American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden address 10 hot-button topics about Texas, the Big 12 and national college football:
1. Would a TCU upset of Oklahoma leave the Big 12 out of the College Football Playoff?
Bohls: I would think so. But the Sooners aren’t going to be denied after getting this close and will go crazy with a 35-21 win. Oklahoma is the league’s only chance at cracking the Final Four because the two-loss Frogs were slotted a lowly 11th in the CFP rankings this week. That’s a lot of ground to make up.
Golden: Of course, it would, but an upset isn’t about to happen. The Sooners are box office because of Baker Mayfield’s antics, and the CFP just wouldn’t be as interesting without the soon-to-be Heisman winner as part of the mix. Sooners win 34-27.
2. Which three players do you think will make the Heisman Trophy ceremony?
Bohls: The guest list will include OU quarterback Baker Mayfield, Stanford running back Bryce Love and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley — but defending Mr. Heisman Lamar Jackson and San Diego State’s 2,000-yard rusher Rashaad Penny could crash the party.
Golden: Mayfield, of course. And Love and Barkley also will be there.
3. Pick Saturday’s four Power Five title games.
Bohls: See above — Oklahoma 35, TCU 21 in the Big 12. Georgia will knock off Auburn 32-28 in the SEC rematch. Clemson will smash Miami 38-17 in the ACC title game. And disrespected Wisconsin will eke by Ohio State 21-17 in the Big Ten finale.
Golden: I’ll take Auburn over Georgia in the SEC, Clemson over Miami in the ACC, Oklahoma over TCU in the Big 12 and Wisconsin by a hair over Ohio State in the Big Ten.
4. Should an unbeaten Central Florida be included in the Final Four conversation?
Bohls: In a perfect world, yes. But it won’t be, partly because Central Florida has beaten teams like South Florida, Memphis and SMU but only one Power Five opponent, Maryland. But it’s hard for the Group of Five to schedule Power Five teams. That’s why the CFP should expand to a minimum of six teams, with first-round byes for the top two teams and the best Group of Five team joining the Power Five conference champions as an at-large if that best team is ranked in the Top 10 by the selection committee.
Golden: No, because the Knights aren’t one of the four best teams in college football despite their unbeaten record. Their great season is a perfect example of why we should have an eight-team tournament that includes at least one at-large spot for a Group of Five team.
5. What are Alabama’s and Ohio State’s best CFP shots?
Bohls: Alabama absolutely has a shot — a good one. The Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 all year until they got knocked off by Auburn, and they’ll have only one loss, compared with possible two-loss champions like TCU, Ohio State and Auburn. Ohio State doesn’t deserve a shot in the Final Four even if it topples Wisconsin. Two losses already should put the Buckeyes on the outside looking in, especially since they were blown out both by OU at home and Iowa on the road. But with two upsets Saturday, both Bama and the Buckeyes could get in.
Golden: The Tide have the best shot. Ohio State gave up 55 at Iowa. End of discussion. If there are two Power Five teams tied at 11-1 and one of them is Bama, I’m rolling with Saint Nick, baby.
6. Does a potential mass exodus of Texas players spell a bad season in 2018 — and should Shane Buechele leave?
Bohls: It wouldn’t guarantee a subpar season next year, but it would be hard for the Longhorns to overcome the loss of their All-America left tackle, their All-Big 12 nose guard and linebacker, possible All-Americans at safety and punter, and a stud cornerback. Buechele should transfer if he’s led to believe that the coaching staff no longer has faith in the junior-to-be and that he will play only as a backup. Could he end up at South Florida with Charlie Strong?
Golden: It could because the players leaving are the best players and the problems at quarterback aren’t going away. Malik Jefferson hasn’t decided publicly whether he’s leaving, but I would absolutely be shocked if he returns for another year. Buechele should pack his bags. He was a big player in the last two games. Tom Herman obviously prefers Sam Ehlinger.
7. Would you hire Mack Brown for one last coaching run?
Bohls: I would if I were a Tennessee or an Arkansas. But I think Mack, who’ll turn 67 next August, is destined to remain a television analyst. If he can’t beat out Herm Edwards for a job, what chance does he have?
Golden: I don’t see Mack coaching again, but he might be a nice fit at a place like North Carolina, Tennessee or Nebraska. He still knows the recruiting game as well as anybody. Who knows? He might even coax former offensive coordinator Greg Davis out of retirement if he lands a gig.
8. Who are your Big 12 and national coaches of the year?
Bohls: I give OU’s Lincoln Riley a lot of love for handling the rigors of a national contender and all of Mayfield’s distracting theatrics in his first season as a head coach. But my nod goes to Iowa State’s Matt Campbell for winning seven games and beating both Big 12 finalists Oklahoma and TCU. My national coach of the year is Alabama-Birmingham’s Bill Clark, who in the first year of the program’s renewal led a team that was picked last in Conference USA to an 8-4 record and its second bowl game ever (the Bahamas Bowl).
Golden: Give me Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, the only Big 12 coach who can say he beat both title game finalists. He’s got a bright future ahead of him. As for national coach of the year, I’ll take Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst.
9. What Longhorns deserve to be All-Big 12 selections?
Bohls: At least four belong on the all-conference team — safety DeShon Elliott, punter Michael Dickson, nose guard Poona Ford and linebacker Malik Jefferson.
Golden: I agree with the Duck. And he probably won’t make the first team, but defensive tackle Chris Nelson had an outstanding season. I also would give Charles Omenihu a vote for most improved player in the league.
10. Which school made the best and/or worst head coaching hire?
Bohls: Hello, Aggies, who have plucked Jimbo Fisher from Florida State, although UCLA got a steal in offensive-minded Chip Kelly. Ole Miss settled and promoted Matt Luke.
Golden: I like the Dan Mullen hire at Florida. He might not be as sexy of a name as Chip Kelly, but he’s a winner who’ll bring a hard-hat mentality back to a program that’s badly in need of a reboot.