American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden address 10 hot-button topics about Texas, the Big 12 and national college football:
1. What kind of measuring stick is this USC game for Texas?
Bohls: A huge one. Even though it’s not a vintage Trojans team, Tom Herman could go a long way toward creating some momentum for the Big 12 schedule and right a bunch of early season wrongs. He really needs to beat a USC, a TCU or an Oklahoma these next four weeks. Here’s saying the Longhorns get a dose of revenge and win 24-21.
Golden: It’s the biggest game of the season because it will tell us just how far the Longhorns have come from last year or how much they have slipped. USC is good, but the Horns will finally put together a comprehensive performance in all three phases to win 28-17.
2. Do you give TCU much of a shot against Ohio State?
Bohls: Not really. The Buckeyes have perhaps more offensive firepower than any other team in the nation and may be the best Urban Meyer team yet in Columbus. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins will top those September early Heisman favorite lists, and that balanced offense and outstanding defense will take apart the Horned Frogs much as the Sooners did twice last year, winning 42-20.
Golden: The Frogs are solid, but Ohio State is more talented at several skill positions. Jerry World will be rocking early, but the Buckeyes will pull away in the fourth quarter. Ohio State will be 3-0 when Meyer returns from his suspension. Give me the Buckeyes 34-17.
3. How much will Oklahoma miss Rodney Anderson?
Bohls: Desperately. He’s a special talent, a preseason All-Big 12 back who has now missed all or the bulk of three seasons. The Sooners won’t have their breakaway tailback and will have to rely more on the wheels — and arm — of Kyler Murray as well as capable back Trey Sermon and dynamic freshman T.J. Pledger.
Golden: It’s arguably the biggest loss of any key player on any team this season. Anderson was a sure-fire first-round draft pick who was the most complete player in the Big 12. The Sooners still have capable runners in Sermon, Marcelias Sutton and Pledger, but Anderson will be sorely missed.
4. Is Oklahoma State for real?
Bohls: Let’s hold off. The Cowboys haven’t been tested yet but will be Saturday by a formidable Boise State team, which will register a road win in Stillwater. Boise’s Brett Rypien has logged 16 games in which he’s thrown for 300 yards or more and has seven touchdowns with zero interceptions this season. He’ll shine.
Golden: It’s going to take more than blowouts of Missouri State and South Alabama for me to put the Cowboys in the same breath with Oklahoma and West Virginia in the Big 12. Let’s see what they do against a pretty good Boise State team, which, like OSU, has been over 50 points in each of its first two games.
5. Will we see consistency out of Texas A&M?
Bohls: I think so. The Aggies are flush with confidence after their near-upset of Clemson and will take it out on Louisiana-Monroe to get the attention of Alabama next week. A&M should be able to score big in this one.
Golden: I can see it happening, but let’s not confuse consistency with winning. The Aggies are talented enough to give every team on their schedule a real tussle. The two-point loss to title contender Clemson should elevate A&M on a national level, but that SEC West schedule isn’t going anywhere, so don’t expect an 11-win season.
6. Pick a Top 25 upset.
Bohls: I know it’s a reach, but I’ll go with Toledo in a shocker over Miami after totaling 603 yards against VMI behind a new starting quarterback and coming off a bye. Miami wrestles with quarterback issues between Malik Rosier and challenger N’Kosi Perry. The Hurricanes stomped something called Savannah State 77-0 and are primed for an upset.
Golden: No. 24 Oklahoma State will hold serve at home against No. 17 Boise State. The Cowboys haven’t been tested yet but will get a full dose of Rypien, who has thrown for 667 yards through the first two games. First one to 40 gets the W. The guess here is OSU.
7. Has Kevin Sumlin been exposed as a bad coach?
Bohls: If he wasn’t already, he has been by a lackluster start at Arizona, where his Wildcats were given the rag doll treatment by Houston. Heisman candidate Khalil Tate has been reduced to an afterthought.
Golden: He’s not a bad coach, but Arizona doesn’t appear to be a good fit. Sumlin has won too many games to be tabbed as bad, but he is far from an elite coach.
8. Rank the state’s top five programs
Bohls: In order, I’d take A&M, TCU, Houston, Texas and Texas Tech. The Longhorns should be able to make their move Saturday.
Golden: Give me TCU, Texas A&M, Texas, Houston and Texas Tech.
9. Will this weekend’s weather-canceled games affect bowl season?
Bohls: Big time, because a number of teams will be searching for that necessary sixth win and might require an NCAA waiver for the bowl minimum. Hurricane Florence had already canceled nine college games by Thursday afternoon, including West Virginia at North Carolina State, and nine others had their game times moved.
Golden: Sure, it will. I’d hate to be sitting at five wins after the regular season. Surely the NCAA will take the weather into consideration for those schools that won’t be able to reschedule. If not, those schedule makers had better get busy right away.
10. Which Big 12 player needs a breakout game this week?
Bohls: It’s time for Collin Johnson to shine. The Longhorns’ junior wide receiver made his bones against USC a year ago. and there’s no better time for him to reassert himself than Saturday. even if he is double-covered.
Golden: Breckyn Hager hasn’t been the wild man we expected him to be over Texas’ first two games. The Longhorns have only one sack and are missing some pressure off the edge. It’s time for Hager the Humble to re-emerge into Hager the Horrible.