DEL OLALEYE

Week 2 college football around the country recap

Dabo Swinney has a decision to make. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Clemson is Kelly Bryant’s team

Clemson stuck to their plan of playing Trevor Lawrence in the first half. Of course when he threw a touchdown pass on his first play in the game the Rece Davis/Kirk Herbstreit love fest about Lawrence went into overdrive. But when Clemson needed plays to be made in the second half it was their senior signal-caller Kelly Bryant who got the call and the job done. The vibe at Kyle Field was awesome and the 12th man had it going but Bryant made enough of plays with his arm and his legs to keep Clemson rolling. That third and long strike to Amari Rodgers in the first quarter was big time. He followed that up by shaking one of the Aggies best defenders in Otaro Alaka on the way to end zone on the same drive. Those type of plays continued in the third quarter as the Aggies made their push. Dabo Swinney leaned on his senior QB and Bryant answered the call. Because of Lawrence’s immense talent Bryant may have to prove himself every week to people outside of the program. Inside the program? There shouldn’t be any questions.

Expect the unexpected in Arizona

After two weeks everything we thought we knew about the state of football in the Grand Canyon State needs to be thrown out. Arizona State beat a top 15 team in Michigan State in a defensive battle on Saturday night. Herm Edwards killed the game off with superb clock management and the team who’s nickname he didn’t know when he took the job is 2-0. Meanwhile, Kevin Sumlin made his return to Houston coaching Arizona and trailed 38-0 before scoring a point. Through two weeks all of us are dummies and Coach Herm is a Sun Devil legend in the making.

Oklahoma loses a Heisman Candidate

Rodney Anderson suffered a season ending knee injury in the second quarter of the Sooners 49-21 victory over UCLA. Anderson scored 18 total TDs in 2017 and was expected to be leaned on more this season after the departure to the NFL of Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma’s offense scored 63 and 49 points respectively in the first two games of the season and it appeared the show on offense was simply rolling along. With Anderson no longer available to be the feature tailback look for the Sooners to rotate backs until one of the backups emerges.

Hate Watch Game of the Week: LSU vs Auburn

Nothing against LSU really but once your team embarrases mine on national television I become a bit irrational. LSU’s first true road game of the season just happens to be against a top 10 team in Auburn who plays at a different level when they’re at home. Joe Burrow is completing less than 50% of his passes through two games as the LSU starter but his Tigers are 2-0. His first test in a hostile environment is against an Auburn defense who made life difficult for Washington’s Jake Browning in week one. I hope Auburn beats LSU into submission.

Current Hate Watch Record: 2-0

Kentucky beat Florida to end their 31-game losing streak to the Gators. The Gators touch a sign before they walk on the the field at The Swamp that says “Only Gators Get Out Alive.” Really that hasn’t been true for a while but Kentucky was one of the few teams that the statement actually still applied to. That is no longer the case. Now was the time for Wildcats to end the streak. They got it done.

 

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All systems go for the Astros!Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

10 days ago I noted that the Astros had finished an amazingly lengthy schedule stretch that would have needed to harden up to become powderpuff soft.
I Tweeted this:

Well, seven wins against just two losses later, whip up is what they did. Sweeping four games from the Mets in which the Mets never led at any point? Not exactly payback for older Astros' fans who remember 1986, but sweet nevertheless. Taking three of five from the Yankees in all compelling games looked like a fabulous precursor to a highly possible third Astros-Yankees American League Championship Series matchup in six years.

Despite their present 48-27 mark the Astros are still seven games behind the Yankees and their crazy 56-21 ledger. The Yanks are absolutely catchable though. Not because the Astros are the flat out better team, nothing indicates that. It's the schedule. There are four losing teams behind the Astros in the AL West. Behind the Yankees in the AL East, three winning teams (Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays). Even the woebegone for years Orioles are much improved, with the best last place record in Major League Baseball (as a reference point, the Orioles record is 10 games better than AL West laughingstock Oakland). Over the coming dog days of summer the Yanks have the substantially higher intradivisional hurdles. The plot reeeeally thickens if the Astros sweep the doubleheader with the Yankees at Minute Maid Park slotted July 21 right out of the All-Star break. That's it for regular season matchups between them.

The Astros enter the weekend exactly as far ahead (seven games) of the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins as they are behind the Yanks. That's a very strong position for the Astros to secure a bye past the best-of-three Wild Card Series. Remember, with the newly expanded postseason format byes go to the top two division winners in each league.

Now for the Astros it's back to a marshmallow opponents parade. They have 16 games remaining before the All-Star break, all vs. losers: six with the Angels, six with the A's, four with the Royals. Let's reasonably posit that the Astros successfully take out the trash more regularly than they did in the 34 game stretch. 12-4 is certainly plausible. That would get the Astros to 60 wins at the break with a record of 60-31, which would be on pace for a season total of 106.8 wins. Let's round up. 107 wins is the franchise record they set in 2019.

This team is outstanding, but still can use an offensive upgrade. The lineup just had its best month of the season but that didn't take a whole lot. Alex Bregman has finally perked up some. Yuli Gurriel, not so much. Martin Maldonado, pretty much unperkable. Heed this James Click: more potent lineups than the 2022 Astros came up short in the World Series in both 2019 and 2021.

Barring a huge second half of the season, Gurriel should not be in the Astros' 2023 plans. I'd say the same for Maldonado but he is on course to have a five million dollar option next year become guaranteed. He's played in 54 games this season, the option vests at 90. Ideally he's a backup. At the risk of some charging heresy, Maldonado's defensive imperativity (is that a word?) is overblown. Pitch-framing metrics do not rate him highly. He does not eliminate opposition running games. One, very few teams run much at all. Two, Maldonado has thrown out 26 percent of would be basestealers this season. Jason Castro has thrown out 25 percent. The big one last. With Maldonado behind the plate this season, Astros' pitchers' earned run average is 3.23. With Castro, 2.37. Would that hold up for Castro if he was the primary catcher? No chance. But sample size issues accepted, that Maldonado's defensive savant-ness renders his offensive ineptitude inconsequential? Nah. Certainly not in a lineup not up to recent past Astro teams.

Two weeks ago, this column covered Yordan Alvarez's chance at the greatest individual offensive month in Astros' history. Yordan's June ended with his scary collision with Jeremy Peña that knocked both out of Wednesday's matinée at the Mets and kept both out of Thursday's win over the Yankees. That was a harrowing smash as opposed to the delightful smashes that Alvarez busted out all over June. He finished batting .418 with an OPS of 1.346. Real and spectacular, but not quite ultimately as awesome as Jeff Bagwell's June or July 1994, or Richard Hidalgo's closing month of the 2000 season.

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