Bohls, Golden: It's doubtful Texas Tech can corral Texas' stable of running backs
American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden weigh in on 10 topics of interest from this week's college football slate of games:
1. Will Texas Tech's national top-10 rush defense stop Texas' deep backfield?
Bohls: The Red Raiders' drastically improved defense will slow it down but not come close to stopping it. I don’t expect the Longhorns to run all over Tech as they did Rice, but they will mix in a more aggressive, vertical passing game to start Big 12 play with a 37-24 win.
Golden: No. The Horns won’t truck the Red Raiders in the running game the way they did the overmatched Owls, but that three-headed monster of Bijan Robinson, Roschon Johnson and Keilan Robinson will run for more than 180 yards in a 45-35 win.
2. Will Casey Thompson or Tyler Shough throw for more yards Saturday?
Bohls: Shough will because he’ll have to. Thompson should take advantage of Tech’s commitment to stop the run and emphasize the passing game for the first time this year, but the Red Raiders will try to maximize the talents of the Oregon transfer who spread it out to 11 receivers against Florida International with three touchdowns to his tight ends.
Golden: Shough will outdistance Thompson 280-245 because the Red Raiders will have to throw more to stay close. The Horns will have more success on the ground, which won't require Thompson to pass as much.
3. Pick a breakout player for the Longhorns this week.
Bohls: It’s Joshua Moore’s time to shine. He has been invisible for the first three games, totaling a measly four catches for 39 yards and going without a reception in the beatdown by Arkansas. Xavier Worthy has already supplanted him as the go-to wideout for Thompson, but look for Moore to finally produce against a Tech defense geared to stop the run.
Golden: Jordan Whittington will finally have a couple of long-yard hookups with quarterback Casey Thompson and will go over 100 yards with a touchdown.
4. What's your pecking order of the Big 12's five best teams?
Bohls: I refuse to diss on an Oklahoma program that always roars back after even a slight hint of decline. Take last year’s 0-2 league start as an example. So give me OU, Kansas State, West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas. That list can all change in the blink of an eye.
Golden: I’ll go with Oklahoma, Texas, TCU, Iowa State and Kansas State, which gets the No. 5 spot in a close one over West Virginia. The league is up for grabs this year. I didn’t expect Oklahoma and Iowa State to be so beatable at this point.
5. Will Arkansas beat Texas A&M for the first time since they've both been in the SEC?
Bohls: Yes, let's call it Arkansas 31-28. I was thoroughly impressed with the way the Hogs manhandled Texas on both sides of the ball. The Aggies are much better than the Longhorns, but the rolling Razorbacks are stoked with confidence and ready to knock off their former SWC rivals after losing every meeting since both have been in the SEC (and nine straight in the series).
Golden: The Aggies always find a way to beat the Hoggies, but this one will go down to the wire. Arkansas is improving, but the Aggies have too much experience on defense to allow the upset. A&M escapes Jerry World with a 27-24 win.
6. Pick a Top 25 upset.
Bohls: No. 15 Wisconsin will take out No. 10 Notre Dame 21-17 because the Badgers’ current quarterback, Graham Mertz, is better than their former quarterback, Jack Coan, who's now with the Irish.
Golden: Camp Randall is never an easy place to play, and Notre Dame will find that out the hard way as Wisconsin takes a 31-28 win.
7. Do you like or hate the Dr Pepper commercials?
Bohls: I like them. The Boz makes a perfect sheriff, and it’s so over the top that they’re fun. Love the couple who wanted their nerd kid to go to State. Even the wife gives him a hard time: “It was right to you.”
Golden: I get a huge kick out of them. Brian Bosworth is in his element as the sheriff of a small town that has this insane obsession with college football. Sounds like my kind of place. I’m also enjoying the Nissan Heisman House commercials. Baker Mayfield is a great pitchman.
8. Who needs a 12-team playoff more: the Group of Five or the Pac-12?
Bohls: Clearly the underrepresented Group of Five. Half of the 130-team FBS ranks have no path to the playoffs because of their built-in scheduling disadvantage with almost exclusively other Group of Five opponents. But the Pac-12 isn’t far behind.
Golden: The Pac-12 really needs it because it’s easily the worst of the Power Five conferences. Only Oregon is making any real noise and critics of the league will point to a weak schedule if it comes down to the playoff committee choosing between the Ducks and a team from a more powerful conference.
9. Who are the five best coaches in college football right now?
Bohls: After Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney and Ryan Day, I'll take Kirby Smart and Lincoln Riley. Paul Chryst, James Franklin and Dan Mullen are right behind them, and Mario Christobal is pressing to make this list.
Golden: Saban, Swinney, Smart, Riley and then Florida's Dan Mullen.
10. Is USC still a top-10 job?
Bohls: Not even close. Its slide has been precipitous during Clay Helton’s seven years, it failed to lap Oregon when it was going through its own small dip, USC’s top head coaching candidates have to worry about the lesser-paid staff affording Los Angeles housing rates, and too many teams from Oregon to Alabama to Clemson are raiding the state of some of its premier talent.
Golden: Yes, but barely. You don’t see anyone beating down the door to coach there because the administration doesn’t have the greatest reputation and the fan base isn’t as rabid as it was during the wildly successful yet controversial Pete Carroll years. The next coach will be the school’s fourth since 2013. USC has finished the season unranked in the final Associated Press poll five times since Carroll left after the 2009 season.