RANKING THE STATE

Texas Div. I football rankings: A&M and UT have big tests this weekend

Texas Div. I football rankings: A&M and UT have big tests this weekend
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12.  RICE

As predicted, Rice took another loss and the lost season continues. It's tough to say where it all ends but on the plus side they're off this week. With just two wins in as many seasons under Bloomgren, Rice has trended steadily downward since the 2013 Conference USA Championship and things aren't looking good for the young head coach.

11.  UTEP

So I was saying nice things about these guys playing tough opponents but that they now had a chance to win against UTSA, but they didn't. They lost head to head to the team right below them in the ranking? That means they switched places. Don't worry Miners fans, basketball season is coming soon enough.

10.  UTSA

UTSA came out of the game victorious and that means they moved up one spot over UTEP, whom they beat. That's a cool feeling. This week though UAB comes to visit after beating Rice and they play good football, so this may be a short run of success but if it isn't, they're only one game (and a heads up loss to Baylor) out of the lead in their division.

9.  NORTH TEXAS

Hopefully rust gathered because these guys haven't been playing great and maybe they could use an excuse or at least a change in habits. They travel to Southern Mississippi and now we'll see what direction things are going in, when they lose they don't score more than 30 points, when they win they score over 40. So keep an eye on the scoreboard.

8.  TEXAS STATE

After two wins in a row and a week off to feel great about themselves Texas State is hosting UL Monroe, another team they can beat if they play well. Let's see if these guys have figured out what winning football looks like yet. UPDATE: They haven't and they lost.

7. TEXAS TECH

Tech turned in its biggest win of the year, beating Oklahoma State as a 10-point underdog. The Red Raiders get a chance to back that up with a win at unbeaten Baylor. Back to back wins from the underdog position would launch this program back into the low end of some of the ranking metrics and sets an opportunity for them to finish the season strong.

6. HOUSTON

Houston seems to be trying to settle things and right the ship, Cincinnati is a good program but this is a possibly winnable game for Houston. Let's see what they put together this weekend. Houston is currently a hard program to judge just because of all the turmoil that's swirled through the program this year, but winning and losing is ultimately the way we tell the story in football, so a win here helps to further settle things down.

5. TCU

TCU is off this week. That win against Kansas looks less and less worthwhile after completely dropping the ball against Iowa State, and for those who have been reading this with me weekly know that I think time off after a loss is the worst thing for a football team, so lets see how TCU handles it.

4.  SMU 

For the first time since the death penalty was laid on SMU over twenty years ago, the Mustang are ranked now. They squeaked out a dramatic win against Tulsa and are now off this week. The run they've been on is impressive and I'm not ready to bump them over Texas A&M, even though the nation has, because the Aggies are hosting Alabama this weekend but that might change next week.

3. TEXAS A&M

Well, this is really their last chance to stay in the top three. Let's see what happens this week, I mean I think they're going to lose, but maybe not.

2.  BAYLOR

They won while A&M was off, we'll see what happens this week. I think Baylor will win against Tech and A&M will lose and SMU is off this week, so more than likely there won't be much change here. In my opinion Baylor needs to keep winning to hold onto it's position in the rankings more than a program like A&M, considering there are zero quality opponents on the list of teams they've beaten so far.

1.  TEXAS

Well this is the big one, The Red River Rivalry. Jalen Hurts just made the grave mistake of downplaying the importance and size of this rivalry. This is the most dangerous game on Oklahoma's schedule, I think and the one game where they see it coming and may not be able to stop it. Here we go.

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How significant Astros spring training revelation highlights even more reasons for optimism

The Houston Astros had a very successful season in 2023 which led them back to the ALCS for the seventh-straight season, but despite another deep playoff run, their pitching did regress from the prior year.

While many would point to their historic bullpen in 2022 and say they had nowhere to go but down, that doesn't paint the full picture. It was the starting rotation that really fell off in 2023. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown, and Jose Urquidy all saw a spike in their ERAs from the previous season.

According to a recent report from The Athletic's Chandler Rome, we might have an explanation for Jose Urquidy's down year.

The Astros and Urquidy believe he was tipping his pitches. Which would explain why the slugging percentage against his fastball jumped from .482 in 2022 to .632 in 2023.

When hitters know a pitcher is tipping, they often start hunting fastballs. Also, his strikeout percentage went down last year and his walks went way up. He had 2 more walks per nine innings in 2023 than he had in 2021.

Part of that could be him aiming for corners and refusing to give in to hitters because his fastball wasn't performing up to expectations.

His WHIP in 2023 really jumped off the page as well. He finished with a WHIP over 1.4. While his career WHIP is 1.143. That's a huge difference.

Back to the big picture

Until last season, Urquidy never finished with an ERA over 3.95. He recorded a 5.29 ERA last year. So when we factor in his shoulder injury that cost him three months of the season, and the fact he was tipping pitches, we believe he's in store for a bounce-back season.

And the Astros are going to need him, especially with Justin Verlander and JP France possibly not being available for the start of the season.

What will the rotation look like early on?

The Astros haven't ruled Verlander out yet, so he could be ready to go. But if not, and we base this off what we saw last season. The rotation will likely include Valdez, Javier, Brown, Urquidy, Ronel Blanco, and Brandon Bielak.

Don't miss the video above for the full discussion!

Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) with Charlie Pallilo, Brandon Strange, and Josh Jordan every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.

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