RANKING THE STATE

Texas Division I Football Rankings: Baylor makes Big 12 title game;  SMU and A&M lose

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. UTEP

I'm not going to pretend to understand what happened, but Rice won again and UTEP lost again and now there's been movement. There wasn't a huge likelihood that The Miners were supposed to be a great team this year but honestly they weren't so supposed to be this awful either. It's insane to me that either of these particular programs are this bad at this point but here we are. In a battle of the shrugs, Rice travels to El Paso.

11. RICE

Now before we start in on this, I know right away some people are going to say that Rice shouldn't still be behind UNT after just beating them straight up and I do agree with that in some ways. The reality is The Mean Green have just had a better overall season and while this loss hurts the story of this year pretty badly, it doesn't erase the whole year. So here's Rice over UTEP and traveling that way this week. I have been hard on this program all year because they've been losing, but here's there chance to actually finish ahead of where they did last year and to actually show growth and build on last year and start a positive trend for the program overall. All they have to do is win on the road against UTEP.

10. NORTH TEXAS

Wow, I did not see that coming. They lost to Rice? I literally just got done saying that coming off a loss and then a bye week the one team you would love to see coming up on your schedule is Rice. But in the ultimate example of momentum and coming off of a loss and then a bye week, The Mean Green came out and played flat against a team that was starting to play with a little confidence and the longer the game went and they had the lead, the more Rice believed they could win. Eventually Rice cracked open a window but there wasn't enough time left and The Mean Green failed to convert a crucial fourth down that they needed, leaving the spoils to the victor, Rice. This week North Texas hosts UAB in what the oddsmakers are seeing as close but leaning towards UNT for but I have to wonder how all this losing is going to affect the psyche of a team that just three weeks ago had a shot at bowl eligibility but now is playing for pride.

9. TEXAS STATE

Well The Bobcats took that beating like a champ. It wasn't going to be a pretty game but it honestly was the game we all thought it would be. This wasn't a game with a lot of opportunities for the Bobcats and to Appalachian State's credit they weren't going to let a win get away from them and they played the kind of winning, hard football you're supposed to play when you're expected to win games. The teams on this end of the list should be taking notes. The Bobcats travel to the Coastal Carolinas University where they're projected to finish the season with a loss, but this is one of those games they can win and hopefully they try and finish the season on a strong note.

8. UTSA

Last week I mentioned that if The Roadrunners didn't get ready for this game they could blow a game they are equipped to win. Well they weren't ready for this game and they blew a game they were equipped to win. Visiting Florida Atlantic came to town and put down a beating of solid proportions on UTSA and there's no hope of finishing the season .500 now. They do however have a chance to improve their standing in their division with a win getting them potentially as high as fourth, putting them right in the middle of the Conference USA West division. This week they travel to Louisiana Tech who is currently second in their division and while a win won't leapfrog them up it will help them with players, boosters and just overall morale for the season, which is a good place to start next year.

7. TEXAS TECH

A slow start doomed Texas Tech in yet another close loss. These guys just can't catch a break or more accurately can't overcome their own deficiencies and put together two halves of winning football. Playing from behind all second quarter and only scoring three points in the entire first half isn't how you win close games usually and this game was no exception. They needed points late because they don't get them early and that's the root of all of this losing football this year. Tech finishes the season at Texas in a game that certain companies statistical models aren't calling an absolute sure thing which is a compliment to all of those close games, but I'm not expecting much more than another story of "almost got them."

6. HOUSTON

The Cougars actually won the game. I am honestly surprised by that considering how poorly they've been playing lately but they handled Tulsa well and they picked themselves up off the floor after a bad Memphis loss and played some good football. The kickoff return by Stevenson to respond after Tulsa pulled within three was the exact dagger at the exact right time. If Houston had been required to go out there and put together a drive and actually march down the field and score they might have found a way to wilt under the pressure and fail but with a return, and a great one at that, they didn't have time to shoot themselves in the foot. Houston hosts Navy this week in a game that isn't looking great for Cougar fans but they should be used to that feeling by now.

5. TCU

TCU yet again lost close although this time the game wasn't as close as the score suggested. TCU spotted Oklahoma 21 unanswered points before scoring a touchdown of their own early in the second and they were chasing them the rest of the time. They did draw within 4 early enough to maybe push Oklahoma but as has been the story all year when it mattered most, TCU struggled to find that right gear for winning football and couldn't force a punt or turnover that they could then convert into points. As I had pointed out a couple of times late in the season, the second half of TCU's schedule was brutal and while they have stolen a few wins unexpectedly I would actually argue they should be disappointed about being 2-3 in the last five weeks considering who they have beaten and the chances they've had to win games they weren't picked to win, the hard ones. Holding Oklahoma to zero points for all of the fourth considering they gave up 21 points in the first quarter and a couple of minutes into the second is impressive but it also means they couldn't deliver when it mattered offensively. This week the frustration comes to end as they host West Virginia to finish the season.

4. TEXAS

They successfully held Baylor to only 7 points in the first half but they also failed to put up a touchdown at all in the first half themselves, and they eventually lost. This season can't end fast enough for the young Longhorns but you have to think they're frustrated considering what could have been this season and are now hosting The Red Raiders. I'm not confident at all that Texas will win this game and I'm not saying that to be mean or belittling but right now I honestly have to question where their head is even at after all of this bad football.

3. TEXAS A&M

Early on it looked like Texas A&M might go toe to toe with The Bulldogs responding to their field goal with a field goal and then keeping it close, but as the second quarter wound down Georgia pulled away. It's not like their was a huge sentiment around the College Football water cooler that A&M should win this game but that first half looked like they could have. This has been a hard year to judge for Jimbo's Aggies as they just aren't there talent wise to face the tough schedule they had this year playing two different #1s and a couple other top ranked schools as well. A&M thankfully is already bowl eligible so the season doesn't have to end on the awkward note of a trip to LSU which doesn't bode well for the Aggies.

2. SMU

SMU blew a lead and lost a close game to the hard to prepare for Navy. It's happens and this will be the new reality for SMU next year, when you're a good team you have to learn how to play with a lead early in games and how to stay on teams and finish with a win. This has been a great year for The Mustangs and an important season for them gaining national recognition and playing good football for most of the year. They have the opportunity now to build on this success and they can start with hosting the Tulane Green Wave and taking care of conference business.

1. BAYLOR

Early in the season I had this game circled as many others did as the real test for Baylor, as their schedule isn't packed with big programs and it's tough to judge where this program really is nationally until they play real competition and last week and this week were those judge worthy games. Well they blew a huge lead against Oklahoma last week so this week it was important to see them grow and learn from that and they did. While they struggled early to score they then blew it out late and forced Texas to trade field goals to The Bears touchdowns, which isn't good math for winning. Now Baylor is ranked in the Top 10 and facing Kansas University to see if they can even further improve their standing before the end of the season now that they've clinched an appearance in their first ever Big 12 championship game.

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After grinding through back-to-back extra-inning games in the series with the Los Angeles Angels where they would ultimately come away with the victory, the Astros had a day off on Monday before getting back into action on Tuesday. They were in Arizona for the first of three games against the Diamondbacks. Here is a rundown of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 8, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 6-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.42 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 7.04 ERA).

Houston takes an early lead against Bumgarner and then piles on

Houston wasted no time going after Madison Bumgarner, with George Springer going after the first pitch of the game for a groundout, then Jose Altuve launching a solo home run on the next pitch to get an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first. They added to that lead in the second inning, with Carlos Correa leading it off with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-0. After two hit batters and a single, the Astros had the bases loaded for George Springer with one out, and he would deliver a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 3-0.

They would put runners on base in the next two innings, but would not score again until the fifth when a Bumgarner fielding error on a potential double-play would bring in a run and extend the inning. Houston would go on to load the bases, setting up Kyle Tucker for an RBI-single to make it 5-1 and end Bumgarner's night. Against Arizona's new reliever, Martin Maldonado worked a bases-loaded walk to make it 6-1, then Springer followed with a two-RBI double, blowing the game open at 8-1.

Javier gets first-career win in another impressive start

With a lead in hand when he went to the mound, Cristian Javier had another strong performance in his second-ever start. He allowed just one baserunner over the first three innings, a single in the second. After those three efficient innings, he would face some adversity in the bottom of the fourth. After allowing a double and one-out walk, he would give up his first run of the night on an RBI-single to make it a 3-1 game. Luckily, a great double play behind him would get him out of the jam and the inning.

Javier was able to settle back in after that rougher inning, getting quick, scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, earning him the win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR.

Yet another rookie pitching debut as Houston's bullpen finishes the win

Bryan Abreu was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the bottom of the seventh. He would not have an inning to remember, allowing a leadoff double followed later by two walks to load the bases. He then walked in a run, making it 8-2, and prompting another call to the bullpen. Enoli Paredes would enter and get the final out of the seventh inning.

Paredes ran into trouble of his own in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases after a walk and two singles, but with some help from Houston's defense would keep it a six-run lead heading to the ninth. In yet another Astros debut for a pitcher in 2020, Humberto Castellanos entered in the bottom of the ninth, and he recorded the final three outs to close out the victory for Houston.

Up Next: This series continues on Wednesday with the middle game of this three-game set at 8:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 5.40 ERA) will return to the mound in another start for the Astros, while Robbie Ray (0-2, 8.64 ERA) will look to turn things around in his early season with the Diamondbacks.

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