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Del Olaleye: The weekly college football update includes more trouble for the Big 10

Del Olaleye: The weekly college football update includes more trouble for the Big 10
Somehow, UT coach Tom Herman got dragged into the Big 10's mess. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The weekly look at all things college football:

Rough going in the Big Ten

The conference of Leaders and Legends has had a rough summer. If you’re not familiar with those two words in reference to the Big Ten, those were the pretentious names they used temporarily to name their divisions in football. Oddly enough those names didn’t go over well so now the Big Ten’s divisions are simply named East and West. Much appreciation to the Big Ten for figuring out that they are the only ones who think they are special.

The Zach Smith/Urban Meyer saga continues into its third week. Ohio State has a hatchet man in Jeff Snook attempting to discredit Brett McMurphy and throw University of Texas head coach and former Meyer assistant Tom Herman into the grease. Herman and his wife responded to the allegation by Snook that Herman alerted McMurphy to the drama involving Smith by denying any involvement. Herman did say his wife gave temporary financial help to Smith’s estranged ex-wife. Meanwhile Ohio State’s investigators will meet with Zach Smith as the campaign to protect Meyer at all cost continues.

The Buckeyes’ biggest rival is involved in something less serious but still could affect their season. Michigan is investigating whether their players sold exclusive Jordan brand shoes. Jim Harbaugh doesn’t expect anything to come of it as Michigan football has conducted its own investigation. Michigan hopes to not suffer the same fate as fellow Jordan brand school North Carolina which had multiple starters suspended for selling shoes, including their potential starting quarterback.

The Big Ten wasn’t done making news this week as Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin was put on leave after a not so complimentary ESPN report. The report state that Durkin was at the head of program with a toxic culture. This reports comes just months after the death of Maryland player Jordan McNair. McNair’s death certainly raised questions about the Maryland program and the subsequent report chronicled the levels of fear and intimidation that may have led to McNair’s death. Durkin’s strength and conditioning coach, Rick Court, considered one of the main culprits, was fired August 14th.

If there is one conference who just wants games to begin it has to the conference of of 14 members that calls itself the Big Ten.

QB battles to be decided

We’re entering the second week of training camp which means we’re one week closer to the greatest time of the year. While I can relax as my favorite team has named their starting QB other marquee programs are still using practices and scrimmages to make a decision.

LSU: The transfer of former Ohio State QB Joe Burrow was supposed to simplify the quarterback quandary for the Bayou Bengals. That isn’t the case as the team’s first scrimmage didn’t show Burrow separating from the quarterbacks who were on the roster last year. Burrow is one of four players who hope to start for LSU come September 2nd and LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron has alluded to possibly playing two QBs in the season opener.

Tennessee: The Vols have a new head coach in former Alabama, Florida State and Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt but the questions at quarterback remain the same. This is year two of trying to replace Josh Dobbs and Tennessee has Keller Cryst, a transfer from Stanford and returnee Jarret Guarantano vying for the job. Deciding on a QB is one of Pruitt’s biggest decisions early in his tenure and whoever wins the job doesn’t get a warm up game to start. The Volunteers face West Virginia in a neutral site game to begin the season.

Alabama: Tua vs Jalen. Easy. It will be Tua. Everyone knows it. It is just a matter of time. Let’s keep it moving.

 

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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