RANKING THE TEXAS DIVISION 1 SCHOOLS

SMU rises as Texas A&M falls this week

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Born with a comic book in one hand and a remote control in the other, Cory DLG is the talent of Conroe's very own Nerd Thug Radio and Sports. Check out the podcast replay of the FM radio show at www.nerdthugradio.com!

12.  RICE

This week was the first signs of life Rice has shown all season. They played Baylor close and they gave them a hard time. It's the first time all season we've felt like Rice had any intention of playing good football and that was a nice thing to see. Now if only they could win a game.

11. UTSA

So last week I said the game against North Texas would go a long way for UTSA determining what kind of season they wanted to have and they lost big time. This is a team looking for a way to throw in the towel and get off the field. They don't want to be here which is good because they're off this week.

10. TEXAS STATE

Texas State got a win and they play another winnable game this week against Nicholls. The true test of teams that want to be good is how they handle the games they are supposed to win. How do they prepare? How do they play and will they execute when they are expected to win. This is Texas State's opportunity to find out what kind of team they are.

9. UTEP

A rough home loss to Nevada and now having to travel to Southern Mississippi doesn't bode well for UTEP. This is a program in trouble and there's no real chance of saving it this week I think, this is going to hurt but there's nothing else they can do.

8. NORTH TEXAS

North Texas is a team going the wrong way. SMU has left the bottom half of the rankings behind and that all started with a good win against North Texas. Now Houston has come to town and if there was ever a time to turn the table, this is it. North Texas has a season to save and a game to win.

7.  TEXAS TECH

Coming off the bye and facing Oklahoma is a tough task; Oklahoma has been having a great season and this isn't a game that Tech will come out of feeling good. It's basically a given they're going to lose, it's how they approach this game and how they execute that will set the tone for this season.

6. HOUSTON

Can this season get any weirder for Houston? Now their quarterback has opted to redshirt himself rather than finish the season? What is going on in U of H? Well they have to go on the road to North Texas and while they should win, it's hard to think they will considering how much turmoil is surrounding the program currently.

5. TCU

They've lost to SMU and that can be a crushing loss. They're expected to bounce back against Kansas and are projected to win by a lot but it's hard to think that they will. I think it's going to be a close game and that if TCU wins it won't be by a lot.

4. SMU

So I honestly didn't think SMU would beat TCU, I thought they would play a close game but I didn't think they would win. They did, and they deserve this rise they're on. They're having a great season and if they keep it up they may finish the season ranked. Probably not high but ranked nonetheless.

3. TEXAS A&M

Did Texas A&M lose two games to two good opponents? Yes. Should they be higher up this list? If they had won one of them or at least looked good in the Clemson game, then maybe. Losing hurts no matter who you lose to and so A&M slides down the list.

2. BAYLOR

So much losing last week that even a mediocre win against Rice is great news. The lone bright spot on last weeks top end of the list, other than Texas, was Baylor's win against Rice. This is more about everyone else playing so bad and less about these guys playing great but hey number 2 is number 2 no matter how you get there.

1. TEXAS

Texas beat Oklahoma State, but close. It wasn't a great, clean win and while there's no doubt after this week that they are the best team in the state, they may not be as nationally dominant as they looked two weeks ago. Texas is off this week, so they can lick their wounds and watch everyone else play, confident in their spot at number 1.

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Mattress Mack and the Astros host Pearland Little League at Wednesday night's game. Photo by LittleLeague.org

Sure, it’s impressive that the Astros have made four World Series appearances in recent years, but they’re not alone. There’s another baseball team around here that’s also headed to its fourth World Series since 2010.

Pearland defeated Oklahoma, 9-4, on Tuesday to win the Southwest Regional and qualify for the Little League World Series starting Aug. 17 in South Williamsport, PA.

Most fans and media say the Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, but it’s South Williamsport, just a 5-minute stroll across a bridge over the Susquehanna River in north central Pennsylvania.

Pearland is on a torrid 13-game winning streak that swept through district, sectional, state and regional tournaments to earn the Little League World Series bid.

