THE NCAA REWIND

Saturday NCAA Football Recap: Baylor is still undefeated; LSU continues its quest for perfection in Week 8

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Maybe Bad Baylor isn't so bad after all. Here's a look at what happened in the Lone Star State and with LSU:

Houston 24, UConn 17

While my thoughts on the Cougars' coaching staff have not changed since last week, defensive back Grant Stuard further solidified my views that he is quite possibly the most disruptive player in college football. He's hungry and it shows. Stuard had 15 tackles, including a touchdown-saving effort to stop a 58-yard run by UConn's Kevin Mensah in the Cougars' 24-17 win over the Huskies on Saturday. While some credit the win to Houston coach Dana Holgorsen's son, Logan, I know the victory would not have been possible without Stuard. Dana Holgerson was caught on the sideline in the second quarter making a profanity-riddled comment about his players' inability to be coached which, to me, speaks volumes about his inability to communicate effectively with his team. "I say things all the time I don't mean," Holgorsen said. "In the heat of the battle, things on the sidelines, hot mics or cameras getting caught. My guys know good and well what I think of them, how hard I'd coach them and how much I think of them and how much I appreciate everything that they do." People who "appreciate" you show it. That's all I'm going to say about that. The Cougars return home to No. 19 SMU on Thursday night.

Texas 50, Kansas 48

Dicker. Kicker. On the brink of a massive upset by an unranked opponent, it was up to quarterback Sam Ehlinger and kicker Cameron Dicker to bring it home for the Longhorns. And they delivered. Ehlinger drove the Longhorns to the Jayhawks 21-yard line, putting Texas within field goal range with 1:11 left to play. Dicker kicked a 33-yarder as the clock expired to lift the Longhorns to a 50-48 victory, bringing an end to a fourth quarter scoring shootout that saw schools exchange six touchdowns, two field goals and a blocked extra point for a two-point safety. "I love kickers," said Herman, who makes a joke of not saying a kicker's name, and still didn't in his postgame news conference. "I'm glad that we have the one we have." Ehlinger finished with 399 yards passing, four touchdowns and added another 91 yards on the ground. "A win's a win," Ehlinger said. "Very thankful we were able to pull that out." Despite having the worst offense in the Big 12, the Jayhawks were explosive under recently promoted offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon. "I got guys that are fighting like hell to be a part of what we're doing here and Dearmon is one of them," Kansas coach Les Miles said. Despite the win, Texas could drop in the polls after nearly losing to the worst team in the Big 12. Texas is on the road against TCU next Saturday.

​Kansas State 24, TCU 17

It's been a long time coming for Kansas State. Junior quarterback Skylar Thompson threw two touchdowns that sparked a late game surge to top TCU 24-17 in Kansas State's first win on over a month and their first Big 12 win of the season. "Just the toughness and resolve because he got hit a lot and he always just kept coming back," Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said of Thompson. The Wildcats finished with only 266 yards in a game that felt like TCU should have won. "I mean, we practice what they do and then we react to whatever else they do," TCU cornerback Julius Lewis said. "We've got to keep working." TCU hosts Texas on Saturday.

Texas A&M 24, Mississippi 17

After trailing midway through the third quarter, Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike made two game-changing plays that elevated the Aggies to a 24-17 comeback victory over Ole' Miss in Saturday night. "I just tried to put myself in position to make big plays for my team," said Madubuike, who finished with five tackles, including a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry. "It's blocking a ball, sacking a quarterback and all those little things that helped us come out with a win." Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond was 16-of-28 for 172 yards passing and 76 yards rushing on 15 carries. The Aggies host rival Mississippi State on Saturday.

LSU 36, Mississippi State 13

Another week of college football brings about another opportunity for me to rave about the amazing Joe Burrow. The Starkville crowd got a glimpse of Burrow's backside after the star quarterback was pulled to the ground by his pants during his third sack of the game. "I heard there was supposed to be a full moon in Starkville tonight," Burrow joked. Burrow finished 25-of-34 with 327 yards passing and four touchdowns to break LSU's season record with 29 in the No. 2 Tigers' 36-13 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday. "It's a testament to him, the receivers, the offensive line, the coaches," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "But we're just getting started. Our team is not satisfied." We know, coach. You're never satisfied and that's probably why the Tigers are so gosh darned talented. In Burrow's postgame comments, the team leader made it clear he and Orgeron are of one mind in their relentless quest for perfection. "If we play like this next week (versus No. 11 Auburn), we'll lose," Burrow said. "I think we're going to have to execute much better in the red zone than we did this week, because I don't think we'll get as many chances." At a glance it's hard to find fault in the final score for LSU. The Tigers had 415 yards of offense and forced three turnovers against Mississippi State. However, LSU struggled to find a rhythm in the first half, having to settle for field goals on its first three drives. "We didn't play our best game today, but I knew this day was going to come, and I'm proud of our defense," Orgeron said. "Your offense is not going to play great, on fire every week." Mississippi State freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader threw for 238 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice by the Tigers. Expect LSU to hold its poll position after taking care of business on the road against an unranked opponent. LSU hosts No. 11 Auburn next week.

​Baylor 45, Oklahoma State 27

Somehow, some way, Bad Baylor has managed to go undefeated for seven-straight games this season. Don't worry, I'm just as shocked as you. Baylor was the four-point underdog going into Saturday's game against Oklahoma State and for the first three quarters, we learned why. Oklahoma State led at halftime, in the third quarter and in the fourth. Baylor responded with 21 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes to beat the cowboys 45-27 on Saturday. Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer completed 13-of-17 passes for 312 yards and one touchdown and ran for another score to extend the Bears' winning streak to nine games, the third longest in program history. "I thought we showed heart and I was very appreciative of our guys' effort," Baylor coach Matt Rhule said. "We knew eventually we were going to be OK. I think our team felt like, if we just hang in there, eventually we'll make enough plays to win. I thought everyone stepped up and it was a great team win. It wasn't perfect but they didn't panic." Bad Baylor will probably move up a few spots in the rankings but that's contingent upon how the teams ahead of them fare. Baylor is off next week and faces West Virginia at home on Oct. 31.

Iowa State 34, Texas Tech 24

Iowa State quarterback Brock Burdy threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns to rout Texas Tech 34-24 on Saturday. Freshman running back Breeve Hall ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cyclones to victory. Texas Tech plays at Kansas next Saturday.

UTSA 31, Rice 27

The Rice Owls fell to 0-7, losing at UTSA. This might have been the last chance for Rice to win a football game, as they went in favored.

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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