The SportsDay writers roundtable is a chat between The Dallas Morning News’ college football writers: Chuck Carlton and Ben Baby. You can follow them on Twitter at @ChuckCarltonDMN and @BenBaby. The chat is moderated by assistant sports editor Scott Bell.
Scott Bell: It feels like just yesterday we were sitting down to discuss the start of the 2018 college football season. But it’s already time for an end-of-the-regular-season version of our SportsDay college football roundtable. With plenty of worthy options to start with, how about we start with the race for the Big 12 title game. What do you guys think our matchup will be next week?
Ben Baby: I’m going with a rematch of the Red River Rivalry (I think that’s what it’s supposed to be called these days). If Oklahoma and Texas take care of business this weekend, I’m expecting them to be at AT&T Stadium in a couple of weeks.
Bell: That’s a dream matchup for the Big 12/the folks at AT&T Stadium, I imagine. I’m not sure if it’s just a product of seeing Kansas put up 40 points against the OU defense last week or what, but it seems like public opinion on the Sooners seems to be shifting. I think basically everyone assumed they’d win the conference over the past 4-5 weeks but now they’re a coinflip to even make the title game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Will Grier and Co. take care of business at home against the Sooners on Friday night.
Baby: Oklahoma’s defense is very perplexing. The Sooners do have the offense to outscore everybody, but that’s a recipe for disaster if they ever run into a team that can find a way to stop them. If Oklahoma had a slightly better defense, it might have given Alabama a pretty good game in last year’s national championship. That’s an incredibly frustrating team to watch.
Oklahoma did fire defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, but the problem might be the offense scoring too quickly and leaving the defense on the field for too many snaps. If that’s the case, it’s something Lincoln Riley will need to fix.
Bell: In a vacuum, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with scoring quickly and getting the defense back on the field — if you’re getting 7 on offense, the worst case scenario is trading off a touchdown the other way and breaking even. There are times situationally where it would make sense for OU to slow it down, but I wouldn’t make that a full-scale change on offense. It will be interesting, though, if OU gets in a tight game late against either WVU or potentially in the Big 12 title game where it will make sense to slow it down and not go with tempo and that will be so foreign to the Sooner offense that they might not be able to execute it well.
Bell: I know we’re treating WVU-OU as the only matchup in question this weekend. Chuck, you’ll be in Kansas for the UT-Kansas game on Friday morning. Any chance the Jayhawks can shock the Longhorns for the second time in the David Beaty era?
Chuck Carlton: Sure. It would almost be appropriate given how this season and this decade has gone for Texas. You can hear the scratch of the record right now: “Texas is baaaaaac… Oh never mind.” Kansas will be incredibly fired up to send David Beaty off with a win and gave Oklahoma a game in Norman. Even if Sam Ehlinger plays (which I would guess) can Texas afford to run him on that injured shoulder? And what about the deep passing game? Remember, these Texas players haven’t been in a position with this much pressure since coming to college. So the unthinkable could happen. Again.
Carlton: That said, I’m still strongly leaning toward a Red River rematch at JerryWorld.
Baby: It’d be foolish not to. But Kansas hasn’t been terrible the last few weeks.
Carlton: And for those national folks, it’s JerryWorld, not Jerry’s World. Pet peeve.
Bell: It’s the Death Star. You’re both wrong.
Baby: Whoa! I’m very pro-Death Star.
Carlton: And appropriate given what seems to happen the Cowboys every year.
Bell: Indeed. Even though the two Friday Big 12 games are the only games that have direct implications for who will play at JerryWorld/Jerry’s World/The Death Star/AT&T Stadium, the rest of the Big 12 slate has some pretty big stakes, too. Four schools are playing for bowl eligibility, including Saturday morning’s big Baylor-Texas Tech game, where the winner goes bowling and the loser’s season is done.
Carlton: Maybe even more at stake. Much like the Texas game last season, is Kliff Kingsbury coaching for his job at Texas Tech? Or is that current four-game losing streak enough to convince Kirby Hocutt and the administration to make a change? Yes, injuries have been huge but folks on South Plains seem to be getting a little impatient with 5-6-7 wins a season. And if Matt Rhule gets Baylor to six wins and a bowl, does he become a hot name on the coaching carousel. He talked to the Colts last season after 1-11. How about now, especially with the NCAA investigation hanging over Baylor?
Carlton: Also, improbably, you have TCU going for a bowl bid with its third-string quarterback and third-string running back and a patchwork offensive line.
Baby: It’s been a wild year in the Big 12, which is a little refreshing given how boring this season’s felt. But that could just be me.
Bell: So where do you guys lean with the Texas Tech situation? Win and Kliff stays, lose and he’s gone? And if it’s the latter, what are some names Texas Tech fans should expect to hear in a search for a replacement?
Baby: I could see the Red Raiders firing Kingsbury after this season even though it appears he’s figured out how to build a defense in Lubbock and found the quarterback of the future. Half of Tech’s four-game losing streak has come without freshman Alan Bowman, who seems to have a really bright future (Kliff does know a thing or two about quarterbacks). But if he gets fired, North Texas’ Seth Littrell seems like a very natural fit at Tech. His first job was as an assistant there from 2005-08.
