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Bohls, Golden: Putting a lot of faith in Mike Leach, Mississippi State

Austin American-Statesman logo Austin American-Statesman 9/25/2020 Kirk Bohls, Cedric Golden
After blitzkrieging the Big 12 while at Texas Tech and then the Pac-12 while at Washington State with his Air Raid, Mike Leach will make his head coaching debut at Mississippi State on Saturday against defending national champion LSU. [YOUNG KWAK/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS] © Provided by Austin American-Statesman After blitzkrieging the Big 12 while at Texas Tech and then the Pac-12 while at Washington State with his Air Raid, Mike Leach will make his head coaching debut at Mississippi State on Saturday against defending national champion LSU. [YOUNG KWAK/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

College football kicks into serious mode this week as SEC teams open their season and the Big 12 kicks off its schedule, too. American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden weigh in on notable topics.

1. Should Texas really be an 18-point road favorite?

Bohls: If history is any indication, no. Lubbock's Jones AT&T Stadium can be as hostile a venue as there is in the league, but a crowd of only 16,000 will lessen any intimidating factor. That said, the Red Raiders should be much better than they showed against Houston Baptist and put up a fight before bowing 31-21 to the Longhorns.

a group of baseball players standing on top of a field: Texas head coach Tom Herman celebrates with his team after a first-quarter touchdown in the 59-3 season-opening win over UTEP. The Longhorns are 18-point favorites against Texas Tech on Saturday. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN] © RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL Texas head coach Tom Herman celebrates with his team after a first-quarter touchdown in the 59-3 season-opening win over UTEP. The Longhorns are 18-point favorites against Texas Tech on Saturday. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Golden: Anything is possible. The 2014 team — the one coached by Charlie Strong that sent 16 players to the NFL — went to Lubbock and won 34-13, so the current team could go in there and work Tech, especially with the stands a quarter full. But I see it being closer this time around. Texas wins, 34-21.

Ed Orgeron standing in front of a crowd: LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has his work cut out for him as the Tigers try to defend their national championship. LSU lost a lot of talent from last year, including Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow, who was one of 14 Tigers to get drafted. [SUE OGROCKI/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS] © Sue Ogrocki LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has his work cut out for him as the Tigers try to defend their national championship. LSU lost a lot of talent from last year, including Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow, who was one of 14 Tigers to get drafted. [SUE OGROCKI/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

2. What ranked team will go down this week?

Bohls: I'm going all in on the Mike Leach bandwagon and predicting that Mississippi State's combination of Kylin Hill — the SEC's best running back if Leach will give him the ball — and Stanford quarterback transfer K.J. Costello will be enough to push the Bulldogs to a shocking 27-24 upset of No. 6 LSU.

Dave Aranda wearing a suit and tie: Is this the week, finally? New Baylor coach Dave Aranda has been waiting to make his head coaching debut, which has been delayed because of pandemic issues that caused the cancellations of games against Louisiana Tech and Houston this season. [JERRY LARSON/WACO TRIBUNE-HERALD] © Jerry Larson Is this the week, finally? New Baylor coach Dave Aranda has been waiting to make his head coaching debut, which has been delayed because of pandemic issues that caused the cancellations of games against Louisiana Tech and Houston this season. [JERRY LARSON/WACO TRIBUNE-HERALD]

Golden: Give me No. 22 Army to spring the upset at No. 14 Cincinnati, which is a 13.5-point favorite. The Black Knights can run the ball and the Bearcats gave up 140 rushing yards to FCS member Austin Peay.

a group of football players on the field: Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is brought down by Kentucky linebacker Jamar Watson during their game last season in Athens, Ga. Mark Stoops is already third all-time in victories with a 44-44 record. [JOHN BAZEMORE/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS] © John Bazemore Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is brought down by Kentucky linebacker Jamar Watson during their game last season in Athens, Ga. Mark Stoops is already third all-time in victories with a 44-44 record. [JOHN BAZEMORE/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

3. Who's the most dangerous player in the Big 12?

Bohls: I'd name Tylan Wallace if Oklahoma State had a more reliable quarterback to throw to the wide receiver, but I'll go with Kansas lightning bug Pooka Williams, who can take it the distance at any moment. He's only the second Jayhawks runner ever to put up back-to-back, 1,000-yard seasons, duplicating the effort of the incomparable late Gale Sayers.

