NCAA REWIND

Saturday NCAA football recap: The Stars at Night are dim and dark for Texas teams in Week 6

Joe Burrow is still amazing, Houston is a disorganized mess and Bad Baylor is undefeated. Here's a look at what happened in the Lone Star State and with LSU:

Cincinnati 38, Houston 23

What a disorganized (bleep) show this game was for Houston. Cincinnati took an early lead and Perry Young's two-yard pick-six sealed a 38-23 road win over Houston on Saturday. Houston coach Dana Holgorsen was playing an odd game of quarterback musical chairs in which he waited until a QB got going before replacing them with someone else. Clayton Tune, Bryson Smith and Logan Holgorsen all got playing time in Houston's quarterback audition on Saturday. "Came up short," Holgorsen said. "We had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. A couple of bad calls I thought prevented us from being able to get the ball back and go score. It is what it is, you have to deal with it." Sure, there were a few questionable calls, but teams overcome bad calls all the time. What are we going to do about your brutally disorganized game management? The Cougars committed five turnovers at home and Tune threw three interceptions after not practicing for two weeks, which is particularly interesting considering Holgorsen's incessant preaching about not playing if you don't practice. Tune finished 9-of-27 for 184 yards and two touchdowns. The Cougars are on the road against UConn on Oct. 19.

Oklahoma 34, Texas 27

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts zipped through the Texas defense, overcoming early mistakes to lead the sixth-ranked Sooners to a 34-27 victory over the Longhorns in the Red River Showdown on Saturday. "We knew how good they were," Texas coach Tom Herman said. "We knew that their defense had improved, and we certainly saw the things that they were doing offensively." Let's face it: the Longhorns were outmatched. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger was sacked nine times, the Sooners never trailed their Red River Rivals and the No. 11 Longhorns gave up 511 yards. Hurts found receiver CeeDee Lamb for three touchdown passes on 10 receptions for 171 yards. Hurts threw for 235 yards and added 131 more rushing, including a 3-yard touchdown run for a 34-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Despite being sacked nine times, Ehlinger did not shy away from his run game, scoring twice on the ground. "They did a really good job of swarming the football," Ehlinger said. "Obviously they recruit extremely well and have tremendously talented players. I feel like they just let them go make plays." Ehlinger finished 26-of-38 for 210 yards. Texas should not drop far after a competitive road showing against a top-10 opponent. The Longhorns face Kansas at home next Saturday.

Alabama 47, Texas A&M 28

Whew. This one was hard to watch. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is beyond good, he's more of an "inexorable force of nature." Tagovailoa threw four touchdowns and the No. 1 Crimson Tide rolled over Texas A&M 47-28 on Saturday. Alabama trailed briefly after A&M scored a touchdown on its first possession. Tagovailoa took over from there, leading four consecutive scoring drives, including three touchdown passes that came on third down. Tagovailoa spread the scoring around, hitting different receivers for each of his touchdown passes. "I feel I have a relationship with everyone, a good connection with everyone," Tagovailoa said. Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score. Texas A&M has lost its second game to a top-ranked opponent this season after falling to then-No.1 Clemson Sept. 7. "We have to push through it. Against good people, you can't almost get there. You got to be all the way, executing on every play," Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. The Aggies (3-3, 1-2) will likely fall out of the rankings and it could be a while before they return. Texas A&M travels to Mississippi on Oct. 19.

LSU 42, Florida 28

About how many more times are you guys going to let me get away with fangirling over LSU quarterback Joe Burrow? After the Tigers fell behind in the second half, Burrow threw for 293 yards and three unanswered touchdowns leading LSU to a dramatic 42-28 victory over No. 7 Florida on Saturday night. LSU totaled 511 yards against a Florida defense that leads the nation in interceptions and leads the SEC in sacks, without giving up a sack or committing a turnover. According to LSU coach Ed Orgeron, holding Florida's defense without a sack was "the biggest stat of the night." Burrow went 21-of-24, meaning he had the same number of touchdown passes as incompletions. "Once we protect the quarterback, I feel confident in us moving the football," Orgeron said. While LSU's offense was undeniably prolific against the best defense it's faced this season, the Tigers' defense left much to be desired for the third time against a major conference opponent. Expect LSU to move into the top four after No. 3 Georgia lost to South Carolina. The Tigers are on the road against Mississippi next week.

