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Bohls: Longhorns could fare 'quite well in SEC,' but why wait, Finebaum says

Kirk Bohls
Austin American-Statesman
Texas' Chris Brown celebrates with fans at the Cotton Bowl after the 2018 win over Oklahoma. ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum, on this week's "On Second Thought" podcast, says he is pumped about Texas' and Oklahoma's jump to the SEC. "I want it in four weeks," he said.

While I got ya, here are nine mostly SEC-centric things and one really crazy prediction:

1. Finebaum fine with it. Paul Finebaum, the Voice of the SEC and as powerful a voice in college football as there is, told us in this week's “On Second Thought” podcast that the SEC additions are “a nuclear bomb that is going off” and that Texas brings a lot of punch to that league in 2024 or likely two years earlier. He said on the podcast that is available Thursday morning that he thinks Texas realized it “had to do something dramatic. Texas is so big and so mighty. I think they can do quite well. Texas is finally having a little attitude back. I’m excited about it. I want it in four weeks.” … Finebaum said Oklahoma had made outreaches to the SEC for the last five or six years, but Texas never had until now.

2. Dunking booth. A number of Texas legislators who still hang around our state got their pound of flesh from Texas President Jay Hartzell at Monday’s Senate committee hearing on the future of college sports in this state. Hartzell knew he had to take it. None was more critical than Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who suggested after being dominated by TCU that maybe the Longhorns would “maybe rather lose to Alabama than TCU.” Kolkhorst, a former Horned Frogs golfer and a friend of the late Dan Jenkins and Ben Hogan, nailed it. And the answer is yes, Texas would rather lose to the Crimson Tide than TCU, which has won seven of the last nine against the Longhorns. It’s worked for the Aggies although TexAgs’ Billy Liucci and Olin Buchanan both say on the podcast that the “talent gap (between them and the Tide) is narrower than it’s ever been.” Liucci said “maybe” A&M is ready to unseat Alabama this fall, given all the high-profile Tide departures to the NFL and a new quarterback as well as Jimbo Fisher’s tremendous backfield and defensive line to go with top-10 recruiting classes. In addition, he said the Aggies get the Tide at home and early in the season (Oct. 9). “If Alabama slips from being head and shoulders better than everybody to third or fourth in the country and plays, say, a seventh-ranked A&M with its experience and playmakers, I think A&M has one of its best shots to line up and match up with them.” I would agree.

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3. Bye, bye Big 12. The exits of Texas and Oklahoma will be compelling and painful and expensive, and will leave a mark. What truly will be interesting will be whether any of the Big 12 remnants will want anything to do with Texas and OU and play them in the future in football or any sport. My guess is the Baylors and TCUs and Texas Techs will be tempted to tell them to simply go away even if such matchups would be good for the gate. OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said his school is open to playing in-state rival Oklahoma State in all sports, but the Cowboys have not stated their opinion yet. Once A&M left the Big 12, it didn’t want to play Texas any longer. But then the Aggies did not need a home game with the Longhorns every other year for an attractive season ticket package because they had so many marquee SEC games at Kyle Field. … With the news that Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Pac-12 counterpart George Kliavkoff met Tuesday to discuss a possible alliance or merger between the two leagues and Kliavkoff, as the new kid on the block, called it “an interesting opportunity,” I’ll reiterate that the landlocked Pac-12 ought to seriously consider expanding into the Midwest and think about inviting Houston and maybe TCU or Texas Tech as well as Oklahoma State and Kansas to greatly expand its footprint and grow the number of eyeballs on that league’s product. I still think BYU makes sense with its football and national following. And maybe Boise State.

Jimbo Fisher, who's in his fifth season as head coach at Texas A&M, has the Aggies poised to make a strong run at dismantling SEC kingpin Alabama this year. The Crimson Tide are scheduled to play at Kyle Field in early October.

