FALCON POINTS

Out-of-nowhere Baylor-Houston football matchup gives fans an unexpected surprise

Photo via: UH Football/Facebook

The college football season is off and running with some fits and starts. The Covid-19 crisis has caused cancellations, postponements and difficulties of all kinds.

But one positive is the unexpected matchup we will get this weekend when Houston plays at Baylor.

Houston's Friday night opener against Memphis was postponed when multiple Memphis players tested positive. Baylor faced the same situation with Louisiana Tech. The result? Both schools worked out a deal to play on Saturday in a nationally televised game. It will be a good test for the Bears, who break in a new coach with Dave Aranda. And for UH, it will also be a test to see where Dana Holgorsen's program is in year No. 2 against a Power Five opponent.

The schools were rivals in the Southwest Conference, but have not played since 1995. They were also linked by Art Briles, who began his career at UH and then went to Baylor, where he brought unprecedented success on the field and shame off of it.

The Bears have a new coaching staff, with Matt Rhule bailing for the NFL after competing for the Big 12 title. Dave Aranda won a national championship as defensive coordinator at LSU last season, and he brings veteran OC Larry Fedora, an offensive mind who was head coach at both Southern Miss and North Carolina. It is Aranda's first head coaching job, so it is hard to say how the Bears will look, but you can expect them to be defense-oriented. The offense returns four starters on the offensive line, a group that struggled last season, and quarterback Charlie Brewer. Top receiving threat Denzel Mims is gone to the NFL, but the Bears still have talent.

Defensively, they lost nine starters off what was a stellar group, so Aranda and DC Ron Roberts have their work cut out for them. Roberts was DC at Louisiana last season.

The Cougars return a lot of solid talent on offense, and if Clayton Tune can take a step in Year 2 and throw fewer interceptions, the offense should be pretty good. Last season was one of the rare years when Holgorsen didn't have a solid offense. Their top five WRs from last season return, as does four of the five starters on the offensive line. They also bring back a solid 1-2 punch at running back in Kyle Porter and Mulbah Carr. The defense was a disaster last year, but they return 16 of 17 of their top tacklers, and mix in several transfers. The experience they got last season should make a big difference. Baylor is a seven-point favorite and the over/under is 60.

It's a fun, unexpected matchup. It's nice to see schools work together to make something like this happen, because in the RonaVerse, it will probably be an ongoing thing. It's rare to see a game come together one week out, but it makes sense for both teams.

It also gives the fans a nice surprise and something to look forward to this weekend.

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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.

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