Carlton: I think it’s maybe 50-50 if Kingsbury beats Baylor and goes to a bowl, but that may be generous. Nobody really wants to fire Kingsbury. They like him, his connection to the school and what he represents. But fans are tired of mediocrity. You would think to hear names like UNT’s Seth Littrell, Troy’s Neal Brown, App State’s Scott Satterfield, etc. The question is could Tech go outside the box for a bigger name. What would Dana Holgorsen’s situation be if West Virginia loses to Oklahoma? Would Chad Morris consider bolting from Arkansas after one year? What about a Major Applewhite? Or Dino Babers?
Baby: Dana Holgorsen at Texas Tech could be really interesting. I feel like that type of scheme is required to give Tech a recruiting edge when trying to sell kids on going to Lubbock (prepares for angry Twitter mentions). And a big name isn’t necessarily a harbinger of future success. We all know how Tommy Tuberville worked out.
Bell: I was surprised to see Holgorsen’s name floated around as a possibility in Boulder. But I guess when you consider West Virginia will be losing Will Grier, David Sills, Gary Jennings and some other weapons this offseason, maybe it’s a smart time for him to be looking to go elsewhere while his stock may be higher than it will be over the next few seasons, presumably.
Carlton: Plus, Holgorsen has had an uneasy relationship with his bosses at West Virginia. And after Kansas went big for Les Miles, Tech might feel the need for a name hire.
Bell: This year’s offseason coaching carousel may not be as active as last year’s, but it might be even more intriguing — at least in terms of uncertainty.
Carlton: Here’s one more on the coaching carousel before we depart: Does Lincoln Riley head for the NFL and open up Oklahoma? And what if OU and USC are each open?
Bell: Can’t imagine USC pulls in any coach with local relevance here. That seems like a lock to bring in an NFL retread — a Del Rio or a Fisher, perhaps? OU would be fascinating, though.
Baby: Great question. I wonder if NFL teams watched that insane Chiefs-Rams game on Monday night and envisioned that’s what their franchise should look like. If so, I imagine someone will try to poach Riley.
Carlton: Here’s a possibility: Riley to the NFL, Urban Meyer steps down and both schools go after Matt Campbell.
Carlton: And regarding Tech, the most prosperous thing I’ll type today, how about a certain coach at Washington State making a return trip to Lubbock? Could be billed as the All is Forgiven Tour.
Baby: Those are some fun hypotheticals. It’s crazy to think that we might go from a very ho-hum silly season to a crazy offseason with some high-profile vacancies.
Baby: But The Pirate ain’t coming back to Lubbock. He still wants money from the last time he was there.
Bell: If Campbell gets lured away, it’s going to take a big-boy school to do it. That buyout grew last offseason. But so did Campbell’s appeal this season. Replicating his success this season and showing 2017 wasn’t a fluke was a great look for Campbell, and if he can build a winner in Ames, just imagine what he could do with resources at a place like Oklahoma or Ohio State (though I think Ryan Day will be the guy in Columbus if Urban Meyer calls it quits this offseason).
Carlton: Urban Meyer did not look healthy on the sidelines at Maryland, BTW.
Bell: I’ll plead the fifth on this one.
Baby: I’m sure being mocked for how he handled Zach Smith over the years and questions surrounding his character haven’t been good for his health.
Bell: As much as I’d love to talk more about Ohio State, let’s wrap up this week’s roundtable by getting some predictions on file. First — how does Jimbo Fisher do in his first “rivalry” matchup for the Aggies against LSU?
Baby: That’s right. It’s time for the biggest rivalry on A&M’s schedule –f̶i̶n̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶m̶e̶a̶n̶i̶n̶g̶f̶u̶l̶ ̶v̶i̶c̶t̶o̶r̶i̶e̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶N̶o̶v̶e̶m̶b̶e̶r̶ LSU.
Carlton: LSU is playing for a New Year’s Six bowl and has talent. I don’t like the matchup for A&M. Give me LSU. Although Texas A&M finishing 8-4 under Jimbo would be an interesting twist.
Baby: A&M is the favorite, which is a testament to what Fisher’s done in his first year. But it looks like a bad matchup for A&M. LSU’s offense is terrible, but Joe Burrow is good enough to find success against A&M’s secondary. LSU’s defense, primarily a stout secondary, is why the Tigers have won so many games despite a rough offense.
Baby: I’m torn because I picked A&M to go 8-4 at the beginning of the year. But I’m taking LSU.
Bell: I’ll take Texas A&M, but only because I’m not a huge Texas A&M hater like both of you guys.
Baby: Are you sure you don’t want to talk about Ohio State playing TTUN? Could be fun.
Bell: I will pass, but I appreciate the offer.
Bell: And finally, gun to your heads, we’ve got four local schools playing for bowl eligibility this weekend. How many of these four end up going bowling: Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU and SMU.
Baby: Well, we know of them has to since Baylor and Tech are playing each other. I’m taking Baylor and SMU.
Carlton: I’ll go with Tech and SMU, and figure that TCU will come up just short against Oklahoma State — which might be the best 6-5 team in the country right now.
Bell: Should be a fun weekend. Make sure to follow Chuck this weekend as he does double duty on Texas-KU and Tech-Baylor and Ben while he heads to College Station for the LSU-Texas A&M season finale. And then next Saturday we’ll all be out at AT&T Stadium for the Big 12 title game. If it’s the Red River Showdown v. 2.0 — buckle up.
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