RANKING THE STATE

Texas Division I Football Rankings: North Texas falls as Oklahoma comes to Baylor

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12. RICE

Rice University was off this weekend and that's about where the good news train ends. This week they go to Middle Tennessee and play the Blue Raiders, who are heavy favorites to continue Rice's losing streak. It's tough to keep kicking this program while it's down and obviously it is very down but there seems to be no opportunity for the beatings to cease. The other issue for Rice Football, it's a newer regime and it isn't going well, if they decide to pull the plug then they'll be consistently making changes and keep losing and starting over; patience is hard through the losing but there seems to be no other way.

11. UTEP

The losing continues for the Miners and somehow they have fallen behind Rice in the Conference USA - West division to the very bottom of the standings. Rice and UTEP play at the end of the year and therefore there will be a winner decided in the conference between these two bottom feeders but it's tough to say who matters less at this point.

10. NORTH TEXAS

Man was it a bad weekend for The Mean Green or what? Losing huge to Louisiana Tech is not the way to go after winning big the week before against UTEP. The massive loss kills any momentum they built the week before and they go from a team trending up and strongly to being inconsistent and questioned from all sides. The team is off this week which probably isn't as great of a thing as they thought it was a week ago, but there it is, a bye week.

9. UTSA

On top of winning against Old Dominion, The Roadrunners also moved up a spot because North Texas lost. With three wins over the last five weeks, they're playing some of the best football in this half of the list but that isn't saying much. This week the Roadrunners are facing University of Southern Mississippi who is near the top of the Conference USA West division and this game gives them the chance to gain some serious ground in the standings. This season isn't over and there's still some good football to play.

8. TEXAS STATE

In the battle of big cats that I get confused about The Texas State Bobcats beat the South Alabama Jaguars and are now hosting Troy. With only three wins so far this season, they need some help but they aren't done yet as their Sun Belt Division hasn't run away from them. The Troy game has some implications for a program that can't figure out if its coming or going.

7. TEXAS TECH

Able to finally put the brakes on a three game losing streak, The Red Raiders beat West Virginia. It was an important game and they needed the win far beyond the standard "every game is important" as this win sets up Texas Tech, who last week I wrote needed four in a row and got win one last weekend. If they keep winning they finish bowl eligible. It's an exciting opportunity for The Red Raiders to save a season that two weeks ago looked pretty bad.

6.  HOUSTON

Houston was off this week and I had an interesting conversation with a buddy of mine who is a wealth of college football information. He's confident in the new regime at Houston and believes that in a few short seasons the Cougars will be a relevant program nationally. I told him how much I hated all of their moves and decisions and he wisely pointed out, that it's a new coach and most of this doesn't matter, this isn't really his program yet and there is nothing but time. I was impressed by his arguments and I suppose we'll just have to wait and see if my buddy is right or not as Memphis comes to town.

5. TCU

Well for a second they had even me believing they could pull it off. After the surprise upset against Texas a few weeks back and now facing Baylor and forcing Baylor to need a last second field goal to force overtime and then pushing it a few overtimes but staying in it none the less, TCU had me believing. If only they could have turned any of those first half field goals into touchdowns then this may be a different story for the Horned Frogs but for now the story stays the same. There aren't many wins left on TCU's schedule but the role of under dog seems to suit them just fine. This week they travel to Texas Tech in what should be a fun game.

4. TEXAS A&M

The Aggies enjoyed some much needed downtime but now they host The Gamecocks and they need all the wins they can get as the in what has been a rough second season foJimbo Fisher. WIn and win and win some more is the only real option for The Aggies who still have Georgia and LSU on their schedule, so they need this win.

3. TEXAS

Honestly, they won and they should have but it almost doesn't matter because you just never know with this team. With the Longhorns traveling to Iowa State and Baylor still ahead on the schedule, The Longhorns can still finish strong and save some face for this season but at this point it's hard not to look at this season as anything other than disappointing for The Longhorns.

2. SMU

After a close loss the week before, The Mustangs did exactly what you expect a good team to do coming from a loss, they won 59-51 against East Carolina. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't what you're looking for if you're trying to make a case nationally that you are worthy of ranking and attention but they won the game they had scheduled and that's the first step towards success. SMU is off this week and will get to sit back and look at their season thus far with great pride and hope they can finish as strong as they started.

1. BAYLOR

Well that wasn't supposed to be that hard. A few weeks ago I was writing TCU off with several big games left on their schedule and not having won any games of merit. Then they turn around and upset Texas and suddenly you start thinking they're on to something but Baylor comes along and you have to expect that TCU is going to give it their best shot and remarkably Baylor survived. They didn't look great, which is starting to become a theme for this program as they looked awful in the first half against Oklahoma State and have struggled to put together four quarters of good football, but they are unbeaten and they are ranked and they have a shot to keep winning and shocking the world as this week they face Oklahoma. There isn't a lot of meat on Baylor's schedule so this game and Texas will go a long way to deciding how the voters and ranking algorithms feel about this program.

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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