Here's a look at what happened in the Lone Star State and with LSU:

Saturday NCAA Football Recap: Houston finally snags a win; Baylor secures first Big 12 Championship spot

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Houston 24, Tulsa 14

Cornerback Damarion Williams gave the Cougars the lead for good with an interception return of 25 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Scoring was capped by a 94-yard kickoff return from Marquez Stevenson and Houston held off Tusla 24-14 on Saturday night. The Golden Hurricane out-gained Houston 380-231, however Houston committed one turnover compared to Tulsa's four. Houston finishes its season against Navy at home on Saturday.

LSU 56, Arkansas 20

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for a career-high 188 yards and three touchdowns, including a career-long 89-yard touchdown run, and the Tigers mopped Arkansas 56-20 on Saturday night. "I went in and it was like, `Get the yard, get out of bounds, shut it down for the rest of the game," said Edwards-Helaire, who has 15 rushing touchdowns this season. "But that hole parted like the Red Sea." Superstar quarterback Joe Burrow was sensational, passing for 327 yards and three touchdowns. The Heisman front-runner eclipsed 4,000 yards-passing for the season on a 50-yard touchdown toss to Ja'Marr Chase in the third quarter. Burrow also hit Chase with a 37-yarder on the Tiger's first possession of the game. LSU became the first team in SEC history to have a 4,000-yard passer (Burrow), two 1,000-yard receivers (Chase and Jefferson) and a 1,000-yard rusher Edwards-Helaire in the same season. LSU looks to close out its first undefeated regular season since 2011 when it hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.

Georgia 19, Texas A&M 13

The fourth-ranked Bulldogs managed only one touchdown against the overmatched Aggies but kicker Rodrigo Blankenship booted four field goals, leading Georgia to a lackluster 19-13 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday. Georgia only managed 260 total yards of offense but the defense put on a dominating performance until the final minutes of the game when fatigue set in. "No bones about it, we've got to improve," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "There were things tonight that we missed that were there. That's the frustrating part." Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm finished 11-of-23 for 163 yards. The Aggies will face their fifth Top 10 opponent this season when they travel to Baton Rouge to battle top-ranked LSU.

 Kansas State 30, Texas Tech 27

Joshua Youngblood returned the rock 100 yards for a touchdown and Kansas State held off the Red Raiders 30-27 on Saturday. Kansas State's Skylar Thompson threw for 246 yards, two touchdowns and added another score on the ground. Jett Duffey passed for 334 yards and two touchdowns for Texas Tech which fell short of bowl eligibility. "This loss solidifying the fact that we can't make a bowl game is really heart breaking, really devastating," Texas Tech's Adrian Frye said. Texas Tech will finish out its season at Texas on Friday.

Baylor 24, Texas 10

Two years after an 11-loss season in 2017, the Bears won their home finale 24-10 over Texas on Saturday to secure a spot in their first Big 12 championship game. "I'm just really proud of the process of our players," Baylor coach Matt Rhule said. "That's what my whole message to our players is. ... This didn't happen tonight. It happened every morning over the last two years, 6 a.m. wakeup calls, 5 a.m. wakeup calls." Quarterback Charlie Brewer completed 16-of-25 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown for the Bears. He also added a score on the ground and 75 rushing yards on 18 carries. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger finished 22-of-37 passing for 200 yards and was sacked five times. The Longhorns have lost five games for the eighth time in 10 years. Texas hosts Texas Tech on Friday and Baylor plays its regular-season finale at Kansas of Saturday.

 Oklahoma 28, TCU 24

Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts threw touchdowns and ran for another two scores and No. 9 Oklahoma held off TCU 28-24 on Saturday night. Hurts connected on 11-of-21 passes, threw an interception that led to a touchdown and lost a fumble in the red zone. "Regardless of the fumble or the pick six or whatever mess-up I may have had today, we found a way," he said. It was an uncharacteristically mediocre game for the senior quarterback. Hurts rushed for 173 yards on 28 carries and passed for 145 yards. "One of the first games where he just missed a few throws down the field that could have really busted the thing open," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. "And they were all just long by just a tad bit. So he was just a little bit off on some of the deep balls." TCU quarterback Max Duggan rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown for the Horned Frogs. Kennedy Brooks added 149 yards for the Sooners and CeeDee Lamb caught his 32nd career touchdown pass to move into second place on Oklahoma's career list. TCU hosts West Virginia next week.

