H-Town Sports

Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Quick Thoughts on Texans

- Deshawn Polk seems to be a difference maker on defense.
- Jerome Mathis is a freak, and the Texans' front office deserves credit for finding this apparent diamond in the rough.
- Solomon Wilcots said it best: "The Browns don't have to put a defender on Corey Bradford. He just seems to defend himself." I continue to see no point in keeping him on the roster.
- Based on his clutch play today, expect zero catches out of "Every Other Week" Jabar Gaffney next Sunday.
- This #96 on the Texans D-line was solid. Where'd he come from?
- I saw virtually no room to criticize the Texans' O-line today. It seems quite clear to me that David Carr has become infatuated with his scrambling skills and tucked the ball at least a half-dozen times today in situations where 29 other QB's in the league would have stayed in the pocket and made a throw.
- The Texans desperately need a reliable, pass-catching TE.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

College Football Picks - Week Nine

Coming off of a 5-0 ATS weekend, here come the picks for this weekend (23-19 ATS on the season):

Louisiana Tech -19.5 v. San Jose State
Southern Miss +7 at NC State
UTEP -20 at Rice
Buffalo +5 v. Ohio
Kansas +6 v. Mizzou
Navy +7 at Rutgers

Game 4 Diary

In a half-hearted attempt to distract myself from the ominous clouds of doom hovering over my chair prior to Game 4, I decided to keep a running diary while I watched:

6:59 - Has anyone ever seen Fox 26's anchor Jan Jeffcoat and ex-Dallas OL Jim Jeffcoat out together? I'm not saying that Jan's manly, but I think I caught a whiff of Bea Arthur's cologne emanating from my TV set.

7:02 - Joe Buck and Tim McCarver seemed unashamedly bored during Game 3, and the TV ratings are apparently in the toilet. Should the Sox take an early lead tonight, I wonder if Fox will cut away to Prison Break. Also, I'm thinking that if I'm in a bar on the South Side tonight with my car parked on the street and the Sox are ahead after seven innings, I'm making an early exit for safety reasons.

7:06 - Ms. Zelasko, Prince is on the phone. He wants his bathrobe back.

7:08 - Just thought of a new poll for the blog. This week's most stunning revelation: Jordan liked to gamble? Romanowski used steroids? A WNBA player is gay? Black athletes are generally faster than white athletes? The Astros can't hit with RISP?

7:10 - I expect Fox's TV ratings to skyrocket tonight based on the sexy irony of the Blum/Backe deal and its effect on the Series.

7:11 - I demand that FSN mike Brandon Backe for all 162 games in 2006. The expressions on Backe's "conversation partner" in the dugout throughout the postseason have been absolute money. Watching Orlando Palmeiro as the victim of Backe's incessant babbling during Game 3 about his approach for pitching in Game 4 made me think that Fox must have had an armed gunman hidden directly behind OP just off camera preventing Palmeiro's escape.

7:15 - Maybe I'm alone on this one, but I'm not buying Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash.

7:19 - Let me get this straight one last time. Alex Rodriguez was born in NYC and attended U of Miami (FL). Yet he's playing for the Republic of the Dominican in the World Cup and is now a member of the "Latino Legends Team". I guess that means Mark McGwire would be the captain for the Irish Icons Team to be announced in spring training.

7:26 - Maybe I'm alone on this one too, but every tape I see of Roberto Clemente reminds me vividly of Vlad Guerrero.

7:29 - Seems like someone with MLB would have given this Jon Secada clown a tape of "The Star-Spangled Banner" so that he would at least know the tune. Not only that, but it appears Secada's been overcome by Goat Boy, if disrespecting the melody was not enough.

7:31 - Boy, these Habitat PSA's sure are inspiring. The same guy with a gun on OP's back must have kidnapped Tommy Lee Jones and Michael Douglas and forced them to record a 5 second piece.

7:34 - Tim McCarver's allegation that the 2005 White Sox may be the best team of all time just brought an uncontrollable smirk to Joe Buck's face. Buck will likely give Troy Aikman a bear hug upon reuniting with him on Sunday in the booth, safe from McCarver for several months.

7:40 - I hope that at some point Fox utilizes its gratuitous coverage of the Minute Maid Park train conductor to ask him my burning question: Why is it Minute Maid Park, but the train's hauling pumpkins?

7:41 - McCarver's first deep thought of Game 4: "I don't know if hope springs eternal, but hope springs eternal for at least one more night."

7:43 - Let's see: Pierzynski > Ausmus, Crede > Ensberg, Uribe > Everett, Iguchi = Biggio, Konerko > Lamb, Berkman > Podsednik, Rowand > Taveras and Dye > Lane. Why is anyone suprised that the Astros are down 3-0?

7:50 - Backe looked pretty solid in the first. Not surprising to see that he's a little jacked up, but he made some big pitches when he needed to. If he can throw strikes and stay ahead in the count, the Astros may have a chance tonight.

