American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden address 10 hot-button topics about Texas, the Big 12 and national college football:
1. Will TCU’s recent mastery of Texas continue?
Bohls: No. I’m still convinced that Tom Herman will get that signature upset win to make Texas’ season, and this is his final chance. The defenses will cancel out, but the Longhorns’ pattern of takeaways, Todd Orlando’s exotic fronts and an average quarterback in Kenny Hill — he had two crucial turnovers in the loss to Iowa State — will combine to produce a 24-21 Texas win.
Golden: Yes. But there won’t be a Cowtown Beatdown this time around. The Longhorns have made some real strides this season, but the home-field advantage will be just enough for the Horned Frogs to take a tight 28-24 win.
2. What factor will decide the Bedlam game in Stillwater?
Bohls: Oklahoma State has better receivers than Oklahoma. A suspect Sooners secondary won’t be able to keep up with James Washington, Marcell Ateman, Jalen McCleskey, Chris Lacy and Dillon Stoner in what should be a high-flying 42-38 Cowboys victory.
Golden: The most important position in football — quarterback. This will be a shootout, and the winner will end up in the Big 12 title game opposite TCU.
3. Do you agree with the College Football Playoff’s initial rankings?
Bohls: I feel a little justified in being one of only two AP voters to put Georgia at No. 1 since the CFP committee agreed with the same ranking. I don’t have an argument with the CFP’s foursome — Clemson and Notre Dame are extremely tested with better nonconference opponents than most — and we all know it matters little since only five of the 12 teams that were ranked in the first top four in the CFP’s first three years ultimately made the playoff.
Golden: I have no real problem with the top four. Alabama and Georgia are interchangeable. How about Oklahoma at No. 5? The Sooners are the first team in some time to land a top-five ranking and lose to Iowa State in the same season.
4. Who’ll end up coaching Florida?
Bohls: I’m going to go with UCF’s Scott Frost because the Gators need a coach with an offensive bent after suffering through the slumbering Jim McElwain and Will Muschamp years. Frost’s UCF team averages 51 points, McKenzie Milton is the most accurate passer in the country with a 73 percent completion rate, and he’s thrown 19 touchdown passes against only three picks. Frost is young and exuberant and brings offense. If not Frost, then the Gators will look hard at Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente and Memphis’ Mike Norvell.
Golden: Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen. Central Florida’s Scott Frost would be my choice, but he will end up in Nebraska. Mullen has a relationship with Florida AD Scott Stricklin, who used to work at Mississippi State. Plus Mullen was Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Florida on two title teams.
5. Pick a Top 25 upset.
Bohls: Unranked, 3-5 Indiana has a ton of injuries but will expose unbeaten Wisconsin and hand the Badgers their first loss 27-24. With senior linebackers Chris Covington and Tegray Scales, the Hoosiers’ defense is much better under Tom Allen, last week’s 42-39 loss to Maryland notwithstanding.
Golden: Not sure if it’s really an upset, but No. 11 Oklahoma State will take down No. 5 Oklahoma 45-42. As I said above, quarterback is the most important position, and Mason Rudolph will make one more play than Baker Mayfield.
6. Will Iowa State’s Big 12 run end in Morgantown?
Bohls: No. Iowa State’s got the 21st-ranked scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 18.8 points a game. Logic would suggest the fun will end against the erratic Mountaineers, but Matt Campbell’s bunch has made a believer out of me. The fourth-youngest coach in the FBS at age 37 already has the Cyclones bowl-eligible. Why stop now? Iowa State, 35-32.
Golden: No. I’m buying the Matt Campbell hype. Another win for the Cyclones.
7. Will Arizona get to the Rose Bowl for the first time ever?
Bohls: It’s a long shot. Quarterback Khalil Tate has resurrected the Wildcats, running for 840 yards in the month of October alone and getting picked as the Pac-12’s offensive player of the week for four straight weeks. The 6-2 Wildcats have improved their defense and have emerged as a South Division contender.
Golden: No. The Wildcats have the talent to make it happen but will run into a USC team that rediscovered its groove last week. No Rose Bowl this year, Arizona.
8. Are the Wisconsin Badgers legit?
Bohls: No. The Badgers have beaten only two teams with winning records and are behind six one-loss teams in the CFP rankings. Wisconsin doesn’t have a win over a team that’s ranked or even receiving Top 25 votes. It has beaten Utah State, Florida Atlantic and BYU. The Badgers need more inventive plays like TD passes to their left tackle.
Golden: No. I’m not convinced because the Badgers have the easiest path to the CFP of all the Power Five schools. There’s no Ohio State or Penn State on the regular-season schedule.
9. Who’s the most underrated team in the Top 25?
Bohls: See Question No. 4. As the highest-ranked Group of Five team, the Central Florida Knights have crushed their opponents. UCF, one of only five unbeaten teams, seems like a strong bet to make the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Golden: It has to be No. 18 Central Florida, which is leading the country in scoring at 51 points per game.
10. Is Nebraska still an elite coaching job?
Bohls: Not even close. It offers tradition, history and a loyal fan base. Aside from that, Nebraska isn’t a destination spot anymore. It’s cold. It isn’t passing game-friendly. It no longer has the advantage of partial qualifiers and dozes of walk-ons. But I do still wish the Huskers were in the Big 12.
Golden: No. It pays well and the fan base is as passionate as any in the country, but the Huskers’ program has fallen well behind fellow Big Ten schools such as Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan.