SATURDAY COLLEGE RECAP

Saturday NCAA Football Recap: Houston appears deflated and Texas bounces back

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Texas punishes Rice with a blowout and Houston can't find its mojo. Here's a look at what happened in the Lone Star State and with LSU:

Washington State 31, Houston 24

In similar fashion to last week, Houston struck early, but failed to secure the win in the second half. Houston's wonder kid quarterback, D'Eriq King has been a shell of himself since Dana Holgorsen took over the program. "I thought our kids played hard and gave ourselves a chance," Holgerson said of his team. "Just came up a little short." King threw for 128 yards passing and 94 yards rushing and two touchdowns to put Houston up 14-7 at the half. Unfortunately, the offensive momentum from the first half did not carry into the second, which was riddled with unforced turnovers and costly errors, contributing to Houston's loss. Houston struggled to move the ball in the second half, lost two fumbles and only scored once after halftime. King seemed to have scored on a 72-yard run late in the third quarter but it was stymied by a textbook holding call on sophomore receiver Jeremy Singleton. While WSU beat Houston 31-24 on Friday night, both teams had a combined 209 yards of penalties on Friday night, something they'll need to address before conference play begins next week. Aside from the sloppy second half, possibly the most frustrating part of this loss is Holgorsen's soft reaction to it. "We don't want moral victories or any of that ... we didn't play good enough to win," Holgorsen said. "Didn't make enough plays and the ball didn't bounce our way enough for us to come out of here with a win and that needs to happen next week." Senior WSU receiver Brandon Arconado finished with 308 yards on 23 receptions and a score to help WSU to victory. Anthony Gordon led WSU's charge over Houston, finishing 36-of-48 with 440 yards and three touchdowns. Houston opens AAC play at Tulane on Thursday.

Texas A&M 62, Lamar 3

Quarterback Kellen Mond did his part to help the 16th ranked Aggies to a lopsided win 62-3 win over Lamar on Saturday, throwing for 317 yards, a touchdown, and a scoring run. Sophomore running back Isiah Spiller ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns for the Aggies, ensuring there was no drop-off after taking over for Jashaun Corbin who sustained a season-ending hamstring injury last week. A&M coach Jimbo Fisher recognizes enormous growth in Spiller, despite the new featured back only playing in three games. "There's a lot put on him and the expectations for what he's doing," said Fisher. "He's having to fill some big shoes for us and what we lost and the way things are going. He's a very smart, talented young man and he's doing a really good job. Very mature for his age." Expect A&M to hold their poll position after taking care of business against an un-ranked opponent. A&M opens SEC play against No. 8 Auburn next Saturday.

LSU 65, Northwestern State 14

At first glance it appears No. 4 LSU easily handled Northwestern State but coach Ed Orgeron was forced to leave quarterback Joe Burrow in longer than planned after a more competitive first half from NWST than expected. Burrow capitalized on the highlight reel opportunity, completing 21 of 24 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns as LSU put away NWST 65-14 on Saturday. This is the second time Burrow has been subbed out early due to a lopsided score this season. The star quarterback is now 75-of-90 passing for 1,122 yards and 11 touchdowns in LSU's first three games. Look for LSU to remain within the top five based on the Tigers final margin of victory. LSU opens SEC play next Saturday against Vanderbilt.

Texas 48, Rice 13

Sam Ehlinger threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns, leading the 12th ranked Longhorns to an easy 48-13 rebound victory over Rice. The Longhorns started fast and clicked in every phase of the game after losing at home to LSU last week. "Any type of game where you win after a loss is huge," Ehlinger said. "For us to come out and play to our standard, continue to prove to ourselves that when we work really hard and play to our standard, it is hard for people to beat us is great." Keaontay Ingrahm rushed for 74 yards and two scored for Texas after being held to just 29 yards on 10 carries last week. Expect Texas to hold its position after a blowout win over Rice. Texas hosts Oklahoma next Saturday to open Big 12 play.

TCU 34, Purdue 13

The Horned Frogs boasted an unstoppable running game, racking up 346 rushing yards on 58 carries as TCU beat Purdue 34-13 on Saturday night. Darius Anderson was in peak form, rushing for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. "Darius is running better now than I've seen him since he was a sophomore," TCU coach Gary Patterson of the senior running back. TCU had 160 yards rushing on 28 attempts in the first half while Purdue was held to minus-1 on 12 attempts. The Horned Frogs host SMU on Saturday.

Arizona 28, Texas Tech 14

Arizona ran the ball right down the Red Raider's throat 13 straight times during a 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Gary Brightwell barreling into the end zone for his second touchdown, sealing the Wildcat's 28-14 win over Texas Tech Saturday night. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate threw for 185 yards, one touchdown, and carried it in for another score. Texas Tech opens its conference play at Oklahoma on 9/28.

Sam Houston 47, Texas State 17

The Mustangs bolted out of the gate against and never let up in SMU's 47-17 victory over Texas State on Saturday. Mustang quarterback Shane Buechele was 14-of-18 passing with two touchdowns on 219 yards. Texas State hosts Georgia State next Saturday night.

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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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