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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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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