7:54 - For the record, if I were manager of the Astros, Chris Burke would be in my starting lineup tonight.

7:56 - Wily T(errible) pops up yet another bunt attempt. I still don't blame Scrap for not squeezing with WT in the 9th inning of Game 3. (Pinch-hitting for him? Now that's another story). Wily may be a fast bunter, but he is not yet a good bunter.

8:00 - One inning in the books, and the Astros are 0-2 with RISP with 1 K and a check swing grounder to the pitcher.

8:05 - Here comes the first AB in my bet for the evening: Total Bases - Crede (-140) v. Everett. Pop-up for Crede. I'm banking on Crede getting a couple of meaningless hits in an Astros' victory to give me the best of both worlds. My prop bets have gone 3-0-1 thus far in the postseason.

8:14 - Lane K's with Lamb on 2nd base. 0-3 with RISP with 2 K's.

8:17 - -Ausmus K's looking. Make it 0-4 with RISP and 3 K's. What's Gary Gaetti's job again? How is he still employed? Signs that the Astros are not going to score: "2 outs with a runner on second, and it's up to Everett." 0-14 with RISP thus far in the postseason for the Hitless Wonder.

8:18 - Last pitcher to throw a CG in the World Series? I say Josh Beckett.

8:19 - I'm really glad that the Rockets brought Jon Barry back. Also, where can I put money on Deron Williams being an NBA All-Star within three years?

8:38 - I'll admit it. I had no idea that Jermaine Dye was this freaking good.

8:41 - Biggest pitch of the night: Backe whiffs Konerko on a nasty off-speed pitch inside.

8:43 - Maybe I'm alone on this one, but it sure is nice to not hear incessant grumbling about "pitch counts" in the postseason.

8:45 - A.J. Pierzynski is to "annoying" what George Costanza is to "paranoid".

8:46 - Watching Backe change speeds makes me wonder about how much better Roy O could be with a solid change-up. Also, the difference in "quality" between the White Sox at-bats and the Astros at-bats, even when they K like Pierzynski and Rowand just did, is staggering.

8:51 - If I'm Ozzie Guillen, I'm not throwing Berkman another strike for the remainder of the Series. Morgan Ensberg could not hit a slider with an oversized oar.

9:00 - Lane's broken-bat, two-hopper to SS just drew a pleading roar from the crowd. "Sad" does not even begin to describe this.

9:02 - Faith Hill just made a sincere pitch for Habitat. Someone pass me a hammer.

9:06 - Five straight K's for Backe! Buck and McCarver just jinxed it though - the WS record is 7 and the pitcher's up to bat. Backe's stalking the mound like a crazed fighter right now. I'm fired up!

9:10 - ESPN News just reported that Brian Cashman signed a 3 year, $6M contract with the Yankees, and Theo Epstein was offered $500K per year from the Red Sox. You're kidding, right? Now their offer's up to $1.3M, but still, I'm with Theo. Pay me Cashman $ or I'm out.

9:12 - Holy crap, it's a hit! Fortunately for my bet, Everett is now set up to sac bunt. Never mind, Scrap let the Hitless Wonder swing away and it's a 5-4-3 double play (with a hit-and-run on). If Everett's on the field Opening Day 2006, Purpura should be sent into exile.

9:17 - As a Texans fan, I don't appreciate Vegas installing the Texans as a favorite over Cleveland on Sunday. Not only does it make no sense, it should only serve to severely piss off Romeo's Browns. That bodes well for Houston...

9:21 - Tim McCarver just described Adam Everett's outstanding play on Iguchi's slow roller to short as "gamey". I'm confused. I thought it was a great play. By the way, I don't have the stats, but Backe seems to have gone to a three-ball count very rarely tonight. If I'm Drayton, I'm offering Backe a $5M incentive clause (and Jim Hickey a $1M incentive clause) if Backe produces 25+ starts like this in 2006. Just lock Ol' Hot Rocks up in the locker room and tell him that the other team stole his girlfriend or something. When he gets pumped, he is flat-out nails.

9:29 - Ensberg's slump has reached such depths that in a 0-0 potentially clinching Series game, opposing manager Oz Guillen has walked Berkman to move the go-ahead runner to second base ahead of Ensberg. Ouch.

9:34 - It's 9:34 and Ensberg still sucks. 0-6 now with RISP with 4 K's for the Astros. Good to see Ensberg swinging out of his shoes (again) with 2 strikes and RISP.

9:38 - Joe Buck's description of the pressure on Jason Lane here with the bases loaded, 2 outs in a 0-0 elimination game just certainly caused at least five Astros' fans to leap from the Ship Channel Bridge.

9:40 - George #41 and Barbara are standing up. This is big. And Lane strikes out on a pitch that nearly decapitated him. Make it 0-7 with RISP with 5 K's.

