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

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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."


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.


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.


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.


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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Mauricio Dubon has stepped up big for Houston. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

So all it took to rouse the Astros into playing stellar baseball was competition that got their attention? It’s not that simple but taking two out of three from the Blue Jays followed by a three game sweep of the Braves in Atlanta and then winning two of three from the Rays in St. Petersburg sure seems to have order restored in Astroworld. A weekend rematch of last fall’s World Series vs. the Phillies should hold their attention.

Who saw this coming?

Raise your hand if you had Mauricio Dubon having a 20 game hitting streak this season. Hand down liars! The Astros have one Hall of Fame second baseman in Craig Biggio. They have a future Hall of Fame second baseman candidate in Jose Altuve. Dubon is probably bound for the Honduran Sports Hall of Fame if such a thing exists but Cooperstown will never be calling him. Nevertheless, Mauricio Dubon now has a longer hitting streak than Biggio ever compiled or than Altuve has yet to compile. That sounds ridiculous but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Biggio’s career best hitting streak was an 18 gamer in 2001. Altuve hit in 19 straight during his Most Valuable Player Award-winning 2017 season. The longest hitting streak by any Astros’ second baseman belongs to Jeff Kent, 25 games in 2004. Amazingly, Dubon is within striking distance. He is ten games away from the Astros’ franchise record hitting streak, the 30 game stretch posted by Willy Taveras in 2006. Funny thing about Taveras is he was a poor offensive player overall in 2006. He hit .278, but rarely walked (just 34 walks in 587 plate appearances), and had next to no power which added up to a weak .672 OPS.

Dubon has been terrific, but Altuve need not bone up on Wally Pipp. If unfamiliar, in 1925 Pipp was the Yankees’ starting first baseman who missed a game because of a headache and was replaced by Lou Gehrig. Gehrig next missed a game 14 years later. There is zero question that as soon as Altuve is ready to rejoin the Astros he reclaims his position and Dubon goes to the bench. Well, unless a month from now Dubon’s hitting streak is intact and making Joe DiMaggio spin a little in his grave.

Things continue to go poorly for the other half of the right side of the Astros’ infield. Jose Abreu drags a .554 OPS into the weekend. Frame of reference: Martin Maldonado had a .600 OPS last season, .573 in 2021. Maldonado has finished a season with an OPS worse than .554 just once in his career (.520 in 2013). Abreu’s extra base hits tally is a paltry four, all doubles. It’s still early, but less so by the day. Counting last season and this, Abreu has one home run in his last 80 games played. He has 104 at bats and drawn four walks.

Magnificent Maton

Back to the subject of unexpectedly outstanding Astros with a tip of the cap to Phil Maton. He was mediocre last year (though it was his best MLB season to date) and had his season end ignominiously with a broken hand incurred by punching a locker after a poor outing in the 162nd and final game of the regular season. He was not missed at all in the postseason. No higher than sixth in the bullpen pecking order coming into this season, Maton has been near perfect thus far. He’s made 10 appearances, pitched 11 2/3 innings giving up just two hits, walking just one while striking out 13. Earned run average: 0.00. Like Ryne Stanek in the Astros’ pen, Maton is a free agent after this season.

Pirates handing out the booty

The Pittsburgh Pirates gave outfielder Bryan Reynolds a seven year 100 million dollar contract extension this week. The Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s been widely reported as an eight-year extension, but that’s wrong. It’s seven years on top of the contract he already had for this season, plus a 20 million dollar option for 2031 that carries a two million dollar buyout. Reynolds is more than two years older than Kyle Tucker, and not as good. He could have become a free agent after the 2025 season, which is when Tucker can hit the open market. The Astros refusal to this point to consider longer than seven years for Tucker is increasingly questionable. Reynolds got 100 million new dollars guaranteed. A seven-year extension for Tucker would likely take at least 150 million. Astros’ revenues dwarf Pirates’ revenues.

Crunching the numbers

Amazing if not significant stat: Dating back to last August the Astros have now won their last 17 “getaway” games, meaning the last game of a series before travel required to get to the next series.

Amazing and not wholly insignificant stat: The Astros remain undefeated in games Maldonado wasn’t the catcher, now 7-0. Maldonado is batting .143 with a .440 OPS, and this week added his MLB-leading third passed ball of the season. Still small sample size, but the Astros’ team ERA is lower when Maldonado is not the catcher.

Looking for more Astros coverage?

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it goes up at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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