THE AAC REPORT

The UH/AAC Report: rough week for some, cruise control for others

The UH/AAC Report: rough week for some, cruise control for others

As the AAC enters week two of the season, we start to see who's who. Some teams are challenged in ways others aren't by playing Power 5 schools. Others smash Group of 5 weaklings and continue to roll. When conference play starts, all that goes out the window. This week will see more tests and cupcakes for AAC teams.

UH outlasts PVU

The Cougars won 37-17 over a team they should've hung at least 50 or more on. The margin of victory should've been at least 30 or more. A team who fancies themselves as an offensive juggernaut has to do more against a much lesser opponent. The 24 points they scored in the first quarter was great, especially giving up only 3 points. But being outscored 14 to 13 in the remaining three quarters is awful. The Cougars are going to have to make some serious adjustments if they plan on being taken serious in Dana Holgorsen's first season as head coach.

Other key results

UCF 48, FAU 14: The Golden Knights continue to roll with an easy win over the fighting Lane Kiffins. Another 500+ yards of offense despite a -11 minute disadvantage in time of possession.

Auburn 24, Tulane 6: Holding a top 10 team under 30 points in a loss is considered a moral victory in my book. Coach Fritz continues to improve the Green Wave as they're a team to watch.

Memphis 55, Southern 24:The Tigers of Memphis are on a roll despite losing some NFL talent the last couple years. Southern gave them a bit of a fight, but they managed an easy win anyway.

Stars of the week

Xavier Jones, RB, SMU: Jones had 16 carries for 127 yards and three touchdowns in their 49-27 win over North Texas. The Mustangs are a passing team, but if the run game can produce like this, look out.

Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF: Although he ddin't have a touchdown catch, I think Davis is showing some NFL potential. Three catches for 98 yards is impressive when you see his 6'3 212lb frame going against college defensive backs.

Darius Pinnix Jr, RB, ECU: the 6'0 234lb bowling ball totaled 134 yards and a touchdown in a 48-9 win over Gardner-Webb. He's another NFL-sized guy going against smallish defenders and making it count.

5 games to watch this week

Houston vs Washington State

UCF vs Stanford

Temple vs Maryland

Tulsa vs Oklahoma State

ECU vs Navy

3 players to watch this week

D'Eriq King, Houston: Two pooor performances to start the season is uncharacteristic. Despite coming off ACL surgery, he should be showing better.

Gabriel Davis, UCF: Seeing him go against Power 5 defensive backs will be interesting. This whole offense should be watched to see how they'll perform.

Justin McMillan, Tulane: Coming off a loss to Auburn, Missouri State shouldn't provide much of a challenge for the Cedar Hill native.

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How significant Astros spring training revelation highlights even more reasons for optimism

The Houston Astros had a very successful season in 2023 which led them back to the ALCS for the seventh-straight season, but despite another deep playoff run, their pitching did regress from the prior year.

While many would point to their historic bullpen in 2022 and say they had nowhere to go but down, that doesn't paint the full picture. It was the starting rotation that really fell off in 2023. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown, and Jose Urquidy all saw a spike in their ERAs from the previous season.

According to a recent report from The Athletic's Chandler Rome, we might have an explanation for Jose Urquidy's down year.

The Astros and Urquidy believe he was tipping his pitches. Which would explain why the slugging percentage against his fastball jumped from .482 in 2022 to .632 in 2023.

When hitters know a pitcher is tipping, they often start hunting fastballs. Also, his strikeout percentage went down last year and his walks went way up. He had 2 more walks per nine innings in 2023 than he had in 2021.

Part of that could be him aiming for corners and refusing to give in to hitters because his fastball wasn't performing up to expectations.

His WHIP in 2023 really jumped off the page as well. He finished with a WHIP over 1.4. While his career WHIP is 1.143. That's a huge difference.

Back to the big picture

Until last season, Urquidy never finished with an ERA over 3.95. He recorded a 5.29 ERA last year. So when we factor in his shoulder injury that cost him three months of the season, and the fact he was tipping pitches, we believe he's in store for a bounce-back season.

And the Astros are going to need him, especially with Justin Verlander and JP France possibly not being available for the start of the season.

What will the rotation look like early on?

The Astros haven't ruled Verlander out yet, so he could be ready to go. But if not, and we base this off what we saw last season. The rotation will likely include Valdez, Javier, Brown, Urquidy, Ronel Blanco, and Brandon Bielak.

Don't miss the video above for the full discussion!

Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) with Charlie Pallilo, Brandon Strange, and Josh Jordan every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.

We'll continue to drop videos throughout the week!


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