9:54 - Moments after McCarver rips Berkman's clever decoy on Crede's double off the LF wall, replays clearly indicate that lead runner Aaron Rowand hesitated rounding first base as a direct result of Berkman's theatrics, probably preventing the Sox from going ahead 1-0. Not surprisingly, McCarver the Narcissist fails to acknowledge this. (By the way, perfect scenario for me in that Crede's double puts him 2 total bases ahead of Everett, but no runs resulted!)

9:55 - God Bless Brandon Backe, and God Bless Lyle Lovett. Now that's how you sing an anthem.

10:12 - Great stat (!) from McCarver. Backe retired the first two hitters in all of his seven innings except for the fourth. For 172 games, Astros' fans breathed a sigh of relief when Brad Lidge entered the game. For the last six games, Lidge's entrance has been accompanied by an eerie, nervous silence from the crowd.

10:17 - All right, I'll say it. My vote for Series MVP will be split between Morgan Ensberg and Brad Lidge. Something tells me that the armchair management crowd will be second guessing Garner's removal of Backe and selection of Lidge in the 8th. For the record, I think Backe was running out of gas, but I'd have gone with Qualls or Wheeler here.

10:22 - Contrary to Joaquin Phoenix, I'll buy any character that Jamie Foxx is portraying.

10:29 - While I am surprised that Cotts is not bring summoned to face Berkman, it's likely moot (as is Politte's wild pitch) because Ensberg is on deck, so Berkman's not going to see a strike regardless. Politte will retire Ensberg, and then Cotts will come on to face Lamb, I imagine.

10:32 - Moral victory for Ensberg: fly out. 0-8 with RIPS with 5 K's. As Cotts comes in to face Lamb, I'll be the first to suggest pinch-hitting Chris Burke for Lamb and moving Berkman to 1B.

10:36 - It's Viz, who's 1-8 in the postseason.

10:37 - Uribe has a Furcal-like arm.

10:42 - Man, I HATE AJ Pierzynski. That said, I'd sign him to my roster in a heartbeat.

10:44 - Rowand's bunting with 2 strikes? That's got to be his call. The Astros need whatever break that they can muster at this point though.

10:48 - Lane, Ausmus and Everett coming up in the 9th. Wonder if Ozzie'd consider bringing in Pablo Ozuna to pitch to Everett just for laughs.

10:49 - It would take at least $10K to get me into the box against Fat Boy Jenks. Lane just swung at ball 3, but came back with a bloop single. RALLY!

10: 50 - If Ausmus get the bunt down (done), we'd better see a pinch-hitter for Everett (Palmeiro?) Even better - it's Burke! Hopefully, that's a sign of things to come in 2006.

10:51 - Chavez was just shown with a bat in his hands. That's hilarious! Chavez...batting in the World Series! HAHAHAHAH! Oh wait, he's on our roster...

10:53 - That catch by Uribe on Burke's foul ball will be an all-timer. And where the hell is Houston's Bartman? Oh the irony of Chicago's "other team" not being victimized by Bartman when the situation arose. Make it 0-10 with RISP. As for those Astros fans (me included) who have been touting that it could have easily been 3-0 Astros after three games, I take that back. That's ludicrous. The Sox have made every single play that was required for them to win a game, while the Astros have made one or two at best.

10:55 - Fittingly, the game ends with (a) the Astros making a harmless out with RISP, (B) the Sox making a spectacular defensive play and (c) a close call for the umpire.

Friday, October 21, 2005

World Series Predictions

Well, after reviewing the stats listed below, I am not feeling very optimistic about the Astros' chances in the World Series. I picked the Angels and Cards to get to the Series, though, so what do I know? Little did I know that pretty-boy Mulder would fold like a tent under the bright lights. My biggest concern is that the Sox have a decent history against both Pettitte and Clemens, and the Astros batters have not faced the Sox red-hot pitchers, which typically does not bode well for their offense. You've seen how the computer sees the Series playing out, so here's my prediction:

Game 1: Contreras shuts down Astros with ease - White Sox 4, Astros 0 (Chicago leads 1-0)
Game 2: Astros get to Buerhle early and Pettitte returns to form - Astros 5, White Sox 3 (Tied 1-1)
Game 3: Oswalt continues his October dominance in front of the loudest crowd in World Series history: Astros 2, White Sox 1 (Astros lead 2-1)
Game 4: Backe is good, but Garland is better - White Sox 4, Astros 3 (Tied 2-2)
Game 5: Clemens pitches the best game of his postseason career - Astros 2, White Sox 0 (Astros lead 3-2)
Game 6: Buerhle is masterful, and Konerko hits 2 HR off Pettitte - White Sox 6, Astros 1 (Tied 3-3)
Game 7: Roy O adds a World Series MVP to his crowded mantle, going the distance and clinching the World Series for the Astros - Astros 4, White Sox 1 (Astros win series 4-3)

