A Look At The AAC

UH fought hard and came up short; seven AAC teams are bowl eligible now

UH Football official Twitter

We've come to the end of the road in the AAC regular season. It's been quite the ride. We've seen old powers return to form, and newcomers show promise, while some has fallen from grace. Here's my take on Week 14 in the AAC:

UH failed to stop Navy; future looks promising

The Coogs lost to the Midshipmen 56-41. This game reminded me of a boxing or MMA match in which one fighter was always a step ahead of the other. Just when the Coogs would land a nice combo, the Midshipmen would counter with something more fierce. Though they ended this season with a 4-8 record in Dana Holgorsen's first year bcack as head coach, you can see the promise this team has moving forward. There's some talent on this team that'll be returning, plus there's more talent coming in via transfer and new recruits. Either way, I see Holgorsen's vision for this program and love what's coming. When you remodel an existing home, there's a period of ugliness it goes through. You have to tear stuff out, rebuild, and redo before it can be beautiful again. Holgorsen is doing just that. This season wasn't a homecoming queen. It was more like the awkward freshman who is present at all events and functions, but chills on the perimeter. However, that same awkward kid blossoms into something so beautiful after some fine tuning and seasoning, nobody thought it was possible in that freshman year. Give it some time Coog fans. I think this is the start of something beautiful.

Other Key Results

#18 Memphis 34, #19 Cincinnati 24: These two teams will play next week in a rematch for the AAC title game and a shot at the top Group of Five school for a possible New Years Six bowl birth.

SMU 37, Tulane 20: The Mustangs continued to roll as the Green Wave continued to slide. Although Tulane is bowl eligible with a 6-6 record, I doubt they make a bowl game unless there's a shortage of teams eligible. Meanwhile, SMU has made its case for a decent bowl with their 10-2 record.

UCF 34, USF 7: This game is only a talking point because it led to the firing of USF coach Charlie Strong. The Golden Knights have been on a roll even after Scott Frost left and McKenzie Hilton suffered a career-threatening injury. Strong is best served as a defensive coordinator. Here's to hoping he gets another job because he's a good dude by all acounts.

Stars Of The Week

Damonte Croxie, WR, Memphis: With six catches for 145 yards and a touchdown, Croxie accounted for 40% of the receptions, 62% of the receiving yards, and half of the receiving touchdowns for the Tigers.

Clayton Tune, QB, UH: The presumed backup next season for D'Eriq King went 23/35 for 393 yards and four touchdowns against Navy in a loss. If King decides to leave for greener pastures (something I don't see happening), the program is in good hands with Tune.

Jamale Carothers, RB, Navy: With 188 yards on just 18 carries, Carothers had a helluva game. His five touchdowns were more of a wow factor than his 10+ yards per carry average.

Games To Watch This Week

#20 Cincinnati vs #17 Memphis: The AAC Championship game will determine if one of these schools will possibly get a New Years Six bowl game. I expwct another good game, but the same result as the game they just played this past week.

Army @ Navy: This is one of the best and most interesting rivalry games in college football. The pagentry and tradition that surrounds it are unmatched. It's the most Merica thing outside of wearing a bald eagle with stars and stripes shirt.

Players To Watch This Week

Malcolm Perry, Navy: I can see a big game coming from Perry since Carothers was the one to get the shine vs UH. Rivalry games seem to bring out the best in top players.

Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis: While he had a decent game against Cincy last week, it wasn't his best. You can bet he's chomping at the bit to show what he can do this week in their rematch.

Brady White, Memphis: If Gainwell and the run game don't get the Tigers going, look for White and the pass game to take over to propel the Tigers to an AAC title.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Cristian Javier has proven he's a quality starting pitcher. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2022 regular season is nearing its end and while for the Houston Astros the true test will begin in the postseason, now is a good time to look ahead at what the team’s starting rotation could look like in 2023.

The big question will be whether long-time ace Justin Verlander returns to the team. Heading into 2022, there was doubt whether he would even be with the Astros coming off Tommy John surgery. Verlander re-signed with Houston on a two-year deal with a player option for 2023.

His production in 2022 has been nothing short of sensational. Verlander has the most wins for the Astros with a week left in the season. He has a 1.82 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 5.2 wins above replacement. More importantly for both Verlander and the Astros, is that he has played in 26 games and counting this season.

Whether Verlander remains with the Astros will likely depend on whether Houston is willing to spend. It is highly likely Verlander opts out of his player option following the strong 2022 campaign he has put together and looks for a bigger payday. Houston has shown it is not afraid to let key players walk in the offseason, so let’s take a look at a potential rotation with and without Verlander.

If the 39-year-old, who will be 40 by the time the 2023 regular season starts, stays with the Astros, he will undoubtedly be either the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in the rotation along with Framber Valdez, who is right behind Verlander in wins this season at 16. If Verlander leaves, Valdez should be the new Astros ace at No. 1.

Behind those two should be pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who in seven games in 2022 has a 2.38 ERA and has cooled the concerns about his right flexor tendon strain being a long-term concern. He suffered the injury last postseason.

After those three, things begin to get interesting. Let’s say Houston opts to stay with a six-man rotation. The fourth starter could be Luis Garcia, who has a 3.90 ERA in 2022. The 25-year-old has shown he is more than a capable starter for the Astros.

The big question is if Hunter Brown can lock himself a spot in the rotation. Numbers wise, he makes a solid case to be more than Houston’s fifth starter as he has garnered 1.13 ERA through four appearances and two starts.

Brown’s starts have been against the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, so there is a bit of a caveat there, but the upside undoubtedly should put him in the conversation for a starting role in 2023.

If Verlander leaves Houston, it should be more of a guarantee that a spot in the rotation as a starter for Brown is locked. Another factor in whether Brown is a starter could be if the Astros keep Dusty Baker as manager. Baker has shown at times he is willing to side with veterans over younger talent.

Other factors in Brown’s role will also be Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier. Urquidy has a 3.88 ERA in 28 games, all of which have been starts. Javier has a 2.65 ERA in 29 appearances, 24 of which have been starts.

Javier’s role for the Astros the last couple of years has involved starting and coming out of the bullpen, but this season he has shown that he is a capable starter. Based on this season’s play, Javier should have the edge for a starting spot, which leaves the question, what should the Astros do with Urquidy?

If Verlander walks, and Houston opts to keep a six-man rotation, then he just slides in and becomes starter No. 6. If Verlander stays, then is he willing to accept a role out of the bullpen, or do the Astros continue to use Brown out of the bullpen? Over the course of the season, both Brown and Urquidy will undoubtedly have chances to start throughout 2023.

Because of the long grind of an MLB schedule, the Astros should not trade whoever doesn’t get a starting role if Verlander stays, but how likely is it that it is even a problem for Houston? Regardless of who leaves or stays, the Astros should also continue with a six-man rotation because over the course of 162 games, it is what is best for your starters.

If the Astros bring back general manager James Click, based on how the Astros have seen players like George Springer and Carlos Correa walk in the past under his leadership, it is likely Verlander leaves Houston, but at the same time, many didn’t believe he was going to be back at all for 2022.

One thing is for sure, the Astros have a great problem to have. So many starting pitcher candidates, many of whom can be under team control for several years. So even if Verlander walks, an unforeseen injury happens, or a player ends up being disgruntled, Houston has more than enough flexibility to remain among the American Leagues’s best.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome