American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden weigh in on 10 hot-button Texas, Big 12 and national topics:
1. Will Baylor suffer an Oklahoma State hangover?
Bohls: Yes, I think the Bears will. They’ve had a series of emotionally draining games, including a come-from-behind romp over Texas Tech and last week’s loss against the Cowboys that ruined Baylor’s perfect season. I think this shows that Baylor should have beefed up its non-conference schedule to better prepare for its tougher games. Because Baylor got blown out, cynics will suggest they weren’t that good in the first place. TCU has been the league’s most disappointing team and will give Baylor all it can handle, but the Bears get by, 32-24.
Golden: No way. The Horned will represent a big ol’ Bloody Mary for the Bears, who will pull away in the second half for a 30-20 win. The Frogs just don’t have enough offense to make things interesting. If anything, the Bears are going to put up big numbers offensively. That’s been the constant.
2. Who wins the Alabama-Auburn game?
Bohls: Auburn, 28-24. I’m still waiting for our annual, late-season craziness that always comes. We haven’t had it yet, so I’m picking the Tigers in an upset. Auburn’s very physical on offense and can pound the ball and eat up the clock.
Golden: Alabama, 30-21. The Crimson Tide have the most experienced quarterback in AJ McCarron, plus a running game that will settle things down in a hostile environment. Nick Saban is oh so close to another national title. He’s not about to blow it here.
3. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving weekend football memory?
Bohls: One of my top ones was Bill Bradley’s comment to the referee during the coin toss before the A&M game his senior year. When Texas won the toss and the referee asked the captain if he wanted the ball or a specific end of the field, Bradly answered, “I don’t give a (bleep).”
Golden: Nov. 24, 1977 was the last Thanksgiving Day that did not feature a Dallas Cowboys game, but it stands out because my favorite team, the Miami Dolphins, got six touchdown passes in three quarters from bespectacled quarterback Bob Griese and killed the St. Louis Cardinals, 55-14. I can still remember going nuts with my dad after that sixth touchdown. Good times.
4. Who would win a Texas A&M-Baylor showdown if they played today?
Bohls: Tough call, but I’d go with Baylor because of a superior defense. I’d love to see it because someone would win 48-47.
Golden: Two weeks ago, I would have answered Baylor without hesitating. But the Bears are banged up now with injuries to their running backs, left tackle, best receiver, etc. I’d pick the Aggies to win, 52-45.
5. Pick one national upset.
Bohls: Auburn wasn’t enough? I’ll say Clemson over South Carolina, although quarterback Tajh Boyd has yet to ever beat the Gamecocks and Steve Spurrier’s got the better defense. Clemson does have a shot at a BCS at-large berth.
Golden: Mississippi State takes out Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.
6. What are the chances that both Johnny Manziel and Kevin Sumlin return to Texas A&M?
Bohls: I bet Manziel leaves and Sumlin stays. I think Sumlin’s agent is looking for leverage, and Sumlin will not go to USC. We’ll really see how good a coach he is next season.
Golden: Slim and none. Manziel already has his bags packed for the NFL draft. I fully expect him to announce his plan to leave school early in the next week or so. Sumlin’s phone will ring this offseason and USC athletic director Pat Haden will make a run at him, as will a few NFL teams. At best, Sumlin makes it back for another season, but Manziel is as good as gone.
7. As a Heisman voter, what one change would you suggest to the Heisman Trust?
Bohls: I’d love to suggest they move the announcement to after the bowl games, but I know they won’t. Sure seems to make more sense to award it in January, however.
Golden: How about announcing the winner the week after the national championship game? It has often been a huge distraction for past finalists who were prepping for national championship games. Make it a true postseason award by announcing it after the bowl season.
8. If you were hanging out with Mack Brown on his Saturday off, what three questions would you ask him?
Bohls: (1) Do you root for and against certain teams when you’re watching games? (2) Do you second-guess coaches during games? (3) If you’re not back next season, what’s your next dream job?
Golden: (1) Why are you wearing an Auburn jersey? (2) Are the armed guards in front of the safe really necessary? (3) You make $5.4 million a year and serve me stale chips and bland salsa?
9. Should Texas still play on Thanksgiving without the Aggies?
Bohls: Absolutely. We seem to be losing traditions by the hour as games like Texas-Texas A&M, Oklahoma-Nebraska and Notre Dame-Michigan fall by the wayside. College football had better be careful because attendance could drop with fewer great non-conference games and with a better in-home watching experience.
Golden: No, they shouldn’t. College football is all about traditional rivalries, and when the Aggies left the Big 12, it killed a large part of what made this weekend special for football fans. Sorry, but games against TCU and Texas Tech just don’t bring out the same passion from the players or the fan base.
10. Who should be the Big 12’s coach of the year?
Bohls: Art Briles. Even thought Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State team is on a roll and looks like a legitimate BCS contender, his Cowboys were the preseason league favorites. He still deserves a lot of credit for navigating through the damaging Sports Illustrated series chronicling excesses in the program and coming back to quarterback Clint Chelf, but Baylor’s Briles gets the nod for turning the Bears into a top-10 team this year.
Golden: Briles. He retains his title as the Big 12’s Quarterback Whisperer, having guided Bryce Petty through a spectacular senior year. And most important, Baylor’s improvement on defense was the main reason the Bears made a great run at a BCS title game appearance before they ran into that buzzsaw in Stillwater. Gundy deserves a mention, but we all expected the Cowboys to be good before the season.