Batter v. Pitcher - 2005 World Series

Roger Clemens v. the White Sox:
Joe Crede: 3-5 with 2 HR
Jermaine Dye: 6-18 with 1 HR
Carl Everett: 3-20 with 7 K's
Paul Konerko: 8-18 with 5 doubles and 2 HR
AJ Pierzynski: 1-11
Scott Podsednik: 5-14 with 1 HR

Other notables:
Carlton Fisk: 10-49 with 5 HR
Ron Kittle: 0-14 with 10 K's
Big Hurt: 14-55 with 4 HR and 13 K's

Jose Contreras v. the Astros:
Dan Wheeler: 0-1

Andy Pettitte v. the White Sox:
Joe Crede: 1-2 with a double
Jermaine Dye: 6-18 with 4 doubles
Carl Everett: 9-32 with 1 double and 1 HR
Paul Konerko: 9-23 with 1 double, 1 triple and 1 HR
AJ Pierzynski: 4-11
Aaron Rowand: 0-4
Juan Uribe: 1-2 with a HR

Be glad that the Big Hurt is living up to his nickname (14-39 with 3 HR, 12 RBI, 11 BB and 4 K)

Mark Buerhle v. the Astros:
Brad Ausmus: 1-1 with a double
Charles Gipson: 1-3 with a double
Mike Lamb: 1-3
Orlando Palmeiro: 0-1

Roy Oswalt v. the White Sox:
Geoff Blum: 2-8 with 2 doubles
Jermaine Dye: 0-3 with 3 K's
AJ Pierzynski: 5-8 with 1 double
Scott Podsednik: 6-23
Juan Uribe: 1-4

Freddy Garcia v. the Astros:
Brad Ausmus: 1-12 with 2 K's
Jeff Bagwell: 1-4 with a double
Lance Berkman: 2-3 with a double
Craig Biggio: 1-4 with a double
Morgan Ensberg: 1-3
Adam Everett: 0-4
Mike Lamb: 5-17 with a double
Jason Lane: 0-3
Orlando Palmeiro: 2-19

Brandon Backe v. the White Sox:
Geoff Blum: 0-2
Joe Crede: 0-2
Paul Konerko: 0-3
AJ Pierzynski: 1-2
Aaron Rowand: 1-1

Jon Garland v. the Astros:
Brad Ausmus: 0-2
Mike Lamb: 1-9
Orlando Palmeiro: 1-2

Need a New Background Picture?

Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports: Astros' whipping boy Julie Tavarez cleans out his locker...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sox in 6?

Thanks to the brilliance of WhatIfSports, readers of H-Town Sports will know in advance what to expect when the World Series kicks off on Saturday. Here's how it is going to play out:

Game 1: Astros 3, White Sox 1
The Rocket took center stage in the opening game, firing eight spectacular innings to lead the Astros to a win in their inaugural World Series appearance despite Jose Contreras extending the White Sox's incredible postseason streak of complete games pitched to five. Brad Lidge pitched the ninth to record the save.

The Astros got all the runs they needed in the first inning, but initially the inning looked like a major missed opportunity. The bases were loaded in the top of the first inning without a single out, as Biggio and Taveras singled and Berkman walked. Contreras got Ensberg to pop up in the infield and struck out Lamb, but Jason Lane drove in Biggio and Taveras, who finished with three hits and two steals, with a single to left. Contreras retired Burke to escape further damage.

The White Sox cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first inning on a Tad Iguchi solo HR. The Astros added their final run in the fourth inning when Jason Lane tripled and Brad Ausmus drove him in with a two-out single.

Garner gave the Rocket a chance to close out the game in the ninth because he had thrown only 95 pitches, but after Scott Podsednik led off the ninth with a double, Garner brought in "Lights Out" Lidge to close it. After walking Iguchi, Lidge got Jermaine Dye to line into a double play to mute the threat. It will be interesting to see how Contreras bounces back after throwing an incredible 155 pitches in Game 1, thanks in part to five walks.

Game 2: White Sox 1, Astros 0
Jeff Bagwell's return to the starting lineup was not enough to get the Astros a win in Game 2, as Mark Buerhle outdueled Andy Pettitte in a pair of complete games to tie the series at one game apiece. The Sox got the game's only run on three singles by Carl Everett, AJ Pierzynski and Joe Crede in the second inning.

The Astros' only threat came in the third inning when Chris Burke singled and advanced to third on two groundouts, but Craig Biggio popped up to end the inning. Jeff Bagwell mustered one of the Astros' five hits, all singles, as Pettitte's 11 K performance went to waste.

Game 3: White Sox 6, Astros 2
NLCS MVP Roy Oswalt could not continue his masterful pitching, allowing 12 hits and five runs in eight innings to absorb the loss, as the White Sox took a 2-1 lead in the 2005 World Series. Freddy Garcia picked up the win against his former employer and extended the White Sox's streak of complete games pitched to an astounding seven.

