Star-Telegram writers Jimmy Burch and Stefan Stevenson sound off on the issues of the day in college football in our College Confidential segment. Visit star-telegram.com to see the video or find their stories. You can also follow them on Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch (Jimmy) or @FollowtheFrogs (Stefan):
What is your take on Johnny Manziel’s suspension?
Jimmy: It’s barely a wrist slap, but the evidence against Manziel ranged from sketchy to nonexistent (no paper trail to alleged payoffs). That made his denials easy to accept when he was the only one talking to NCAA investigators. A&M caught a break from an NCAA enforcement staff that didn’t want to explore how many other high-profile players with signed items on eBay may have benefited — directly or indirectly — from memorabilia brokers in recent seasons. By coming down too hard on Manziel, that can of worms would have opened.
Stefan: So did he only get paid half the cash? It’s another black mark on the NCAA in a recent string of them. I agree, the NCAA probably looked into that hole and was scared to go in.
Who wins Saturday’s season-opening showdown in AT&T Stadium between No. 20 TCU and No. 12 LSU?
Jimmy: LSU wins by less than a touchdown. The lack of standout DE Devonte Fields (suspension) in the Horned Frogs’ lineup, combined with the August departures of two other projected starters (LB Joel Hasley, LT Tayo Fabuluje), swings the needle to LSU.
Stefan: Fields’ absence is huge, but the other two losses won’t affect Saturday’s game. In fact, TCU might be better overall at linebacker. LSU will be sloppy, and the Frogs are good enough to make them pay. TCU in the mild upset, 27-24.
Which school heads into the season as the favorite to win the Big 12?
Jimmy: I’ll stick with my July prediction of Oklahoma State, but the season-ending loss of LT Devin Davis (knee) is a huge blow. Based on August observations, Texas and Baylor are undervalued in preseason polls.
Stefan: It’s going to be a cluster-clump of four or five teams with a shot to win it in late November. I think TCU shares the title with either Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Texas.
Season openers often produce surprising results. Any notable upsets on the horizon this week?
Jimmy: I like SMU to knock off Texas Tech. Opening on the road with a true freshman at quarterback will be a challenge for Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury. And the Mustangs have an under-the-radar weapon in RB Traylon Shead, a JC transfer who began his career at Texas.
Stefan: I like Jimmy’s pick. SMU is going to be solid this year. I’d also keep an eye on North Dakota State at Kansas State and Louisiana-Monroe at Oklahoma. I’m not calling for those upsets, but they could be close.