Star-Telegram writers Jimmy Burch and Travis L. Brown 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 @Travis_L_Brown (Travis):
No. 4 Baylor (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) has played its way into a season-defining game Saturday against No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1). Will the Bears win in Stillwater, Okla., and extend their hopes for a perfect season and a potential BCS national title?
Jimmy: History shows Baylor struggles in Stillwater, where the Bears are 0-9 in the Big 12 era. But these Bears have not struggled anywhere while moving into the BCS title mix. It’s really a 50-50 call, and I believe Baylor wins this game on a neutral field. But I’m going to go with my gut instinct from the preseason, when I wrote that the Big 12 was too balanced for any team to finish undefeated. So I’ll call for Oklahoma State to pull the upset in front of a rowdy home crowd.
Travis: When I pulled up Baylor’s game notes for this game, it showed OSU’s traditional white helmet squared off against Baylor’s traditional tanish-gold helmet with a green and white strip down the top. It was weird for me to see. That’s old Baylor. That’s the Baylor that is 0-9 in Stillwater. This is a completely different program with black helmets or shiny gold helmets. That old helmet was a program that had no defense. This Baylor has 12 interceptions this season and has only allowed 13 passing touchdowns. Throw on top of that Baylor is 13-1 in November and December since 2011 and I’m going with the Bears.
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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, is gaining steam in recent straw polls as a potential repeat recipient. No. 12 A&M (8-2) has two games left, starting Saturday at No. 22 LSU (7-3). What are the chances that Manziel makes the magic happen for a second consecutive season?
Jimmy: The odds are better than they were two weeks ago, but Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston remains the flavor of the month in the estimation of most college football analysts. No. 2 FSU (10-0) is undefeated and controls its destiny in the national title race, with no ranked opponents remaining on its schedule. As long as Winston posts decent numbers in those games, it will be difficult for Manziel to top him if the Seminoles are headed to play for a national title when votes are due. The wild card, of course, is how voters address the developing situation of Winston being implicated (no charges filed) in a sexual assault case in Tallahassee, Fla.
Travis: I agree. In the Twitterverse we live in today, Winston is trending and I don’t see him falling out of favor anytime soon should Florida State win out. However, it’s not completely over for Johnny Football. Should Winston falter in any of FSU’s remaining games, Manziel has the opportunity to post style points against two top 20 teams, including No. 8 Missouri to presumably close out his collegiate career (excluding bowl game). Lots of opportunity for “Heisman moments.”
Postseason matchups are starting to take shape in our Tarrant County bowl games, where Navy is headed to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth to meet a Mountain West opponent on Dec. 30. There will be a Big 12-SEC matchup in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 3 in Arlington. Which notable teams or players might local fans get a chance to watch in these games?
Jimmy: You might see the nation’s top two players in rushing touchdowns collide in Fort Worth. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (884 yards, 19 TDs) ranks second in rushing TDs and the Midshipmen could face Colorado State, where RB Kapri Bibbs leads the nation in rushing TDs (25) and is second in rushing yards (1,439). In the Cotton Bowl, lots of household names are possible. The Big 12 could send Oklahoma State or Baylor, depending on Saturday’s outcome, with South Carolina, Missouri and Auburn among the SEC candidates.
Travis: There could be the chance Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina come to town, so fans could hope for another hit of the year like Clowney laid down last season in his bowl game. However, I’d be the most excited about seeing Missouri come back to town in what most people from around here will see as a Big 12 vs. Big 12 matchup. They would most likely face Oklahoma State, maybe Baylor or possibly Oklahoma, but I’d sure like to see Texas make this game. Many view the Longhorns as the big bully that caused Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M to pick up their toys and leave the conference, so it could be a chance for sweet redemption for Missouri.
North Texas (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) controls its destiny in the C-USA title race heading into Saturday’s final home game of the season against UTSA (5-5, 4-2). Will the Mean Green still be in control of its destiny when it takes the field for its regular-season finale, Nov. 30 at Tulsa (2-8, 1-5)?
Jimmy: Yes. I think UNT gets it done Saturday in Denton, then knocks off Tulsa to earn the right to represent the West Division in the C-USA championship game on Dec. 7. North Texas WR/KR Brelan Chancellor is one of the nation’s most exciting and most underrated players. The senior from Copperas Cove averages 16.7 yards per catch (40 receptions, 667 yards, 4 TDs) and his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Georgia was one of the most memorable plays this season.
Travis: Like a baseball umpire wants to ring up a batter with two strikes, I want to call the upset here, really badly. But I just can’t. North Texas is a good team this year that has a chance to be only the second team in school history to have a perfect 6-0 record at home, alongside the 1966 team. That’s always quality motivation. However, the real stat that has me picking the Mean Green is the fact they are 13th in the nation in red zone efficiency, scoring 90 percent of the time it finds itself inside the opponent’s 20. On the converse, UTSA is 13th in the C-USA in red zone defense, allowing teams to score 91.4 percent of the time. UNT goes perfect at Apogee this year.