Offensively, Scott Podsednik continued to terrorize the Astros with three more hits and a stolen base, and Juan Uribe had a three-hit night and drove in two. Dye, Konerko, Pierzynski and Crede all had two hits apiece for the Sox. The Astros never mounted much of a threat outside their sixth inning, thanks to Craig Biggio, who singled and scored on a Chris Burke triple. Burke then came in on a ground out by Lance Berkman.

Game 4: Astros 3, White Sox 2
The Astros tied the World Series at two games apiece when Lance Berkman scored on a passed ball in the eleventh inning. The White Sox were forced to use their bullpen for the first time in nearly three weeks, as Jon Garland could not answer the bell in the tenth inning. Dan Wheeler picked up the win in relief for Houston.

The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the third when Brandon Backe singled and scored from first on Craig Biggio's double to left. The Sox tied it the next half-inning on a Paul Konerko solo home run. Jermaine Dye and Morgan Ensberg each homered for his team in the sixth inning, leaving the game tied at 2. Neither team mounted much of a threat until the eleventh, when Berkman walked for Houston, stole second base, moved to third on Lamb's grounder to first and scored on a passed ball by Pierzynski.

Brandon Backe gave the Astros a strong seven innings, and Brad Lidge was his usual dominant self, pitching hitless innings in the seventh, eighth and ninth.

Game 5: White Sox 6, Astros 4
The White Sox took a 3-2 lead back to Chicago after roughing up the Rocket in front of his hometown fans. Jose Contreras threw yet another complete game for the Sox, allowing four unearned runs and striking out ten batters. Paul Konerko homered twice, once of Clemens and once off Chad Qualls, and Tad Iguchi homered again off of Clemens to lead the Sox offense.

Aaron Rowand misplayed two fly balls on Tal's Hill to assist the Astros offense. One extended the inning in the fourth, which led to a three-run homer from Adam Everett. Lance Berkman continued his series-long slump with an 0-4 accented by three K's.

Game 6: White Sox 5, Astros 4
A late rally by the Astros was squashed just in time for the White Sox to claim the World Series title four games to two. Andy Pettitte was less sharp this time for Houston and took the loss, allowing twelve hits and five runs in eight innings. Mark Buerhle needed help to obtain the final out, but pitched well enough to get the win.

Series co-MVP Tad Iguchi (shared with Paul Konerko and Jose Contreras) got the scoring started with an RBI double in the third inning. The Astros tied it at one in the fourth when Willy Taveras singled, moved up on a HBP by Berkman and scored on a single by Jason Lane. The Sox took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on an RBI grounder by Joe Crede, scoring Paul Konerko who had singled, and an RBI single by Juan Uribe. The Sox padded their lead to 4-1 in the seventh on an RBI single by Paul Konerko scoring Jermaine Dye, who had doubled.

The Astros cut it to 4-2 in the eighth thanks to Buerhle's wildness. Berkman led off with a single, Ensberg followed with a single and after Jason Lane grounded into a fielder's choice, Bagwell walked to load the bases. Chris Burke was then HBP to score Berkman, but Brad Ausmus grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat. The Sox then took that run back in the eighth on an RBI single by Scott Podsednik scoring AJ Pierzynski from second base.

In the ninth, Adam Everett led off with a hit. Craig Biggio then struck out, and Willy Taveras grounded out to third, moving Everett to second base with two outs. Lance Berkman drove Everett in with a single to center, leading Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen to replace Buerhle with Dustin Hermanson. Ensberg and Lane greeted Hermanson with singles, Lane's scoring Berkman to draw the Astros within 5-4 and move the tying run, Ensberg, to second base. In not-so-storybook fashion, Astros' legend Jeff Bagwell struck out to end the game and the series.

Too Bad He Wasn't a Gretzky Fan

Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A man got a prison term longer than prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed to -- all because of Larry Bird.

The lawyers reached a plea agreement Tuesday for a 30-year term for a man accused of shooting with an intent to kill and robbery. But Eric James Torpy wanted his prison term to match Bird's jersey number 33.

``He said if he was going to go down, he was going to go down in Larry Bird's jersey,'' Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott said Wednesday. ``We accommodated his request and he was just as happy as he could be.

``I've never seen anything like this in 26 years in the courthouse. But, I know the DA is happy about it.''

Tonight on Hannity and Colmes, Steven Jackson

Steven Jackson's thoughts on player decorum are about as valuable as Mark Furhman's ideas on improving race relations. All we need now is for Latrell Sprewell to chirp about how this new dress code is going to hinder his ability to provide for his children. Yep, the NBA's back in session. Man did I miss it.

Houston to the Fall Classic!

We here at H-town Sports are often accused of being cynical, sarcastic, and/or cruel. And we are. But watching the Houston Astros win the pennant last night...just an absolutely tremendous, pure moment for the team and its fans. What can you say? The Wizard was unhittable. The bottom of the order came up huge, especially Everett. Jason Lane, relegated to spot duty for the past two seasons, hits another game-changing postseason HR. Qualls and Wheeler, unheard of until this season, throwing darts. Bidge and Bags, more deserving and happier than anyone. I could go on, but I'm getting a little emotional. Now it's on to Chicago for the next step in the march to greatness. For the record, I'm calling 'Stros in six.

If you're feeling the urge to file for bankruptcy

I've got the perfect recipe. Here are my picks of the week (1-4 ATS last week, 18-19 ATS season):

UNC -1 v. Virginia
Navy -7 at Rice
Vandy +8 at South Carolina
Texas -15 v. Texas Tech
East Carolina +7.5 at Memphis

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

One for the Ages

As a fan of big time college football I can not help feeling unfulfilled after suffering through the doldrums of Texas wins against no name teams like Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma. The pillow fight that was USC v. Notre Dame and the unexpected success of upstarts with no tradition like Alabama and Penn State have left much to be desired from the young season. I found myself wishing for a match-up between the Longhorns and one of the truly elite teams in college football. That match-up is now less than a week away. When the Texas Tech Red raiders bring their 6-0 record and #7 BCS ranking into Darrell K. Royal Memorial stadium this Saturday, the eyes of Texas and the nation will turn to Austin.

This Tech team should not be taken lightly. Over the last three weeks Leach’s boys have stolen small town west Texas headlines from powerhouses like Mike Price’s UTEP Miners by issuing beat downs over not only both vaunted Kansas schools but also a retooled Nebraska team that was clearly hitting on all cylinders. Even more impressive is the fact that the Red Raiders’ dominance could not be contained to division 1-A. They also boast lop-sided victories over division 1-AA powerhouses like Florida International, Sam Houston State, and Indiana State. The team’s confidence is growing exponentially with each win, but can they handle all this success? I submit that the can. After hanging 80 points on a stingy Kat defense from SHSU, Tech fifth year senior QB Cody Hodges showed his poise and maturity by predicting that his team would hang 100 points on Indiana State. This confidence and swagger even in the face stiff competition shows what Tech is made off. Never mind the fact that they only managed 63 points. When Mike Leach was asked if the UT game could but Tech on the map he said, “If you say so. I don't worry about maps, and I don't worry about whether we're on it. I go out there and watch films and watch practices and make corrections. Then I go out and have more practices so I can have more film to watch.” If that kind of fiery rhetoric doesn’t get you going, rewatching that Tech bell ringer clip surely will.

Texas Tech University is not just about academics anymore. The school is building on a short but proud tradition of athletic success. The glory days of tortilla tossing, killing black stallions, coach Spike Dykes (and the Tech girls softball team that shared the same nickname), Cheryl Swoops, and red-haired bizaro Ricky Williams are all gone but not forgotten. The 1970s astro turf is still the same, but a new cast of stars are leading Tech into the future. Cody Hodges is yet another QB who is the greatest in NCAA history (that’s 9 in a row I believe). WR Joel Filateme is blowing by defenders and sucking up all balls thrown his way. There are even rumors that Tech’s defense has improved from the decades of misfits who to a man were too small, too slow, and too stupid to make the flagship university’s practice squad. They have even added a JUCO saftey named Slay that is neither small nor slow.

When you see those red Ts on the black, moist looking helmets and those all too familiar red uniforms that are identical to at least one bad high school team in every district in the state, you know you are in for a fight. Hopefully ABC will do a halftime feature on how all that glitter gets from the hair and make-up of all those classy Lubbock ladies to those storied sparkly helmets. Forget UT’s 30 point win in the stadium that strikes fear in the heart of every Aggy. You can throw the records out when the ‘horns and the guns go up in anticipation of the opening kickoff on what promises be a crisp fall afternoon. You can not, however, get a pizza delivered or get an oil change on this side the Sabine river while this Red Raider team is on the field. That’s just how big this one is.

Manager's Decision

Going into last night's action:

Lidge lifetime v. Edmonds: 1-12 with 2 K's
Lidge lifetime v. Pujols: 1-8 with 1 BB, 2 K's
Lidge lifetime v. Sanders: 0-6 with 1 BB, 5 K's
Lidge lifetime v. Walker: 2-8 with 2 K's.

An Impostor on the Roster?

If Phil Garner and Tim Purpura truly believed when they decided to include Jeff Bagwell on the Astros' postseason roster that Bagwell's inclusion was merited and not just an honorary spot, then one would think that Baggy would be used as a pinch-hitter in spots like the bottom of the 9th inning last night. In particular, I'm thinking about Garner's use of Viz as a pinch-hitter in the 9th against Jason Isringhausen. Sure Viz has decent numbers in his career against Izzy, but we're talking about a dozen stinking at-bats, and to that extent, Baggy's been nearly as good (5-15 with a HR and 6 BB). Viz has been terrible at the plate in the postseason (0 for 7 now), and that's not a new trend (8-42, .541 OPS in September). It's a one-run game, and no matter the extent of Baggy's shoulder woes, one must think that the odds of him tying up the game with one swing are considerably as good as Viz's. Plus, Bags is a notoriously above-average baserunner, making him all the more valuable should he coerce a walk from the Cards' closer.

If last night was not 'the right time' to use Houston's most beloved 1B, then there is simply not going to be a 'right time'. Luke Scott would be a much more valuable asset; heck, if you're not going to dust him off, you might as well bring back this guy.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Gallo's Job Safe as Astros Crappy Lefty

According to Rotoworld, the Astros optioned LHP Carlos Hernandez to AAA, and Hernandez refused the assignment rendering him a free agent.

In related news, residents of the subdivision immediately behind the left-field fence at Dell Diamond noticed an appreciable decrease in their homeowners' insurance premiums yesterday.

Revising Scott's NLCS Prediction

'Stros win in five. Deer Park's favorite son throws a disgusting seven innings before giving way to Qualls and Lidge. Final score: Astros 4, Cards 2.

Friday, October 14, 2005

College Football Picks - Week Seven

I am still recovering from the crapload of bad luck from last weekend's games. My picks went 3-5 and could have easily been 6-2. Regardless, the overall record ATS dips to 17-15. Here are the picks for this weekend's games:

SMU -1.5 v. East Carolina
Missouri -5.5 v. Iowa State
Georgia -15.5 at Vanderbilt
TCU -23.5 v. Army
Florida State -7 at Virginia

Three underdogs this weekend with decent chances of winning straight-up: Florida Atlantic (v. MTSU), Baylor (v. Nebraska) and Marshall (v. UAB).

Revised NLCS Predictions

Scrap's flip-flop of Oswalt and Clemens threw my precise predications off, but the net result is the same thus far: a split in St. Louis. I'm still nervous about the ability of Pettitte/Clemens/Oswalt/Lidge to sustain the level of perfection that will be required to overcome the Astros' offensive woes over a long series, but here are my revised predictions for the remainder of the series, reflecting the modified pitching matchups. FYI - I still think that the Angels are the best team in baseball, although losing Colon makes me a little nervous. Must be nice to have a stud like Erwin Santana just hanging out ready to step in at a moment's notice. That guy would be a top-of-the-rotation guy on more than half of the teams in baseball.

Game 3: Clemens v. Morris - the Rocket lives up to the hype - Astros 6-1 (Astros lead 2-1).
Game 4: Backe v. Suppan - Birds Bomb Backe - Cardinals 11-4 (Series tied 2-2).
Game 5: Pettitte v. Carpenter - AP's better than Game 1, but so is Carpenter - Cards 1-0 (Cards lead 3-2).
Game 6: Oswalt v. Mulder - Late rally extends series - Astros 4-3 (Series tied 3-3).
Game 7: Clemens v. Morris - Rockets runs out of fuel - Cards 4-2 (Cards win series 4-3).

I cannot wait to see where Chris Burke is next spring. I could not be happier for the guy, even though he went to Tennessee.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It's Never too Early...

Sportsbook.com has posted its early line on the BCS National Championship Game. Well, assuming that it involves USC and Texas. The line is USC -8. I'll take the Horns.

On a similar note, here are some of the odds to win the BCS Title:

USC 5:6
Texas 13:5
Virginia Tech 10:1
Alabama 15:1
Florida State 15:1
Georgia 20:1
Penn State 25:1
Texas Tech 35:1
UCLA 50:1

Monday, October 10, 2005

Pasquarelli: Capers' Seat Warming

A fair, but critical, assessment of the Texans' dire situation from one of ESPN's best writers.

Texas-sized problems

Honest, we're not trying to stoke the embers under Dom Capers' office chair. But in a week when Mike Tice got a respite from the hot seat, courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings' bye, the Houston Texans' coach had to feel the flames starting to lap up around him. As was noted in the "Tip Sheet" lead item on Friday, there really is little or nothing to be gained from firing a coach in-season. Interim and replacement coaches, the item noted, have an aggregate winning percentage of just .314 since 1970.

Houston owner Bob McNair, though, can't be happy with having his team seemingly in reverse in this fourth season of the expansion franchise's existence. Two weeks ago, reaching for a panic button a little early by anyone's standards, Capers dumped offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and replaced him with offensive line coach Joe Pendry. So, Dom, how's that move paying off? Well, the efficiency rating of embattled quarterback David Carr, a puny 47.8 in the two games Palmer was coordinator, is a respectable 85.6 under Pendry.

