Star-Telegram writers Jimmy Burch and Carlos Mendez sound off on the week’s biggest issues in a weekly video at star-telegram.com.
During the off-season, TCU overhauled its offense but lost an impact defender in DE Devonte Fields. Have the Horned Frogs improved enough to make it back to a bowl game this season?
Jimmy: Yes, they have. But there is little room for error. In the Big 12, a 6-6 record will carry you to the postseason. TCU can hit that mark but probably can’t climb much higher.
Carlos: For sure. They weren’t far away last year, and it’s not that hard to make a bowl. I think a winning record in the conference will be a bigger statement than a bowl.
Texas has a new coach. Baylor has a new stadium. Texas A&M has a new quarterback. Of those off-season tweaks, which will have the biggest impact on that team’s performance in 2014?
Jimmy: The quarterback switch at A&M will mean the most in terms of record. The Aggies averaged 10 wins per year with Johnny Manziel at quarterback and they’ll be hard-pressed to get past seven or eight this season, with the schedule they face. Texas (8-5) and Baylor (11-2) should have comparable records to last season when this year ends.
Carlos: The quarterback always means the most. I think Kenny Hill’s going to be really good. The kid is savvy and talented. At Texas, Charlie Strong will be a difference-maker, too, but not much in record this year. And Baylor? Doesn’t matter what they’re playing in.
North Texas opens with a chance to make a national statement in a game at Texas. What will the Mean Green have to say in Austin as three-touchdown underdogs?
Jimmy: I think they’ll give Texas a huge scare. UNT is well-coached, scrappy and coming off a 9-4 season. I expect this to be anyone’s game in the third quarter, with the winner decided by how well the Longhorns respond to their first taste of adversity under new coach Charlie Strong. I expect Texas to hang on, but fans should realize a comparable matchup unfolded in Mike Sherman’s 2008 debut as the Texas A&M coach (Arkansas State 18, A&M 14).
Carlos: Is this supposed to be close? I must be underestimating the Mean Green. My bad. Even with the thinner roster in Austin now, Texas is still better player-for-player across the board. But a sweat-it-out win would sure chip off some complacency.
Florida State, the defending national champion, opens Saturday at AT&T Stadium against Oklahoma State. The top-ranked Seminoles also hope to end their season in Arlington as participants in the first title game of the College Football Playoff era on Jan. 12, 2015. Will FSU or someone else hoist the new CFP championship trophy in JerryWorld?
Jimmy: I believe the Seminoles make it back to Arlington for the title game in January and I expect them to have a classic shootout with Oregon when they return. I’m not sure who wins that one, but it’s hard to say any team is better-equipped for a title run than Florida State.
Carlos: Well, we’re not psychics. But if we were, we would tell our customers FSU sure looks good to us. And we would advise keeping the quarterback out of trouble.