CHARLIE PALLILO

Texas college football is in a state of disarray

Jimbo Fisher's first year looks a lot like the Aggies under Kevin Sumlin. Bob Levey/Getty Images

With the Texans enjoying their open week this could have been a weekend of major focus on college football in Texas. It is not. The Lone Star State is irrelevant to the national scene. That has been too true too often for almost a decade.

Texas A&M’s early season promise under Jimbo Fisher has faded, as did the Aggies themselves in fourth quarter curl up losses to fellow SEC also-rans Mississippi State and Auburn. Hiring Jimbo was a long term play for the Ags, but season one from the $75 million dollar man is a disappointment. Kevin Sumlin produced 5-4 records for a lot less money.

Just a couple of weeks ago Texas had risen to No. 6 in the country. The Longhorns were back! And in two snaps of the fingers they were gone again. Tom Herman made himself look ridiculous after UT’s back to back losses to Oklahoma State and West Virginia. If the Horns don’t beat Texas Tech in Lubbock Saturday they won’t even be in the Top 25 anymore, and Herman would clinch being two for two in producing unsatisfying seasons in Austin since his move from the University of Houston.

The Cougars are off a bad loss at SMU, basically ruining their major bowl hopes. The best program in Texas over recent years has been TCU. The Frogs have croaked their way to 4-5 this season. Texas Tech is Texas Tech. Rice may be the worst team in the entire FBS.

You can call it the Lone Star Sad State of college football.

Meanwhile the Texans sit quite happily at 6-3. Tennessee’s win Monday night at the Cowboys keeps the Titans viable, but they probably lose to the Patriots Sunday to fall to 4-5. Given their schedule the only way the Texans don’t win the AFC South is if they fade/collapse/choke. That would include losing at home to the Titans on the Monday night after Thanksgiving. Sunday’s Colts-Jaguars loser drops to 3-6 and can schedule an autopsy. The winner is 4-5 and would have a slim shot at beating out the Texans with a win in Houston mandatory.

Then there is America’s Team. What a punchline. I leave it to you to decide where the whole Make America Great Again thing stands, but making America’s Team Great Again? Pfffffffft. The Dallas Cowboys can spike television ratings and sell sponsorships and merchandise like no other, but on the field the Cowboys continue their near quarter century run of nothing. A likely loss at Philadelphia Sunday drops Dallas to 3-6, and makes Jerry Jones trading his 2019 first round draft pick for wide receiver Amari Cooper even more inane than it was at the time of the deal.

Reminder: since the Texans entered the NFL in 2002, they have never remotely approached elite franchise status. Playoff victories since the Texans started playing: Texans 3, Cowboys 2. Only the Texans have a legit shot to add to their number this season.

Disarmed

The expected bad news came down this week that Lance McCullers had Tommy John surgery and will not pitch again until 2020. It’s a bummer for Lance who loses out on millions of dollars, but for the Astros it’s far from devastating. Even before this outcome, counting on Lance for a full quality 2019 would have been stupid as he has yet to make it through a big league season healthy. McCullers’s stuff is electric, his competitive fire tremendous. But his results over the last two seasons have basically been average. The electric stuff should come back. Tommy John surgery and recovery are almost routine these days. The Astros can just look at what Nathan Eovaldi did to them (and to the Yankees and Dodgers) in the postseason. Eovaldi has had two Tommy John surgeries.

With Dallas Keuchel a near surefire departure via free agency and McCullers done for the next year, the Astros have spots to fill in the starting rotation, three if Charlie Morton isn’t back. Simply inking in Josh James for 150 quality innings would be silly, but the Astros don’t need Justin Verlander level results from him. Among James, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, and perhaps Framber Valdez the Astros have plentiful internal options. Perhaps Forrest Whitley gets back on track after his drug suspension and injury hindered 2018, and resumes the hoped for path for one of the very best pitching prospects in the game. If so, Whitley should debut with the Astros at some point in 2019.

Jeff Luhnow will almost certainly add at least one starter from the outside, perhaps a Morton type, meaning someone whose underlying data the Astros really like. Or perhaps the Alvin native Eovaldi considers defecting from the 2018 champs to the 2017 champs.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado may sign for more than 600 million guaranteed between them.  2. Jim Crane’s group bought the Astros for 610 mil. 3. Greatest mega-purchases: Bronze-Alaska from Russia for two cents per acre.  Silver-Louisiana Purchase from France Gold-Manhattan from Indians for $24 (even if apocryphal).


 

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Houston is falling down the rankings

Tigers pound Odorizzi, Astros with homers as Houston drops fourth in a row

The Astros have not looked great in their last four games. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After watching their hot start of 6-1 cool down to a 6-4 record with three straight losses, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, looking to do a better job at home against a beatable Tigers team.

Recent games' woes would continue, though, with Houston's pitching getting blasted by the opposing offense and their own bats primarily quiet.

Final Score: Tigers 8, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-5, tied for second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Matthew Boyd (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (0-1)

Astros score first, then Tigers unload on Odorizzi

Houston looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the second, with three singles in the first four batters of the inning, the third an RBI-single by Myles Straw to put the Astros in front 1-0. However, Matthew Boyd would limit the damage, getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

After two easy innings for Jake Odorizzi in his regular-season debut for his new team, he would allow a game-tying solo homer to Akil Baddoo, his fourth of the year, in the top of the third. Detroit struck again in the top of the fourth, getting a leadoff double to set up a two-run go-ahead home run to jump ahead 3-1.

They didn't stop there, getting another two-run bomb later in the same inning; a frame that would take Odorizzi 31 pitches to get only one out before Houston would bring in Bryan Abreu to get the last two outs. Odorizzi's final line in his debut: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 0 BB, 4 K, 80 P.


Detroit continues home run parade, Houston loses fourth in a row

Abreu would hope to do what Luis Garcia did the night before, eat up as many innings as possible after a poor outing from Houston's starter. The Tigers would get yet another two-run homer, though, in the top of the fifth, extending their lead to 7-1, with all seven runs coming over a three-inning span. For good measure, they'd knock one more out with two outs in the top of the ninth, making it 8-1.

As far as Houston at the plate, other than their string of hits to bring in a run earlier in the second, they were getting nothing done against Boyd, who would go six and two-thirds innings. Detroit's bullpen would finish things off, despite an all-too-late sac fly by the Astros in the bottom of the ninth, with Houston dropping their fourth-straight game and continuing to lose ground in the division.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set with Detroit will be an hour earlier on Wednesday, getting underway at 6:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will try to maintain his perfect record and improve upon his two five-inning one-run starts for the Astros, going opposite of Michael Fulmer (0-0, 2.57 ERA) for the Tigers.

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