Baylor 33, Texas Tech 30

Somehow, Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer managed to keep the Big 12's longest winning streak alive and get the Bears a victory in their first game as a ranked team under coach Matt Rhule. Baylor running back JaMycal Hasty ran for the winning score in the second overtime, lifting the Bears to a 33-30 win over Texas Tech on Saturday. Brewer was 24-of-37 passing for 352 yards but threw his first three interceptions of the season. What his passing game lacked, Brewer made up for with his feet, scoring three touchdowns on the ground. "I just feel like that's when the quarterback has to be at his best, when the game's on the line," Brewer said. "I made my handful of mistakes earlier in the game. But as a quarterback you've just got to let it go and realize you've got a chance to win the game." Both teams gained more than 500 yards and three turnovers. Texas Tech quarterback Jett Duffey finished 31-of-42 passing for 362 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Baylor plays at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech faces Iowa State at home next Saturday.

UL Monroe 24, Texas State 14

Josh Johnson ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to help UL Monroe beat Texas State 24-14 on Thursday night. Texas State quarterback Tyler Vitt was intercepted late in the fourth quarter and the Warhawks ran out the clock to secure the win. The Bobcats are on the road against Arkansas State next Saturday.

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The Astros still have plenty of work to do. Composite image by Jack Brame.

As the Houston Astros continue to battle with the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets for the best record in the league overall, it's no question they deserve their spot in the top five of MLB's power rankings. They continue to maintain a double-digit lead over the Mariners in the AL West, with a strong chance that they'll lock up the division with plenty of time to spare in the regular season.

At 71-40, they only need to win 29 of the remaining 51 games to reach 100 wins, making it the fourth time in the last five full seasons to accomplish that feat. According to Fangraphs, they have a 100% chance to make the playoffs, a 34.6% chance to make it to the World Series, and a 15.7% chance (third-highest odds behind the Dodgers and Mets) to win it. Yet, even still, some of the team's recent losses are a reminder that there is no room to relax, or worse, slump, down the final stretch.

Don't let the schedule fool you

When looking at the schedule and mapping out how the Astros could get those 29 wins to reach triple digits, there are a lot of soft spots where the team should be able to string together plenty of wins. They have a combined 20 games remaining against the Rangers, A's, and Angels, whom they have gone a combined 24-13 against so far in 2022.

That didn't stop a surprising three-game sweep by Oakland against these Astros at the end of July, dropping those three, which paved the way towards a 7-8 record in their last fifteen games. When not facing division foes, the Astros have several series against teams that will be fighting for Wild Card Spots like the White Sox, Braves, Phillies, and surprisingly, the Orioles.

So while the overall strength of the schedule might not be that daunting, the last thing the Astros need heading into the playoffs, where momentum is paramount, is to have had the chance to power into October with over 100 wins but instead struggle to stay dominant.

Getting the batting order back in order

What has been interesting in the recent stretch of games is that the offense has mostly told the story of their games. On the pitching side, in the current 7-8 game stretch, Houston's pitching staff averaged 3.9 runs per game in losses and an even 2.0 runs in wins. The offense, meanwhile, has a much wider variance, with 2.25 runs scored on average in defeats and 6.57 runs in victories.

They lost by a combined 13 runs in the eight losses, with several one-run losses in that mix. In terms of run differential, in losses, they averaged losing by just 1.63 runs while winning by an average of 4.57 runs. What does all this mean? It means that when they've won, it's been on big nights by the offense, and when they've lost, it's been in games they could've won with a few more clutch hits.

Losing Michael Brantley to the IL since June 26th has undoubtedly hurt the lineup, no question. Still, after the trade deadline acquisitions of Trey Mancini and Christian Vazquez, you would hope the Astros will find ways to get back to a more consistent dominance at the plate than they have shown in the last couple of weeks.

Keep the arms fresh and in the zone

Speaking of the deals the Astros made at the deadline, one move that will probably prove influential as the playoffs near is their trade which sent Jake Odorizzi to Atlanta with lefty reliever Will Smith coming back. Once you get into the playoffs, you certainly don't need a plethora of starters, but having depth at the position in the grueling parts of the season has its perks.

Now, they will form a typical five-man rotation with Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Cristian Javier, and Jose Urquidy slotting in every five days, give or take with off days. The change may not be an issue as long as they can continue at their impressive pace, especially if they choose to bring Lance McCullers Jr. back into a starting role once he's ready to rejoin the team. But, they now find themselves with a small margin of safety should a starter miss any time.

That being said, with Verlander at the top of this rotation building his case for another Cy Young and Framber Valdez's league-leading 19 quality starts in 2022 behind him, it feels as though you are nearly guaranteed a strong start two of every five days. It also means you have a pretty potent 1-2 punch for the first two games of a postseason series, which has helped the Astros go deep into October in these recent years.

It's not even the middle of August, which, in all honesty, should make it too soon to be talking about the playoffs. However, with the Astros' dominant start and middle of the year, it remains essential that they don't let things spiral to the point of needing a reset button come October.

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