio State vs. Michigan?

“There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of different narratives. These are two of the best teams in the country. These are complete teams. Now, they do it a little bit differently. Michigan, with how they’ve been running the ball in recent weeks, wants to make it a physical ballgame. Ohio State, they’re getting healthy at the right time. They’re not going to be the power-running team that Michigan is. At the same time, they have Marvin Harrison Jr. They have playmakers across the board. This defense has been one of the best in the nation. I think it’s going to be a fascinating game. Ohio State has something to prove with the way the last two years have gone for them.”

What do you make of the Jim Harbaugh situation?

“I think it’s a complicated situation. The Big Ten and (commissioner) Tony Petitti were getting the evidence from the NCAA, and it’s still ongoing. At the end of the day, there are rules in place. If you abide by those rules, you don’t have a problem. They’ve been caught. Connor Stalions and that whole situation unraveled in front of us. We’re still finding out more information every single day. What I will say about Michigan is that they’ve shown an ability to block out the noise. It’s always been this Michigan-against-the-world mentality. If there’s any team that is able to block out distractions, it’s them because they are so veteran and so well led.”

Will Harbaugh be back next year?

“My best guess would be that he’ll be back with Michigan. I think he has the support of the school, the athletic director, and the president. Then again, you never know with Harbaugh. Every single off-season something comes up. There’s always that outside factor that he could leave. Right now, it’s kind of up in the air.”

Who should win the Heisman Trophy?

“If you’re talking about the Heisman Trophy going to the best player in the country regardless of record, it’s (LSU quarterback) Jayden Daniels. What he has done throughout the season, not just throwing the football but running the football, he’s the first player in FBS history to (throw for at least 350 yards and rush for at least 200 yards) in the same game. And that’s not against a slouch team either. He has been phenomenal. If it were my vote, I’d give it to Jayden Daniels just based on his play week in and week out.”

Who gets the Texas A&M job?

“It’s such an interesting job. It’s whether they go out for a big-name guy like (Washington coach Kalen) DeBoer. They have the facilities. They have an incredible alumni. You know that they’re willing to pay. Anybody who’s willing to pay $76 million for their coach to leave is willing to pay. So, it’ll be interesting to see with their ability to recruit. They’re in the SEC. They’ve got everything that they want at their disposal. At the same time, it’s bringing someone there for a school that hasn’t had a tradition that has consistently won. They’ve turned over coaches at a rapid pace, so I’m not sure what direction they’re going to go. It could be younger. But it also could be a guy they try to overpay because money talks.”

Is Georgia still better than everyone else?

“Georgia is the No.1-ranked team in the country. They’ve beaten Missouri, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. That was the knock on them earlier in the year—that they hadn’t played anybody. But you see them hitting their stride at the right time of year. They didn’t have Ladd McConkey, who came back, and now Brock Bowers is back. It’s all coming together for them. You’d be hard-pressed to look at this team, especially with the way they took care of Tennessee last week and Ole Miss the week before, and not say they’re the No.1 team in the country.”

What’s the most fun you’ve had at a game?

“We were at Wisconsin against Ohio State. I had to see the “Jump Around.” I had never seen it before. All of a sudden, the bass dropped. It started, and we all started jumping around. I was laughing the entire time like a little kid, just enjoying the environment, the experience. I understand now why these traditions exist. That was one of the coolest moments we had this year.”

As someone who played for the New England Patriots, do you have a good Bill Belichick story?

“My rookie year in the preseason, I didn’t pay attention to the corner coming off the edge. The (defense) corner-blitzed me. I didn’t see him. I got hit and strip-sacked. We’re sitting in the meeting the next day and (Belichick) says ‘Cassel, maybe we should pay more attention to the fronts and the keys so that you don’t get hit in the back of the head by the corner, and I don’t have to write a letter to your mother saying ‘Dear Ms. Cassel, I’m sorry to inform you that your son is in the hospital because he was a dumb*** and didn’t check the front.’

“He said it in front of the whole team. I’m sitting there and going ‘Oh man. He just crushed me.'”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.