Here’s how difficult the road to the Little League World Series is. There are 15 teams in MLB’s American League. If the Astros finish with one of the two best records, they’ll have to win two playoff series to play in the World Series.

Little League is a little bigger than MLB. Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, with 2.5 million kids playing for 180,000 teams in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Pearland, representing East Texas, had to defeat All-Star teams from West Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado to win the Southwest Regional. The Little League World Series will host 20 teams - 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international regions.

If you have children that play Little League, or you’re just a fan, attending the Little League World Series should be high on your baseball bucket list.

I covered the Little League World Series in 2010 when Pearland made its first appearance and made it all the way to the U.S. championship game. It may have been my most fun assignment ever.

The Little League World Series is played by 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League’s major division. When ESPN and ABC air these games, they’ll present the players as innocent little kids, like Beaver and Wally or Tom and Huck. They’ll show the kids playing Simon Says with the Little League mascot called Dugout. They’ll ask the kids who’s their favorite big leaguer.

I was a Little League coach. I followed Little League All-Stars across Texas all the way to South Williamsport. These kids are absolute baseball maniacs with $400 gloves, $500 bats and Oakley sunglasses. I thought the Astros might call and ask where they got their super neat equipment.

Especially in Texas, these kids are built tough with long ball power and play year-round travel baseball with high-priced private coaches. This isn’t a choose-up game in the park where kids play in their school clothes, one kid brings a baseball and the players share bats. I looked at some of the Little Leaguers and wondered if they drove to the stadium.

I half-expected, when ABC asked who their baseball idol was, they’d answer “me!”

Here’s how seriously good these kids can play the game. Justin Verlander throws a 97-mph fastball. That’s pretty fast. It’s not rare anymore for a Little League pitcher to reach 70-mph on a fastball. The Little League mound is 46 feet from home plate. A 70-mph pitch in Little League gets to home plate in the same time as a 91-mph pitch from 60 feet 6 inches in MLB.

In 2015, a pitcher named Alex Edmonson fired an 83-mph heater at the Little League World Series. The reaction time a Little League batter had against Alex’s pitch was equal to a Major Leaguer trying to hit a 108-mph fastball. Good luck with that. Alex pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in six innings at the Little League World Series. Now 20, Alex is a relief pitcher for Clemson.

The Little League World Series is a trip. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Philadelphia and drive to South Williamsport. I sat next to CC Sebathia’s mother on the plane.

Admission to all Little League World Series games is free and snack bar prices are reasonable. A hot dog is $3. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited.

The first Little League World Series was held in 1947. Only 58 players have played in the Little League World Series and later played in MLB. The most famous are Cody Bellinger and Jason Varitek. Only two players from the Houston area made the leap: Brady Rodgers and Randal Grichuk both played on the 2003 team from Richmond, about 30 miles from Houston in Fort Bend County.

While you’re in South Williamsport, you should visit the Little League museum and Hall of Excellence. Among the inductees: Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale, Rob Manfred and someone who’d later play stadiums in a different way, Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of Springsteen, I shattered a record at the 2010 Little League World Series. The record was Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. I was talking to a Little League executive while teams were warming up on the field. Born in the U.S.A. came over the stadium loudspeakers.

I told the executive, I’m a big fan but maybe this isn’t the best song you should be playing. The executive asked why not? Well, you might want to listen to the words. Born in the U.S.A. is a depressing song about a U.S. soldier who is sent to Vietnam and can’t find a job when he gets back home. It’s not exactly Yankee Doodle Dandy. You have teams from Asia here (Japan won the tournament that year). The executive said, please tell me you’re kidding. Here’s one verse:

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the (what is considered a slur for Asians).

Later I got an email from the president of Little League International.

“Quite honestly, I've never listened closely to the words of Born in the USA. I see clearly how it is offensive to our Little League friends from Asian nations. I have directed our folks who coordinate the stadium music to discontinue playing it in the future.”

Play Centerfield by John Fogerty instead. The message of that song is, “put me in coach.” Little League couldn’t say it any better.

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