The Pallilog

On Texans-Colts, college football in Texas and more

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Texans winning the AFC South at 11-5 has already certified 2018 as a good season. But they have to beat the Colts for the season to be considered any better than good. The division title rings hollow if the Texans lose at home to the Colts for the second time in less than a month.

Both teams rose from the near-NFL dead to get here. The Texans going 11-2 after their 0-3 start, the Colts an even more amazing 9-1 finish to climb from a 1-5 ditch. The Colts appear to be the slightly better and more balanced team right now, but it's the same team that lost 6-0 at Jacksonville the week before winning at NRG Stadium.

Within one game past performance, trends, and any other data can mean absolutely nothing. The Texans sure hope so on this: Deshaun Watson was the most sacked (62 times) quarterback in the NFL this season, and also the most sacked per pass attempt among full-time starters. Andrew Luck threw 134 more passes than Watson this season, and was sacked just 18 times. The Texans did sack Luck four times in the first meeting, but the Colts were minus injured left tackle Anthony Castonzo and Luck did throw for 464 yards and four touchdowns.

Luck should edge out J.J. Watt for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Both have had marvelous return seasons, but Luck is more critical to his team's success. He lit up the Texans' secondary to the extent that if his two games vs. the Texans were extrapolated over a 16 game schedule Luck and not Patrick Mahomes would be the rightful Most Valuable Player winner. Unless Watt or Jadeveon Clowney has a superstar level game there's not much reason to believe Luck won't be prolific again, unless Texans Destroyer T.Y. Hilton is significantly hindered by his gimpy ankle.

For the Texans, Keke Coutee could be a serious wild card. Coutee's seemingly porcelain hamstring is cleared to play, will it hold up in his first game since November? Coutee could make some hay working underneath as the Colts' defense rightfully focuses on DeAndre Hopkins. In last month's loss to the Colts Hopkins posted a season low 36 receiving yards on just four catches. Remember, in the game at Indy Coutee debuted with 11 receptions. If the Texans' running game remains as inept as it's been the past four weeks, someone other than Watson or Hopkins needs to produce.

Bowled over

Other than the playoff semifinal games, other than for preening purposes and coach bonuses, college football bowl results mean very little. Teams play for the first time in several weeks, motivation levels vary, and increasing numbers of players are opting to skip the bowl game and the injury risk that comes with playing,

That said, for the two flagship college programs in Texas the needles are pointing up in 2019. Though Darrell Royal is spinning in his grave if Longhorns consider a 10-4 season means "We're baaaaack!"

While the Horns took it to fifth ranked Georgia, the Aggies blew out an overmatched North Carolina State team. So when the final AP rankings come out after Monday's Alabama-Clemson championship game, for just the second time this millennium Texas and Texas A&M will both finish in the Top 25. 2012 is the only season before this one it's happened. How amazingly lame is that?

Jimbo Fisher's 9-4 debut season in Aggieland goes down as good but not better than that, and certainly not the results that will be deemed acceptable over the life of Fisher's 10 year $75 million dollar contract. Among the Aggies' road games in 2019: at Clemson, at Georgia, and at LSU. A&M must break through and win at least one of those (and not blow any home games) for Fisher to really have the program on the come.

Right now, Tom Herman's upcoming third season at UT in would have Texas favored in every game on its schedule. That includes LSU in Austin, and post-Kyler Murray Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl.

The undefeated

While UH football tries to buy status by lavishing Dana Holgorsen with a five year $20 million dollar deal, it's Cougar basketball doing the great things. 14-0 for Kelvin Sampson's squad heading into Sunday's home game vs. Penny Hardaway's Memphis Tigers before a test of a road stop at Temple on Wednesday. It's not the Final Four people dream of, but the Cougars are among the final four undefeated teams among the 353 who started the season in D1 college hoops (Michigan, Virginia, Nevada).

Buzzer Beaters

1. James Harden is on an utterly awesome offensive roll. Rules different, but Kobe Bryant was not this good. 2. 65 degrees and mostly sunny, so of course the Texans will have the roof closed. $50 million dollar boondoggle. 3. If exactly one Wild Card road team wins this weekend: Bronze-Chargers Silver-Seahawks Gold-Colts.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome