AGGIE OUTLOOK

How the next 2 games will make or break Texas A&M's season

How the next 2 games will make or break Texas A&M's season
Up next: The Aggies face Mississippi State. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
Jimbo Fisher on why he's encouraged by the play of Isaiah Spiller

Two weeks after the season seemed like it had come to an ugly end only in week two for the Aggies, they are right back in the thick of things. Now I already know what you’re thinking as you read that last sentence. As much as A&M fans would like to forget the Appalachian State loss, myself included, it's not going anywhere. Even though Texas A&M has defeated back-to-back top 15 nationally ranked opponents, the easy and well-deserved knock on this squad is, “they lost to App State”. An App State team that is a Hail Mary away from being only 2-2 might I add. However, these past two weeks for the Ags have shown that positive things can come from your biggest disappointments.

Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies had two options after that App State loss. One, admit that they just didn't have it this year in week two, settle for another 8-4 or worse year and try again next season. Or, take a long look in the mirror, realize some uncomfortable decisions had to be made and try to make a statement moving forward. I believe they chose option two because the Aggies have rattled off wins against #13 Miami and #10 Arkansas in back-to-back weeks. Now I’m willing to admit Miami probably didn’t deserve that ranking after falling to Middle Tennessee State. But the weight of that game was felt by all Aggies, especially Head Coach Jimbo Fisher.

This past week the Maroon and White were able to knock out a really good and really experienced Arkansas Razorback team. After starting slow and sloppy, which has unfortunately become a trend for this Texas A&M team, the Aggies found some rhythm on offense after an explosive Devon Achane 63-yard run. The defense was solid once again showing the bend don't break mentality, best exemplified when Chris Russell Jr. knocked the ball out of KJ Jefferson’s hands at the goal line. Tyreek Chappell and Demani Richardson then turned that fumble recovery into six points on a wacky scoop and score. The Hogs didn't go away quietly though, as they found themselves lining up for a game-winning field goal with 90 seconds left on the clock. What followed is what will forever be known by the Aggies as the “Oink Doink” as Texas A&M got their season back on track.

The next 2 games will make or break A&M’s season, however, as they will travel to Starkville for the first true road game of the year against Mississippi State. Then to Tuscaloosa to face off against Alabama for possibly the most anticipated SEC matchup of the season. If the Ags can somehow manage to go 2-0 in this stretch they will without a doubt find themselves back in the top 10 and in the playoff conversation once again. This Saturday's afternoon matchup with the Bulldogs will be the toughest test yet for Jimbo and his Aggies. Quarterback Will Rogers can sling it and the defense is very experienced throughout. Max Johnson has been solid for the Ags but hasn't lit up the stat sheet by any means, so it will be interesting to see if Mississippi State turns this into a shootout, or if A&M keep this a defensive battle like most of their games have been so far. My feeling is the Aggies have a breakout offensive performance and win this one 30-24, to set up a huge showdown with Alabama and Nick Saban in week six.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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