The Big 12 gets their nine-game conference schedule going this weekend

Big 12 Report: Proving time as conference play arrives

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Wins that matter

Kansas 48 Boston College 24

Kansas! YES! KANSAS! They ROCKED Boston College. 500 yards of offense with the majority of it coming on the ground. Their defense pitched a shutout in the second half. This is a huge turnaround for a team that lost to Coastal Carolina the week before. Les Miles might be in for a long haul to get Kansas where they want to go but he's on the right path with a win like this. It was the first Power 5 win on the road in over a decade for the Jayhawks. Awesome. They might add a few surprises to their win-loss record before 2019 is over.

Kansas State 31 Mississippi State 24

Crazy what happens when you hire a coach who lost six games in five years. Chris Klieman has Kansas State rolling putting up huge numbers against non-Power 5 opponents and securing a big win against an SEC foe on the road. I don't know what success is going to look like for Kansas State in 2019 but they're already on the right track to getting back into a bowl game. Heading to the Little Apple won't be an easy win this year.

West Virginia 44 North Carolina State 27

The Wolfpack won nine games last season and though they lost a lot they were favorites over a struggling West Virginia team. Well, Neal Brown and company smoked their ACC opponent just like Kansas did. Austin Kendall finally got going at quarterback and the defense played lights out in the second half. Again, going to West Virginia isn't going to be a cakewalk despite what the first two weeks may have displayed.

Studs of the week

WVU WR Sam James

Quite the breakout for the youngster. Nine catches led to 155 yards and the above score. He only had 70 yards or so coming into this game. He will be Austin Kendall's best friend going forward.

Kansas RB Khalil Herbert

How about 17 yards per carry? That's what Herbert did on Saturday. He was a monster and has been making the most of his opportunities all year sharing the rock with Pooka Williams. 187 yards total and a touchdown on the day for the senior.

OSU RB Chuba Hubbard

He has been here before. He will be here a bunch. This was as good as his week one performance, maybe better. 256 yards and three more scores. He's already matched his touchdown total from all of last season.

Must-watch game: Orange showdown

Oklahoma State at Texas

Texas got a little reprieve last weekend with Rice on their schedule but just two weeks after squaring off with the dynamic LSU offense another one comes to town. The last time the Longhorns beat the Cowboys was 2014. Oklahoma State held off Texas in 2018 and 2017 saw a low-scoring overtime win by Mike Gundy's crew when Texas QB Sam Ehlinger tried to throw it away and didn't get it away but into a defender's hand.

Texas has no margin for error in the hope for a chance at the playoff and very little room for a loss if they want to win the Big 12 as well. The Cowboys could make a statement

Who better ball?

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger

An interception to end the game in 2017. One of his more unimpressive performances last year. It is time for him to go nuts on a defense that is suspect.

Kansas RB Khalil Herbert and WVU WR Sam James

Both these guys were studs of the week and now their teams play each other so ball out again and help your team claw their way out of the Big 12 cellar.

Big 12 Rankings

1. Oklahoma

2. Oklahoma State

3. Texas

4. Baylor

5. TCU

6. Kansas State

7. Iowa State

8. West Virginia

9. Kansas

10. Texas Tech

Yes, my Texas Tech Red Raiders are at the bottom. Power 5 road loss and got dominated in it. Also, the starting quarterback is hurt. Rough times for the red and black.

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Jose Altuve is on a roll. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

And then there were six. Games left in the Astros’ regular season. Three vs. Tampa Bay then three vs. Philadelphia, all at Minute Maid Park. The first three are important for the Rays as they jockey for Wild Card positioning with the Blue Jays and Mariners. The second three games decide playoffs or no playoffs for the Phillies as they try to stave off the Brewers. The Astros have nothing to play for with regard to the standings but it’s still a fun finish to another fabulous season. 102-54! Matching or topping the franchise record of 107 regular season wins would be grand, but it’s not a goal they’re going to push the limits to achieve. There are a couple individual pursuits of note this final week. We’ll hit those then get to truly important stuff to be settled on before the Astros start their postseason October 11.

Crunching the numbers

Three weeks ago I wrote that Jose Altuve needed a tremendous finishing kick to get there, but that his first .300 batting average season since 2018 was within striking distance. He promptly went one for eight over his next two games, lengthening the odds against him. In 15 games since Altuve has sizzled, banging out 21 hits in 54 at bats for a .389 average. So with six games to go he’s at .297. If Altuve gets 20 more official at bats he needs eight hits.

Yordan Alvarez’s assorted maladies sure cause some indigestion. The knee history, the hands, and now an ankle roll. Yordan is still four RBI short of joining Kyle Tucker with 100+. They’d be the Astros first 100+ tandem since…just three years ago when Alex Bregman (112) and Yuli Gurriel (104) did it.

Setting the playoff rotation

The playoff schedule is stupid in spots, dictated by television. The Astros against To Be Determined in their best-of-five American League Division Series will have game one Tuesday October 11, then a day off before game two Thursday, then a day off before game three Saturday (same is true for Yankees vs. To Be Determined). That’s ridiculous, and gives longtime Astros fans Kevin Brown nightmares (see 1998 NLDS). Unless there’s a three game sweep, game four would be Sunday. Should the series go to a decisive fifth game, there is no off day between games four and five. This impacts starting pitcher planning. Obviously the Astros go Justin Verlander in game one and Framber Valdez in game two. Almost certainly Lance McCullers gets the ball in game three. Then (unless the series is a sweep) there is a decision to be made. First, with the two off days Verlander would be available on four days rest. Up 2-1 last year, after a rainout the Astros brought back McCullers on a shorter four days rest (game one was a night game, game four a day game) and Lance blew out his arm again. If up two games to one, pitching Verlander on “normal” four days rest to go for the kill would take him out of the American League Championship Series until game three, and that would be his only starting availability in the ALCS unless you’d foolishly bring him back on three days rest if there was a game seven. So, if up 2-1 the smarter play is to start Cristian Javier in game four which has Verlander ready to go in a do-or-die game five or if the Astros advance in four, game one of the American League Championship Series. If down 2-1 and you pitch Verlander, if there’s a game five it’s the guy you passed over in game four, or Framber on three days rest.

Yes, Javier in game four, over Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia because quite simply, Javier is better. Unless Verlander or Valdez gets knocked out early, committing Javier to a bullpen role where he’d throw two or three innings vs. the six or so you’d expect out of him as a starter doesn’t make sense, definitely not with the first round schedule. Presumably Urquidy or Garcia will be on the roster for long reliever duty (carrying both would be poor roster management). The Astros have the best bullpen in the Major Leagues. Getting cute and using Javier over Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero, or Ryan Pressly would be silly. Over Hector Neris or Bryan Abreu? Maybe. When Javier is vulnerable it’s walks and home runs that typically get him, so bringing him in in a tight seventh or eighth inning spot would be a dubious choice given the high caliber alternatives.

As for the roster, teams can change it round by round. Carrying 13 pitchers in a best-of-five with two scheduled off days is impractical. The Astros should carry Yainer Diaz or Korey Lee as a third catcher and David Hensley as an extra utility option. 12 pitchers: Verlander, Valdez, McCullers, Javier, Urquidy OR Garcia, Pressly, Montero, Stanek, Neris, Abreu, Will Smith, Hunter Brown OR Phil Maton.

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