Appalachian State 35, Texas State 13

Tailback Darrynton Evans ran for 154 yards and three second-half touchdowns, leading the No. 24 Appalachian State to a 35-13 victory over Texas State on Saturday. Quarterback Tyler Vitt threw for 154 yards and a touchdown for the Bobcats.

 Rice 20, North Texas 14

Charlie Booker and Aston Walter had touchdown runs in the first half, leading Rice to their second victory of the season. The Mean Green failed to capitalize on forced turnovers and The Owls beat North Texas 20-14 on Saturday.

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The Astros will have some new rules to adjust to in 2023. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

If you are savvy enough to read next week’s column, you will be doing so with spring training underway in Florida and Arizona. Hip, hip, hooray! Astros pitchers and catchers have their first workout scheduled for next Thursday, with the full squad due early the following week ahead of games starting February 25. Spring training baseball is not meant to be exciting, but the major rules changes that will take effect this season will be in full effect in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, making spring games more interesting to follow.

The biggest change is the death of infield shifts. As reminder or to get up to speed, the first and second baseman must now always be aligned on the first base side of second while the shortstop and third baseman must both be on the third base side of second. Plus, all infielders must have both feet on the dirt of the infield.

There are legitimate points to be made as to why shifts should be allowed, and also why modifying the rules makes sense. I get the argument that if hitters can’t take advantage of an open side of the infield, shame on them. However, taking advantage of a shift is not as easy as it looks.

The best argument against shifts is that they clearly more penalized left-handed hitters. You think Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez will miss losing some hits on balls smashed on one hop 30 or 40 feet into the outfield only to have a second baseman make the play? If once every other week Tuck or Yordan picks up a hit that the shift would have taken away, over 500 at bats, that’s about a 25 point difference in batting average. Defenses couldn’t shift in the same fashion against right-handed hitters because unless the batter/runner has Martin Maldonado or Albert Pujols level (non)speed, throwing guys out at first from 30 or 40 feet out in left field is not viable.

Welcome the pitch clock. There will be griping from some pitchers and hitters. Suck it up buttercups! Adapt or die. In the minor leagues the pitch clock knocked off 20-25 minutes from the average game length. The average big league game should not take more than three hours. For darn sure a 3-1 or 4-2 game shouldn’t take more than three hours.

With no runners on base a pitcher has 15 seconds from when he gets the ball to start his motion, with runner(s) on base 20 seconds. Failure to comply is an automatic ball. It’s called the pitch clock but batters are on notice too. There is simply no need for batters to be stepping out of the batter’s box to contemplate the meaning of life every pitch or two. Batters not in the box and ready when the clock gets down to eight seconds get an automatic strike. There are several exceptions, such as a batter gets one timeout per plate appearance,

The bases themselves are 20 percent larger. Instead of 15 inches square they are now 18 inches square which serves a couple of purposes. There will be a bit more space for infielders to avoid baserunners at the bags. That’s sensible. We’ve all heard “Baseball is a game of inches.” Legendary General Manager Branch Rickey is credited with coining the phrase. Rickey is also the guy who brought Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues, and the guy who basically invented the farm system.

Anyway, back to game of inches. The larger bases shorten the distance between first and second, and second and third base, by four and a half inches. A massive change it is not, but a meaningful change it is. Think of the close calls on stolen base attempts, or a runner going from first to third on a single. It’s not mastering advanced calculus to get that a shorter distance between bases makes it easier to successfully get to the next one. Anything that increases the value of speed in the game is a good thing.

Base stealing will also be impacted by the new pickoff limitations rule. Say Jose Altuve leads off with a single. Up comes Jeremy Pena. The pitcher gets two “disengagements” during Pena’s at bat. Pickoff attempts and stepping off the rubber both count as “disengagement.” A third disengagement not resulting in a pickoff is an automatic balk. Does Altuve take a huge lead to draw pickoff throws knowing that after two non-pickoffs he gets a big advantage?

Might any unintended consequences result from the rules changes? Let’s find out.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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