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 gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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