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Bohls, Golden: Someone's Big 12 hopes will be dashed, but will it be Texas' or Baylor's?

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 win Saturday and slow Baylor's Big 12 championship run?

Bohls: Yes. The Longhorns are desperate and will play their most complete game since their rout of Texas Tech. And they'll have to against arguably the most complete team in the league. Steve Sarkisian knows the entire season is on the line and will do enough to pressure Gerry Bohanon into his second interception of the year and spring Bijan Robinson for enough space to top 100 yards in a 31-29 thriller to right the Longhorns' season at least temporarily.

Golden:Texas, Steve Sarkisian must find their finishing kick at Baylor (or else)

Golden: Against my better judgment, I'll say yes. If the Horns aren't desperate enough to walk into McLane Stadium and make a statement against a quality opponent, then they’re destined to spend the rest of the year staving off the specter of a .500 season. There's enough talent on both sides of the ball to get it done. Robinson runs for 164 yards and the Horns eke out a 34-31 win.

Baylor players celebrate their win over West Virginia on Oct. 9 at McLane Stadium in Waco. The 6-1 Bears, who are No. 18 in the country, are one of only four Power Five teams ranked in the national top 25 in scoring defense and offense.

2. Did everyone underestimate Baylor coach Dave Aranda?

Bohls: I believe so. He made his name on the defensive side of the ball, and he’s put his stamp on the Bears' program quickly. After struggling mightily and winning just two of nine games in a pandemic year, Baylor's second-year coach has his team as one of just four Power Five teams ranked in the national top 25 in scoring defense and offense. If he can somehow navigate a treacherous last five games and get to the Big 12 title game, he might well be in line for national coach of the year honors.

Bohls:Several strong candidates in line to succeed Texas Tech's Wells, including Dykes

Golden: Yes. He took over a program in transition with a pandemic that was not only making national headlines but also hurting his own locker room. Aranda got a full spring under his belt for the first time and a chance to do some real recruiting, and we're seeing the fruits of that labor. The Bears understand his defensive concepts and are thriving under new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes. The administration hit on a real winner with Aranda, who has the look of a guy who might stick around the 254 for the next decade.

Baylor head coach Dave Aranda has turned the Bears around after a rocky first season. Baylor is ranked in the top 20 in both major polls, and Aranda has been the subject of rumors for the opening at LSU, where he won a national championship in 2019 as the Tigers' defensive coordinator.

3. Does Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis have a Heisman shot?

Bohls: Probably not. He spearheads one of the best defenses of the past 30 years, and there's a huge void in the race for college football’s top prize, but the senior nose tackle doesn’t have the big numbers to back up a Heisman campaign. He’s playing on an exceptional defense, so he shares the glory and has just 18 tackles and 1½ sacks. 

Golden: Not at all, but as I mentioned a few weeks ago, he’s on the short list of the best players in America. The Heisman is a quarterback’s award, and while Davis will get a few votes here and there, his fans should be more concerned with the Outland Trophy. 

4. Pick a Top 25 team to lose this week.

Golden:Any path Texas has to Big 12 title game has to start with wins in Waco and Ames

Bohls: I’ll go far out on that limb and take an angry and defensive-minded Penn State, coming off two consecutive losses and that nine-overtime debacle against the victorious Illini, to take down No. 5 Ohio State in Columbus. This would be an epic upset since the Buckeyes are averaging 49 points a game.

Golden: The oddsmakers wouldn’t really call it an upset, but unranked Houston will hold serve at home and take out No. 16 SMU. This promises to be a shootout. 

5. Which team has surprised you the most this season?

Bohls:  I would have said Iowa, but then the Hawkeyes stubbed their toes against an average Purdue team. Baylor has to be up there, but I’ll go with Michigan State, where Mel Tucker has the Spartans in the Top 10 with a dominant rushing attack and run defense.

Golden: Michigan State was picked in the preseason to finish seventh in the Big Ten East, but Tucker has Sparty on a nice roll at 7-0 entering an in-state showdown with Michigan. Tucker has been so good after a 2-5 finish last season that he’s been mentioned as a candidate for the vacant LSU job.

How long until embattled Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer returns to college football? The rookie NFL boss is struggling on the field and generating bad headlines off it.

6. Mike Tomlin aside, what NFL coach can you see returning to a college gig?

Bohls: That’s tough because NFL jobs are few and far between. That said, Jacksonville’s Urban Meyer will show up on a college campus eventually because his days with the Jaguars are numbered. I know: Let’s put Meyer in at Michigan after Jim Harbaugh returns to the league. Now that would spice up the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.

Golden: The Arizona Cardinals are rising, but Kliff Kingsbury has always had the feel of a college coach. This season might be the perfect jumping-off point to return to college, especially if a prime Power Five job opens up.

7. What has been the biggest play of Texas' season so far?

Bohls: I’m tempted to go with the 29-yard pass reception of Oklahoma’s Mike Woods for a critical first down— he was clearly out of bounds — with the Sooners trailing 14-0. But I’ll settle on the pick six that Casey Thompson threw against Oklahoma State that robbed Texas of all its momentum and probably a commanding first-half lead. The Longhorns never recovered.

Golden: Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler’s fumble in the second quarter led to his ouster and the introduction of freshman Caleb Williams, who became an instant Sooners legend after leading the comeback win. Without him, the Sooners don’t win and maybe the Horns don't hit that tailspin they find themselves trying to navigate.

8. Any issues with a school firing a coach around the middle of a season?

Bohls: I don’t like it. It’s patently unfair to the players, especially seniors in their final years, to pull the plug with so much of a season left to play.  I do think these midseason firings give the affected assistant coaches more time to process and hopefully find new jobs instead of getting fired in December.

Golden: Quit pretending it’s not a business. These athletic directors don’t get the warm fuzzies when it comes to making program-altering decisions. If athletic director Kirby Hocutt doesn’t believe Wells is the right guy, why prolong the agony? Besides, the seniors are going to be gone in six weeks. 

Michigan defenders swarm to tackle Northwestern running back Anthony Tyus III during the Wolverines' win last week at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines will play Michigan State on Saturday in a Top 10 matchup.

9. No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 7 Michigan State. Who ya got?

Bohls: As good a job as Mel has done in his short stay in Spartan Land, I've got to go with Michigan in this showdown between two 7-0 teams. There may not be a dime’s worth of difference between the two. Both struggled in close wins over Nebraska, and both love to stick to the ground game. Kenneth Walker III has transformed Sparty, but Harbaugh’s got a couple of guys in Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins who are also killing it on the ground with 10 touchdowns apiece.

Golden: It’s definitely the game of the week nationally. I admire the job Tucker has done, but Harbaugh has finally found the right mix in Ann Arbor. Coach Khaki won’t let this one get away. That defense is for real, and quarterback Cade McNamara will find enough holes in the Big Ten’s worst pass defense to get the Wolverines a win.

10. Does Alabama get more credit than it deserves?

Bohls: Of course, but the argument could be made that the Crimson Tide have earned that respect over the past decade. One could say Oregon should be ranked above Alabama because, even though the Ducks have struggled at times and lost to Stanford, they still have the biggest road win of the year when they went into the Shoe and beat Ohio State, and did it even without their star player, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who might be the first pick of next year’s NFL draft.

Golden: The Crimson Tide earned that respect with a decade-plus of excellence under Nick Saban. While other programs have sprinkled in some subpar seasons after winning big, the Tide have maintained a standard of greatness. And in a year when they aren’t on par with some of Saint Nick’s better teams, they are still plenty good enough to win it all.