American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden address 10 hot-button topics about Texas, the Big 12 and national college football:
1. How will Holton Hill’s suspension affect Texas and himself?
Bohls: It removes a pivotal piece of an outstanding Longhorns defense — maybe the best piece as the team’s second-leading tackler, who has scored three defensive touchdowns — and a key playmaker who will show up as an even bigger loss against pass-happy West Virginia and Texas Tech than against Kansas, which Texas will crush 56-10. The suspension is strike one against Hill, who ruined his All-America prospects and high NFL draft standing, though he still might leave early.
Golden: It takes away the team’s best playmaker in the secondary. There are capable replacements such as John Bonney and Antwuan Davis, but none are as dynamic as Hill, who for my money is the best cornerback in the Big 12. The Horns are still good enough to blow past overmatched Kansas. It’ll be a rare easy day at the office as Texas rolls 48-7.
2. Mayfield, Rudolph, Shimonek, Grier: Who’ll have the best pro career?
Bohls: I think Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is tailor-made for the NFL. He’s a pocket passer with all of the attributes you want — although so was Brandon Weeden out of Oklahoma State. Tall. Strong arm. Decisive. Tough. Winner.
Golden: Mason Rudolph. He’s a prototypical pocket passer. He has the size (6 feet 5, 230 pounds), arm strength and just enough athleticism to keep defenses honest.
3. Who will be coaching Texas A&M at this time next year?
Bohls: Although I think athletic director Scott Woodward will (and should) swing for the fences, I bet he’ll wind up with Oklahoma-born former TCU assistant Justin Fuente of Virginia Tech because of a more fertile recruiting base in Texas.
Golden: Justin Fuente gets my vote. He knows these Southern streets and will recruit well in the SEC. The Aggies will look for a much bigger name but could hit a home run with Fuente.
4. Who’ll have the bigger emotional letdown after their big wins — Oklahoma or TCU?
Bohls: Oklahoma. The Sooners should be more emotionally spent because of the roller-coaster game that was Bedlam last week. The Horned Frogs completely controlled their game with Texas. But Oklahoma will outscore TCU 35-28 to get a leg up on the Big 12’s top spot and then probably await a rematch in December.
Golden: I’m not sure it was so emotional in Fort Worth. The Frogs own Texas now, and nothing we witnessed at Amon G. Carter hinted at anything emotional. It was a typical game in this recent series: TCU dominated from start to finish. This will be a nice matchup in Norman. I’ll give OU a 37-28 edge since the Sooners are at the house.
5. Which ranked team gets upset this week?
Bohls: Give me a desperate Georgia Tech over No. 17 Virginia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are No. 3 in the country with 332 yards rushing and are still smarting from their loss to Virginia last week. Three of their four losses total six points. They need to win two of three to become bowl-eligible and hope to rebound against Virginia Tech.
Golden: No. 3 Notre Dame will lose to Miami. In overtime.
6. Which of the four College Football Playoff teams this week won’t end up making it?
Bohls: The best bet is that Notre Dame will stumble against either Miami this week or Stanford in the regular-season finale.
Golden: You saw it above. I almost took Auburn to beat Georgia, but the Bulldogs will hang on for a close one. The Irish won’t be so lucky.
7. With the recent Ohio State and Penn State losses, rank the Power Five conferences.
Bohls: In order, I’d go with the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and, bringing up the rear with only three good teams, the SEC. For those who doubt the Big 12, I think it’s clearly the best from top to almost bottom.
Golden: I’m going with this order — ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12. I would rank the Big 12 higher if there were a team in the top four.
8. Should the Big 12 be penalized for having great offenses and suspect defenses?
Bohls: Maybe for style points, but not in reality. Forget the standard cliche. Offenses can win championships, too. Wasn’t that how the Patriots made off with yet another Super Bowl victory? Those Clemson-Alabama duels weren’t exactly defensive gems but still were classic games.
Golden: Not at all. No team will win the national championship by averaging 24 points a game. Just as the SEC gets credit for being a conference of physical defenses, the Big 12 should be credited for teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State that annually rank among the nation’s top offenses.
9. What does Baker Mayfield have to do to remain the Heisman favorite?
Bohls: Win ’em all. He’s already got the numbers, ranking No. 2 nationally in yards and No. 1 in pass efficiency. He’s got the impressive victories so far against Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Texas, all three on the road. He’s got the pizazz as well. Keep it up, and he’ll have the trophy, too.
Golden: Run the table and lead the Sooners to a CFP semifinal berth. He’s leading the pack right now and holds an advantage over Stanford’s Bryce Love, who doesn’t always get the exposure because of the lateness of some of his games.
10. Is Auburn for real?
Bohls: Yes. The Tigers are the most balanced team in the SEC, a two-dimensional offense with quarterback Jarrett Stidham and a stable of outstanding running backs led by Kerryon Johnson, and a stingy defense that’s good if not quite the equal of Georgia. Watch Auburn knock the Bulldogs from the ranks of the unbeatens 24-21.
Golden: Absolutely. They have one of the most balanced teams in the country. Stidham has found a home at quarterback, and the defense is solid. Gus Malzahn has built the Tigers into a clone of Alabama — physical on both sides of the ball with a good quarterback.