RANKING THE STATE

Texas Div. I Football Rankings: Houston's up, down season continues

UH Dana Holgorsen
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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

Remember how I was saying last week that if they won against UTSA they could essentially save this season? Well, we're on to Plan B which is I suppose is keep losing. I'm honestly not filled with much hope for this program as it's going currently. Six years removed from a division title and five years removed from their last bowl appearance, under Mike Bloomgren they are 2-18 and those two wins were not this season. Where's the light for this team? Where's the hope? Does Coach Bloomgren wear a ski mask when he gets his paychecks? Because he is robbing this program. They are in a bad conference and still somehow watching everyone else pull away. Anyway, Southern Mississippi comes to town and the beatings will continue until morale improves.

11. UTEP

Turns out the Miners were underdogs because they were going to lose. I mean, I think we all knew that but still, it bears stating, they lost. Their season isn't going much better than Rice's but they did beat the 2A Houston Baptist Huskies, giving them something Rice doesn't have, a win. They are both winless in conference play and at the bottom of the standings but hey, someone has to be and they seem happy to be there. Louisiana Tech is coming to town and all projections are that the losing will continue. The Dana Dimel rebuild is in year 2 and at some point there will be questions if even the program whisperer can save UTEP.

10. UTSA

UTSA took care of business against Rice and now get to sit back and watch most of the teams above them in the Conference play. If they're lucky they'll gain some ground on everyone while being off, if not well they get to play A&M next weekend, so good luck with that.

9. NORTH TEXAS

It's a good thing the team with the most words in their name wasn't spotted a touchdown or the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders would have won over the North Texas Mean Green. But in all seriousness North Texas won a close one and are rewarded with traveling to visit the Charlotte 49ers. While the 49ers do have a few wins to their credit, they are winless in conference and I don't think North Texas wants to be the first team to lose to them.

8. TEXAS STATE

Fresh off a loss to Monroe and a bye week to think about it, Texas State is now on the road to Arkansas State. They aren't favored and the predictions aren't pointing to a win but hey, you never know. This is a program that is still right in contention in the Sun Belt being only one win behind the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. If they can rally the troops and get a win this weekend, they stay right in the hunt for a shot at a conference title game and considering how rough the start of the season was, this is great news.

7. TEXAS TECH

I wonder if at the end of this season, Red Raider fans will look back at that Baylor game as their turning point. If the calls had gone their way they win (probably) and then everything is different. As it is, they lost to Iowa State and now are on the road at Kansas who just went toe to toe with The Longhorns and lost on a last second field goal. Now granted the Jayhawks have been up and down all year so it's tough to say which version comes to play this week but if it's the good version, does Texas Tech have enough to pull it out?

6. HOUSTON

Houston won but close. The Cougars now host SMU in a game that isn't likely to go as well for them as last week did. I've made it clear how I feel about this team, the internal turmoil and strife is a product of a Head Coach that is making unprecedented moves that have garnered criticism nation-wide. All that being said, they did win and you can't fault teams for winning. I think there's plenty wrong with this team including Head Coach Dana Holgorsen's son playing quarterback this week after asking a potential Heisman winner to sit after going 1-3 to start the year and also the Coach was caught on camera being completely inappropriate in how he talked about one of his student athletes. Let's see how even more adversity shapes the rest of the season for this program mired in controversy.

5. TCU

That loss to Kansas State may be the thunder before the storm. There is a very real chance this team doesn't win again the rest of the year and that isn't me being mean and I'm not sure they should even be mad about losing the next five with the Texas Tech game being the only one I think they have a good chance at winning. They play #15 Texas this week and then it's a murderer's row of a schedule with Oklahoma State, #14 Baylor, the aforementioned Texas Tech and #5 Oklahoma before finally hosting West Virginia to end this season. Times are tough in Fort Worth.

4. TEXAS A&M

A win has to feel good after the brutal season the Aggies have been having. They are favored in this contest as Mississippi State comes to town and now there's some real hope building in Kyle Field. The next three games actually look winnable with UTSA and South Carolina after Mississippi State before the season finishes off with Georgia and then the juggernaut that is LSU. Finishing 7-5, and getting a bowl opportunity, while technically one game worse than Fisher's first year with the program is still a great finish to such a hard schedule for this season.

3. SMU

They beat Temple, which they should have. They are looking good, ranked #16 in the country and playing really good football. They now make the short flight down from Dallas to Houston and visit the confusing Cougars. With projections pointing to a likely win, this is one of those "Don't screw it up" games that SMU has to learn to look out for. Playing as the favorite is very different than playing as the other team and that's a difference SMU may have trouble adjusting to.

2. BAYLOR

They pulled out a win but going into halftime this was a close game and Oklahoma State's defense looked like they had the Bear's number. But when the teams came back out onto the field for the second half it's like Baylor had switched jerseys with another team and suddenly they went from down 3 to up 4 by the end of the third quarter and they pulled away in the fourth. Maybe they just had some bad football in their system they needed to play through and they finally are over it, but they looked totally different in the second half of that game. Anyway, they get the week off to celebrate their success before hosting West Virginia on Halloween night.

