Bohls, Golden: Casey Thompson can make history, but so can Cincinnati, Nebraska and UMass
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 Casey Thompson win his first Texas-Oklahoma start?
Bohls: Yes, he will, to become only the fifth Longhorns quarterback since 1990 to do so. The Sooners are the most vulnerable under Lincoln Riley as they have ever been. They lack a dominant offensive line and to this point a downfield passing attack, and Thompson will show up large since OU’s tough defensive front will be devoted to slowing down Bijan Robinson. Thompson, whose best quality may be his composure under adversity, will be under duress but will eventually find a rhythm and make enough positive plays to give Steve Sarkisian a 27-24 win and give Texas’ program a huge jolt.
Golden: Yes, he will. Thompson is smart enough to know he has a nuclear weapon in the backfield. Robinson will set the table early in the running game and Thompson will finally hit on a couple of big downfield plays as the Horns pull off a 44-41 win in a classic.
2. What non-star can make his legend in this Texas-OU game?
Bohls: Like UT tackle Stonie Clark did with his 1994 goal-line stop of James Allen? I'll go with Texas tight end Jared Wiley as a surprise weapon for a big touchdown since OU will be concentrating on stopping Robinson, Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington.
Golden: Third-string running back Keilan Robinson will bring back memories of Jamaal Charles’ 80-yard touchdown run in 2005 with a 60-yard sprint for a score in the second half. Charles went on to bigger moments, but he was running third string behind Selvin Young and Ramonce Taylor on that championship team.
3. What are your two favorite Texas-OU game memories?
Bohls: My top favorite will always be Darrell Royal's last OU game in 1976 when he rightfully accused Barry Switzer of spying — a story that our paper broke — amid a most tumultuous week that included President Gerald Ford for the pregame toss and ended in a 6-6 tie. Next was the improbable situation the next year when third-team quarterback Randy McEachern came off the bench after season-ending injuries to Mark McBath and Jon Aune during the game to lead an eventual unbeaten regular-season Longhorns team to a victory and an 11-0 record in 1977. He’s one of the all-time great guys and had been a spotter for the Exxon radio broadcast the year before.
Golden: The first came in 2002, my first year on the beat, when UT cornerback Roderick Babers intercepted Nate Hybl and scored a 73-yard touchdown. Babers was known for great interviews and bad hands, but the hands held up on that play. The second came six years later when Jordan Shipley put a charge into the crowd with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Horns were trailing 14-3 at the time and that touchdown changed the momentum. Colt McCoy outdueled Sam Bradford as Texas took a 45-35 win in a classic.
4. Just how bloody will it get in College Station for Texas A&M against Alabama?
Bohls: It will get ugly eventually. I do expect a phenomenal effort by A&M and its quality defense in the first half in a game that could well define the rest of its season. But the Aggies don't have enough of a passing offense to cope with the Crimson Tide bullies and will go down 38-21 for its third consecutive loss. About that 10-year contract …
Golden: It will be enough to make Michael Myers turn away in horror. Jimbo Fisher did his team no favors with his comments of not being in awe of the Tide. Crimson blood will flow through the streets of College Station on Saturday. Alabama wins 44-17.
5. Which Top 25 team goes down this week?
Bohls: Are you sitting down? I’ll say Nebraska registers the biggest win of the Scott Frost era — there haven’t even been that many little ones — by knocking off high-riding Michigan. The Huskers have allowed only 17 points in three home games, scorched Northwestern 56-7 last week and are one of only four teams to average 250 yards on the ground and 225 through the air.
Golden: Besides the Sooners? Give me Ole Miss to take a chunk out of No. 16 Arkansas. The Hogs are still reeling from that Georgia butchering. The Rebels have pork for dinner.
6. Is Cincinnati for real?
Bohls: It’s more than real. It’s really, really legit with the nation’s second-best pass defense and playmakers galore. The Bearcats are one of five teams ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring offense and defense and will run the table, beat an undefeated SMU team in November, produce a Heisman finalist in quarterback Desmond Ridder and become the first Group of Five team to ever grab a College Football Playoff berth. As of today, my Final Four would be Alabama, Georgia, Iowa and Cincinnati.
Golden: Yes they are, and Luke Fickell is probably polishing up his resume because that phone will be ringing in the offseason. Cincy will play in a New Year’s Six bowl game, but I’m not sure they'll hold off the pack that’s coming for that fourth CFP spot.
7. On board with the provision giving schools one-year waivers to sign up to seven players to replace transfers?
Bohls: I am. The transfer portal has opened up a Pandora’s Box for coaches, who must be weaponized to be able to respond to wholesale departures. It’s a temporary Band-Aid, but I’ll be surprised if something permanent doesn’t come out of this.
Golden: Seven is a lot of players, but I get it. The portal has allowed players who are afraid of a little competition to tuck tail and run to the highest bidder. It’s a little different for quarterbacks since there's only one on the field at a time, but I understand the need to help programs retain their numbers.
8. Who wins the Big Ten clash between No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Penn State?
Bohls: I think far too many people are sleeping on the Hawkeyes. Iowa has an 11-game winning streak. It’s not very offensive-minded — until thrashing Maryland — but has a killer defense that's plus-12 in turnovers and is the most solid, complete team in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes will beat the Nittany Lions with a stingy defense that has already scored 20 points and posted a nation-high 12 interceptions and win the league.
Golden: Iowa is one of the best teams that no one talks about, and Penn State is just happy to not be 0-5 right now. The Hawkeyes aren’t explosive, but they are extremely competent in the areas of ball control and defensive stops. It will be enough to net them a four-point win.
9. Where will Urban Meyer be coaching in two years?
Bohls: He won’t. He won’t survive his first — and only — season in the NFL and has made mistakes at nearly every turn in Jacksonville. He'll wind up back on the Fox college football broadcast or become a dance instructor.
Golden: Somewhere that’s not in the NFL. Meyer’s college act doesn’t work with grown men and being the old brother in the club was a horrible look. Jacksonville will get rid of him and he'll relocate to Tallahassee to revive the Florida State Seminoles.
10. Who wins the "Battle of the Beatens": 0-5 UMass or 0-6 UConn?
Bohls: This just has to come down to the wire because it’s for none of the marbles. Or anything else. Amazingly enough, each team averages exactly 270 yards of offense a game, and neither can run the ball very well. But because the Minutemen rank an impressive 14th in the nation in punt return defense (yes, I’m kidding) and have lost to a better breed of opponent — Coastal Carolina, Boston College and Pittsburgh to name three — I’ll go with UMass, 13-10.
Golden: Not the ones watching it. Can I purchase some cataracts somewhere in case this thing gets televised? I’ll take UConn, 6-3.