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4. Pods are popular. Now the new, expanded SEC must figure out how to schedule games with a 16-team league that cries out for a more convenient pod system over eight-team divisions although I could see Texas and OU pitching divisions with Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Georgia all in a power-packed East. Yeah, I’m not betting they’ll go for that. … The problem with divisions is the unlikelihood of being able to rotate and play everyone on a regular basis. Four pods of four schools each makes more sense than unwieldy, eight-team divisions because a broader rotation of games breeds stronger rivalries and allows for more schools to play one another. It’s still inconceivable that Texas A&M hasn’t hosted Georgia at Kyle Field yet and in nine seasons has played the Bulldogs as much as the Longhorns have — once. … “I’ve always said we need fewer permanent opponents so there would be more rotation,” one current SEC athletic director told me. “At 16 teams, it makes even more sense to create more intraconference scheduling variety.” … One idea is to have three permanent SEC opponents and then play half the other dozen one year and the other half the next year. I like that. That way, a third-year player would play every SEC team, home and away, during his career. ... Maybe the league office will seek the Aggies’ input this time around and ask if they prefer to be in the same pod or a different cluster than the Longhorns, but probably not. Makes more sense to place them in the same format if you have any taste for blood feuds or at the minimum ensure the two play each other every year even if in different pods. Finebaum said they will play annually. So did Liucci and Buchanan but the latter said, “The rivalry between Texas and A&M may be magnified. I know I’d have a lot of (extra) security for the games.” Added Liucci, “and maybe more counselors.” ... I still hope the game is Thanksgiving night.

5. Just means more ... games. Certainly the SEC adds another league game and implements a nine-conference game schedule, something Nick Saban has desired forever because it represents another chance for Crimson Tide rivals to get nicked with a loss. It’d be hard to imagine the SEC not go to nine-game league schedules, given its desire to satisfy ESPN’s lust for better inventory than Alabama-Mercer and Texas A&M-Prairie View A&M.

Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks Sam Ehlinger, left, and Brett Hundley talk things over during practice Monday at training camp. Ehlinger, the former Texas quarterback, could be poised to bid for the starting job after Tuesday's foot surgery for starter Carson Wentz.

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6. Sam Ehlinger Watch. The annual injury to Carson Wentz (foot surgery Tuesday) may well open the door for Sam Ehlinger. The former Longhorns quarterback, Indianapolis' sixth-round draft choice, has started camp well, has been described as “confident, poised and relaxed” and is in a perfect position with the Colts since Wentz’s current replacement, big, strong-armed, second-year Jacob Eason, hasn’t started an NFL game either. “He’s coming along quickly,” quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich said of Ehlinger. “The mental part of the game, grasping the offense has come faster than most rookies, especially without having a whole lot of an offseason.” ... If Indianapolis does not trade for Nick Foles or another veteran, it has to be careful about exposing Eason to injury, giving Ehlinger more potential playing time in the preseason to prove his value. In five years, Wentz has played a full schedule just twice. Sure, he could return early in the season, but how much faith will the Colts have in having him an entire season? Do not bet against Sam.

7. What vacation? OK so it wasn’t the perfect vacation, thank you, Texas and Oklahoma. But spent a terrific first week in Minnesota at the lakeside cabins of my son John Tyler’s in-laws, Rick and Lori Nilson, and their son Chris. Did everything from my first foray into the world of pickleball (awesome) to Carbles (think Sorry game on steroids but lasts forever) and bocce ball (highly recommend) to Kubb (really fun Swedish game) and Polish golf and every card game under the sun. As an avid tennis player, I really enjoyed pickleball, which is much more strenuous than you’d think because you really have to smash the ball and be on your toes. And, yes, the fish were biting at Mound Lake. No walleyes but about 40 crappie and sunfish and bass. Even ventured out into the woods on 4-wheelers, which was a real trip. Super time and heartfelt thanks to Lindsay’s parents. Wish it was an annual trip.

8. Scattershooting. While wondering whatever happened to former Longhorns quarterback/outfielder Shea Morenz.

9. At the box office. Took in my first in-theater movie with wife Vicki and dear friend Linda. Was really impressed with “Stillwater,” which I’m here to tell you will be an Oscar nominee for Best Picture. Matt Damon was brilliant as an uneducated, country oil rig roughnecker who makes his regular trip to Marseille, France to see his daughter imprisoned for the murder of her female lover. Lilou Siauvaud killed it as 8-year-old Maya. May be too slow-moving for some, but it’s a powerful story inspired by the Amanda Knox saga. Gave it 8 ducks.

10. Crazy prediction: Texas will win the SEC football championship in 2025.