The SEC report

The 2019 SEC football preview: Aggies, LSU hope to challenge Alabama

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The 2020 SEC season shapes up as one of the more interesting in recent years. Alabama is loaded as usual, but Texas A&M and LSU could surprise in the West. Meanwhile, Georgia may be ready to make a run at the playoffs again from the other side. The Aggies open their season Thursday night against Texas State.

Are the Aggies poised for a jump?

Year 1 of the Jimbo Fisher era saw the Aggies go 9-4 against one of the toughest schedules. It does not get easier this year, with games against Clemson, Alabama, LSU and Georgia on the slate.

The Aggies will need further development from quarterback Kellen Mond, who completed less than 60 percent of his passes last season but showed a lot of flashes.

They will need to replace productive running back Trayveon Williams, but Mond should have plenty of options in the passing game, despite the loss of highly touted tight end Baylor Cupp to season-ending injury. The offensive line is solid, despite losing Erik McCoy. If Mond takes the next step, this could be a very productive offense.

On the other side of the ball, they lose some key elements, but they improved dramatically in Year 1 with DC Mike Elko calling the shots. They are loaded on defense again, and could easily improve despite losing several key contributors.

The bottom line: A&M might be better this season, but the record might not reflect that. An early upset of Clemson would vault them up the polls, but there will still be serious dragons to slay.

Big year for LSU?

Hopes are high in Baton Rouge that this might finally be a breakout year for the Tigers. Joe Burrow will be in his second season at quarterback, and if he can improve, the Tigers offense should be very good. He was not all that accurate last season, but did a good job protecting the football. Coming off their first 10-win season since 2013, expectations are through the roof. Offensively, they have four starters back on the offensive line, but that group was not great last year. Still, there is talent and they should improve.

On defense, the Tigers are loaded again, especially in the secondary. Freshman Derek Stingley is an intriguing cornerback.

The Tigers have a serious early test in Austin against Texas, and will have to find out a way to beat Alabama, which they have not done in the last eight matchups. Games against Florida and A&M loom as well, but the rest of the schedule is very manageable.

The bottom line: The Tigers should be very good again this year, and a dark horse playoff contender. But getting past Alabama will not be easy.

The rest of the West 

Alabama will once again be favored to win the West, the conference and make the playoffs. Auburn is in a key year for Gus Malzahn and will be starting a true freshman at quarterback, so it is hard to know what to expect. Mississippi State could be a dark horse, but will need a new quarterback. Not much is expected of Ole Miss, and Arkansas appears to have a long way to go under second year head coach Chad Morris.

Eastbound and down

Georgia is the clear favorite in the East, although much is expected of Dan Mullen's Florida Gators, who looked shaky in an opening-week win over Miami, but they should improve. Missouri is a potential dark horse, but the rest of the division looks like also-rans.

The bottom line

Once again it looks like Alabama and Georgia, but Florida, A&M and LSU are all contenders.

Key games to watch

Aug. 31: Auburn vs, Oregon

Sept. 7: A&M at Clemson

Sept. 7: LSU at Texas

Sept. 21: Notre Dame at Georgia

Oct. 5: Auburn at Florida

Oct. 12: Alabama at A&M

Oct. 12: Florida at LSU

Nov. 2: Florida vs. Georgia

Nov. 9: LSU at Alabama

Nov. 23: A&M at Georgia

Nov. 30: Alabama at Auburn

Nov. 30: A&M at LSU



5 players to watch

1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: The "tank for Tua" strategy might not be a thing in the NFL after all this year, but the 'Bama QB could raise his stock quite a bit.

2. D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia: The Bulldogs seem to have great backs every year, and Swift fits right in. Could be a dark horse Heisman contender.

3. Kellen Mond, QB, A&M: For the Aggies to take a jump, Mond will have to do so as well. He has shown incredible flashes, but has been inconsistent. With a second year working with Fisher, a breakout could easily happen.

4. Grant Delpit, DB, LSU: Delpit is an absolute monster who will be an anchor on what should be a very good defense. He plays multiple positions and is one of the most exciting players in college football.

5. C.J. Henderson, DB, Florida: The Gators defense will be the key to their success, and a lockdown corner like Henderson is critical. If they are going to make noise this year, Henderson will be a big reason. He struggled badly with tackling in week 0, but a lot of players did. He can and should improve.

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Houston gets another victory in Anaheim

Astros overpower Angels again as magic number dwindles

Kyle Tucker had 3 of Houston's RBI on Tuesday night, including a two-run homer. Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

After a beatdown of the Angels on Monday in the opener, the Astros entered Tuesday's game looking to replicate that success. Though Los Angeles would put up more of a fight, Houston still used their potent offense to keep the game out of reach.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 90-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (8-3)

Losing Pitcher: Packy Naughton (0-3)

Houston's bats keep connecting to back up Urquidy

The Astros picked up on Tuesday's game where they left off on Monday, launching homers to take and extend a lead. A leadoff walk by Carlos Correa in the top of the second set up Kyle Tucker, who drove a two-run shot. Aledmys Diaz was next, making it back-to-back jacks to push the new lead to 3-0.

That gave Jose Urquidy a lead to work with, which came in handy as former Astro Jack Mayfield cut the lead to two runs with a leadoff solo homer in the bottom of the second. Other than that, Urquidy did well through five innings, allowing just two other hits over that span. LA got to him in the sixth, getting two singles to set up a three-run homer to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 79 P.

The runs keep coming

He would still leave in line for the win, though, as before that bottom of the sixth, the Astros had put up seven more runs across the fifth and sixth. A leadoff walk in the top of the fifth was followed by a two-run homer by Jose Altuve, then later in the frame, an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz made it 7-1. They pushed that to double digits in the sixth, with a leadoff solo shot by Martin Maldonado, a sac fly by Carlos Correa, and an RBI groundout by Kyle Tucker, putting them up 10-1 before the homer allowed by Urquidy cut that to 10-4.

Astros win to reduce magic number again

In the sixth, Cristian Javier took over for Urquidy, finished that inning, and returned for a scoreless seventh. He ran into Shohei Ohtani to lead off the bottom of the eighth and left a fastball in the zone, which Ohtani turned around 445 feet to make it a five-run game. Javier still got through the inning, leaving just the ninth for Houston's second reliever of the night, Josh James. James would get through a scoreless inning, erasing a leadoff walk as the lopsided win paired with an A's loss reduces Houston's magic number to 4.

Up Next: The third of this four-game series will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Wednesday. Janson Junk (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will make his third career start for the Angels, while Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.37 ERA) will have the ball for the Astros.

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