Golden: He was quiet last week, but I'm still going with Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard. With quarterback Spencer Sanders less than 100% with that ankle injury, expect Hubbard to run for 150-plus in a 38-31 win over West Virginia.

4. Is TCU-Iowa State a must-win for the Cyclones?

Bohls: It is, without question. The Cyclones can ill afford to drop their first two games with a daunting road game against tough TCU, especially with Oklahoma looming the following week. An 0-2 start would be disastrous.

Golden: Not really. Losing a nonconference game didn't eliminate the Cyclones from Big 12 title contention. TCU is always a tough out at Amon Carter, but I'm taking Iowa State and quarterback Brock Purdy in a bounce-back performance and a 31-28 win.

5. Who's the most overrated team currently ranked in the top 10?

Bohls: It's tempting to say No. 10 Texas A&M, especially after two of its best players just opted out and Kellen Mond still has to prove himself. But I'll go with No. 8 Auburn because I've never been a big fan of quarterback Bo Nix and the Tigers lost a ton on both lines, including defensive tackle monster Derrick Brown.

Golden: No. 6 LSU. The voters are assuming the Bayou Bengals will reload after losing 14 players — including Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow — to the NFL. The Tigers will have a good season, but don't expect them to be in the CFP when it's all said and done.

6. Is Kentucky for real in the SEC?

Bohls: Define "for real." I give Mark Stoops huge props. He's already third all-time in victories at a basketball school with a 44-44 record. He's breaking in a new quarterback, however, and picked up Alabama in the new scheduling, but could have college football's best offensive line and terrific linebacker "Boogie" Watson as an elite pass-rusher.

Golden: Not yet. Stoops has turned things around, but not to the point where the Wildcats are going to be competing with Florida and Georgia for the SEC East title. I would put them fourth behind those two and Tennessee.

7. What do you expect from Mike Leach's Mississippi State team?

Bohls: See No. 2 above. It's my crazy Upset of the Week even though State is a 21-point underdog. Leach wins everywhere he goes. State has gone 1-2 in its last three trips to Baton Rouge with a win and a 3-point loss there. I think the Bulldogs go 7-3 and to a big bowl.

Golden: Much more offense. More passes and no more offensive tweets. The Bulldogs were held to 13 or fewer points in three games last season, but Leach's Air Raid will be a problem for at least this season until SEC defenses catch on.

8. What do you do if you're Dana Holgorsen?

Bohls: Go to law school? Sell insurance? The Houston coach has "lost" five games canceled by the coronavirus and was miffed when Baylor canceled because it reportedly had too few offensive linemen, including one who had been suspended, with seven being the minimum criteria. Maybe we should enact a Dana Holgorsen Award for the wackiest development in 2020. Here's hoping the Cougars at least play a game or two this fall.

Golden: Vegas? Hawaii? There isn't a whole lot of football going on in H-Town, but it isn't from a lack of trying. All he can do is have his guys ready to play whenever that happens. Last I checked, there were 20 cancellations since Aug. 26 and counting. Expect many more.

9. Can Kansas knock off Baylor?

Bohls: No, it cannot. The Bears may have the Big 12's fewest returning starters (nine), but they also have a senior quarterback in Charlie Brewer, four offensive linemen, the league's best linebacker in Terrell Bernard, two grad transfers from Iowa and Arkansas State to help on defense and a lot of pent-up energy, especially considering Dave Aranda has had three games canceled and has yet to make his head coaching debut.

Golden: Of course the Jayhawks can beat Baylor. I'm taking Kansas. Bill Self is a terrific coach who always recruits well, and while Scott Drew has a talented team — oh, wait, that was a football question? Then, heck no. Baylor by three touchdowns.

10.Who does a better job in commercials, Saban or Belichick?

Bohls: Bill Belichick wins in a landslide with his typical deadpan delivery. I just wish his sandwich commercial showed the Pats coach in his trademark, ratty sweatshirt to make it even more authentic. Saban looks as stiff as a cardboard cutout.

Golden: If we're being honest here, I prefer Aunt Bonnie at the refrigerator from the Geico commercial. "Expired, expired, expired." Love her. But if you're asking me to choose, I'll take Bells working at Subway because he just seems more real than Saint Nick reading from a cue card with vest-wearing insurance-selling goose.

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