American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden address 10 hot-button topics about Texas, the Big 12 and national college football:
1. Besides a win over Texas, what would be a good birthday gift for Bill Snyder?
Bohls: Short of lifetime AARP membership, I’d want to give my second-favorite coach after Mike Leach at least 10 more seasons on the sidelines. He’s great for the game and for the Big 12. Kansas State will never be the same when he leaves.
Golden: The win won’t be happening today as the Longhorns will prevail 24-17. Beyond that, he’d love for the school administration to name his son Sean, his current associate head coach and special teams coordinator, as his eventual successor. The younger Snyder has been a fixture in the program, but some in the administration are interested in searching on the open market, something Bill adamantly opposes.
2. What do you expect out of Texas’ two quarterbacks on Saturday?
Bohls: I think Tom Herman is leaning toward a healthier Sam Ehlinger. And a more physical quarterback who isn’t at all shy about running and is very good at improvising. Sometimes he’s too eager to ad-lib, however. But I look for the ultra-confident Ehlinger to fill in for Shane Buechele and try to spark an anemic running game and rush for at least 50 yards.
Golden: I expect them to play well enough to get Texas a 24-17 win. It’s obvious the coach is looking for a spark after the 17-point performance at Iowa State. I would hope he eventually decides on one guy because the offense needs some continuity at the position. If Ehlinger starts, I expect him to play the full game, outside of a possible Wildcat cameo from Jerrod Heard.
3. How close will the 26-point underdog Aggies play No. 1 Alabama at home?
Bohls: Not very close. The Crimson Tide might end up with the softest schedule of any of the eventual four College Football Playoff teams, thanks to Florida State’s decline. I think Texas A&M is a decent team, but no one runs on Nick Saban, and the defensive master will find a way to take Christian Kirk away. I expect a 42-10 Alabama rout.
Golden: Not very close. Alabama hasn’t been perfect, but the Tide always seem to play lights out at Kyle Field. Give me Alabama winning 49-17 after a slow start. Saban has a January rematch with Clemson on his mind. The Aggies are in real trouble.
4. Which Top 25 team will go down this week?
Bohls: I’m really worried for the Pirate and No. 11 Washington State. Oregon has put up 35 touchdowns this season and has kicked only one field goal. The Cougars will really have to match the Ducks score for score, and while I think quarterback Luke Falk should be getting more recognition with his 16 touchdowns against only two picks, I’ll say Leach goes down 31-28.
Golden: No. 11 Washington State. Leach said the on-field celebration after last week’s win over No. 5 USC was “like Woodstock except everybody has their clothes on.” The Pirate won’t be in great spirits after his Cougars lose at Oregon.
5. What unranked team belongs in the Top 25 — and what ranked team doesn’t?
Bohls: I think Navy deserves a spot. The Midshipmen are 4-0 and can go 5-0 for the first time since 2004 if they beat Air Force. Remember, Navy averages — yes, averages — 400 rushing yards a game. Since my personal Top 25 ballot doesn’t include No. 23 West Virginia, I have to go with the Mountaineers, who at least have a chance to prove themselves at TCU on Saturday.
Golden: Central Florida at No. 25 is questionable; two weeks ago the Knights beat up on a Maryland team that’s already on its third quarterback of the season. Oregon should be ranked there. After the Ducks beat Washington State, they’ll find their way to the Top 25.
6. Who’s the best one-loss team in college football?
Bohls: The Buckeyes are the obvious answer. Ohio State has hit its stride since getting dominated by Oklahoma, although the competition has been weak. Auburn is a close second.
Golden: Mullet me, it’s Oklahoma State. Mike Gundy’s Cowboys were spanked something awful by TCU, but they remain one of the better offenses in the country behind quarterback Mason Rudolph, running back Justice Hill and wideout James Washington. Don’t be surprised to see the Cowboys run off some big wins over the next few weeks.
7. Pick a long shot who might climb into the Heisman race.
Bohls: Besides Falk? I’ll suggest San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, a senior running back who’s on Saquon Barkley’s heels with 1,145 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns, including two receiving and one on a return.
Golden: Washington State’s Luke Falk is off to a tremendous start. He has completed 74 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Plus, his team is winning. The Cougars are 5-0 with a win over USC.
8. Would you still take USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the No. 1 pick of the NFL draft?
Bohls: I’d actually take Ed Oliver if the Houston defensive tackle were eligible, but Darnold provides the biggest upside with a strong arm, great poise and tremendous accuracy, his eight interceptions and 25th national passer ranking notwithstanding. He’s clearly more accurate than gunslinger Josh Rosen, who I feel might be the next strong-armed Jay Cutler.
Golden: Yes, if I’m a team like the Jets or 49ers that has an immediate need at the position. Darnold’s eight interceptions are tied for the most among Pac-12 quarterbacks, but he remains the best physical talent at the position, just ahead of Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and UCLA’s Josh Rosen.
9. Do the Pac-12’s late-night games hurt that league’s image?
Bohls: No question. I personally stay up late every single Saturday night, as an AP voter. I can’t vouch for every voter, some of whom might be traveling, but it’s the least visible of the Power Five conferences, and the late-night kickoffs severely hurt Pac-12 players in terms of recognition and postseason awards such as the Heisman. Hello, Luke Falk.
Golden: I’m not sure it hurts the league’s image, but it doesn’t help. Half the country won’t make it to the end of the game. Shoot, the East Coast folks who aren’t out partying are probably asleep before halftime. The league needs more day games.
10. What’s your favorite Tom Petty song?
Bohls: I’ve always been partial to “Free Fallin’.” He’s gonna leave this world for awhile, but he’ll always be with us.
Golden: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is the quintessential Southern rock anthem. How can you not fall in love with that uplifting harmonica riff? #RIPTom