1. TEXAS

Last week I said if Texas beats Kansas they get to feel better about themselves… That was based on the assumption they wouldn't need a last second field goal to beat them. I also said last week I thought it was clear they were the best team in Texas… That was also based on the assumption they take care of business. Now look, a win is a win and I do think they will finish the year ahead of A&M, SMU and Baylor but I'm less confident about that this week than I was last week, and they were coming off a loss last week. This week they go to Fort Worth and I ASSUME win going away.

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Have the Astros turned a corner? Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

After finishing up with the Guardians the Astros have a rather important series for early May with the Seattle Mariners heading to town for the weekend. While it’s still too early to be an absolute must-win series for the Astros, losing the series to drop seven or eight games off the division lead would make successfully defending their American League West title that much more unlikely.

Since their own stumble out of the gate to a 6-10 record the Mariners have been racking up series wins, including one this week over the Atlanta Braves. The M’s offense is largely Mmm Mmm Bad, but their pitching is sensational. In 18 games after the 6-10 start, the Mariners gave up five runs in a game once. In the other 17 games they only gave up four runs once. Over the 18 games their starting pitchers gave up 18 earned runs total with a 1.44 earned run average. That’s absurd. Coming into the season Seattle’s starting rotation was clearly better on paper than those of the Astros and Texas Rangers, and it has crystal clearly played out as such into the second month of the schedule.

While it’s natural to focus on and fret over one’s own team's woes when they are plentiful as they have been for the Astros, a reminder that not all grass is greener elsewhere. Alex Bregman has been awful so far. So has young Mariners’ superstar Julio Rodriguez. A meager four extra base hits over his first 30 games were all Julio produced down at the ballyard. That the Mariners are well ahead of the Astros with J-Rod significantly underperforming is good news for Seattle.

Caratini comes through!

So it turns out the Astros are allowed to have a Puerto Rican-born catcher who can hit a little bit. Victor Caratini’s pedigree is not that of a quality offensive player, but he has swung the bat well thus far in his limited playing time and provided the most exciting moment of the Astros’ season with his two-out two-run 10th inning game winning home run Tuesday night. I grant that one could certainly say “Hey! Ronel Blanco finishing off his no-hitter has been the most exciting moment.” I opt for the suddenness of Caratini’s blow turning near defeat into instant victory for a team that has been lousy overall to this point. Frittering away a game the Astros had led 8-3 would have been another blow. Instead, to the Victor belong the spoils.

Pudge Rodriguez is the greatest native Puerto Rican catcher, but he was no longer a good hitter when with the Astros for the majority of the 2009 season. Then there’s Martin Maldonado.

Maldonado’s hitting stats with the Astros look Mike Piazza-ian compared to what Jose Abreu was doing this season. Finally, mercifully for all, Abreu is off the roster as he accepts a stint at rookie-level ball in Florida to see if he can perform baseball-CPR on his swing and career. Until or unless he proves otherwise, Abreu is washed up and at some point the Astros will have to accept it and swallow whatever is left on his contract that runs through next season. For now Abreu makes over $120,000 per game to not be on the roster. At his level of performance, that’s a better deal than paying him that money to be on the roster.

Abreu’s seven hits in 71 at bats for an .099 batting average with a .269 OPS is a humiliating stat line. In 2018 George Springer went to sleep the night of June 13 batting .293 after going hitless in his last four at bats in a 13-5 Astros’ win over Oakland. At the time no one could have ever envisioned that Springer had started a deep, deep funk which would have him endure a nightmarish six for 78 stretch at the plate (.077 batting average). Springer then hit .293 the rest of the season.

Abreu’s exile opened the door for Joey Loperfido to begin his Major League career. Very cool for Loperfido to smack a two-run single in his first game. He also struck out twice. Loperfido will amass whiffs by the bushel, he had 37 strikeouts in 101 at bats at AAA Sugar Land. Still, if he can hit .225 with some walks mixed in (he drew 16 with the Space Cowboys) and deliver some of his obvious power (13 homers in 25 games for the ex-Skeeters) that’s an upgrade over Abreu/Jon Singleton, as well as over Jake Meyers and the awful showing Chas McCormick has posted so far. Frankly, it seems unwise that the Astros only had Loperfido play seven games at first base in the minors this year. If McCormick doesn’t pick it up soon and with Meyers displaying limited offensive upside, the next guy worth a call-up is outfielder Pedro Leon. In January 2021 the Astros gave Leon four million dollars to sign out of Cuba and called him a “rapid mover to the Major Leagues.” Well…

Over his first three minor league seasons Leon flashed tools but definitely underwhelmed. He has been substantially better so far this year. He turns 26 May 28. Just maybe the Astros offense could be the cause of fewer Ls with Loperfido at first and Leon in center field.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTube with the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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