But Carr, who keeps insisting he feels more comfortable in the Pendry offense, keeps saying it while picking himself up. Sacked 13 times the first two games, he has been dumped 14 times the last two. And, say, isn't pass protection the bailiwick of Pendry, the offensive line coach?

The Texans have scored more points the past two games than they did in the first two (30-14), have more first downs (32-28) and lots more yards (511-341). But they've got just two offensive touchdowns under Pendry, the same number they had in two games under Palmer's stewardship.

The picture is nearly as bleak on the defensive side of the ball. Once upon a time, the Capers' 3-4 deployment used to create sacks and turnovers. Amazingly, Houston hasn't a single takeaway this season. And the Texans have only four sacks. Since the beginning of the 2003 season, the Houston defense has only 47 sacks, the fewest in the league in that period.

In his first time around as coach of an expansion franchise, Capers took the Carolina Panthers to the conference title game in only their second season, but was pink-slipped two years after that. This is his fourth year in Houston, and the Texans haven't so much as sniffed a winning record, let alone a playoff berth. That can't bode well for Capers' future.

My NLCS Prediction

Now that I've seen all the numbers, here's my prediction, assuming no changes in my matchups listed below:

Game 1: Astros beat the Cards bullpen, Astros 2-1 (Astros lead 1-0)
Game 2: Mulder mystifies the Astros, Cards 5-0 (Series tied 1-1)
Game 3: Astros bullpen saves day, Astros 7-5 (Astros lead 2-1)
Game 4: Cards wallop Backe, Cards 11-4 (Series tied 2-2)
Game 5: Carpenter shuts out Astros, Cards 2-0 (Cards lead 3-2)
Game 6: Clemens comes up HUGE, Astros 4-1 (Series tied 3-3)
Game 7: Oswalt does his best but runs out of gas, Edmonds takes Gallo yard in 8th, Cards 5-3 (Cards win series 4-3)

In the end, I think that the series will be decided by the matchup of the Big Bats v. the Bullpen. If LaRussa can use Ray King to neutralize Lance Berkman (assuming he's not already lifted for a pinch runner), then that will be a HUGE advantage for the Cards because Gallo/Wandy will be forced to deal with Walker and Edmonds, and I think that advantage gets the Cards to the World Series, only to be bulldozed (again) by the AL Champ.

St. Louis v. Houston - 2005 Head-to-Head

Notable numbers:

By my count, the Cards went 11-5 versus the Astros in 2005.

Lifetime regular season numbers v. the Birds
- Andy Pettitte is 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 0.81 WHIP (0-1 in 2005 with 1.35 ERA and 0.80 WHIP)
- The Rocket is 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA and 1.15 WHIP (1-1 in 2005 with 2.63 ERA and 1.29 WHIP)
- Roy O is 5-4 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.31 WHIP (1-1 in 2005 with 2.63 ERA and 1.29 WHIP)
- Brandon Backe is 1-1 with a 6.29 ERA and 1.89 WHIP (0-1 with 10.32 ERA and 2.47 WHIP)

Lifetime regular season numbers v. the Astros
- Carpenter is 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 1.00 WHIP (4-0 in 2005 with 1.86 ERA and 0.95 WHIP)
- Mulder is 2-1 with a 2.72 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (1-1 in 2005 with 2.48 ERA and 1.00 WHIP)
- Morris is 9-10 with a 3.53 ERA and 1.29 WHIP (1-1 in 2005 with 3.27 ERA and 1.09 WHIP)
- Suppan is 2-6 with a 4.75 ERA and 1.53 WHIP (no starts v. Houston in 2005)

Some interesting individual numbers:
- Morgan Ensberg crushed STL pitching in 2005 (21/62 (.339 avg) with 5 HR (0.998 OPS), with 2 HR coming against Jason Marquis, who likely will not start in the NLCS. Ensberg also went 3-3 against STL closer Jason Isringhausen in 2005, including a HR. Ensberg is 8-32 lifetime against Morris and Carpenter with one double and 0 HR.
- Lance Berkman was 3-12 v. Chris Carpenter in 2005 with a pair of HR. Berkman owns Matt Morris with 20 hits in 56 ABs (0.955 OPS), but is only 1-9 lifetime against Mark Mulder.
- Jason Lane had a good 2005 v. Cardinal pitching: 17-52 (.327 avg) and .894 OPS.
- The Astros knocked reliever Julian Tavarez around pretty good in 2005: 11 hits and six runs in 9+ innings.
- Look for Tony LaRussa to use LHP Ray King to flip Lance Berkman around in late innings. Berkman is only 3-13 lifetime against the lefty.
- Craig Biggio had only a .217 avg and .619 OPS in 60 AB's against the Cards in 2005. Surprisingly, Bidge is 8-22 lifetime against the toughest Redbird, Chris Carpenter, but is 0-14 lifetime against Mark Mulder. Jeff Suppan also has Bidge's number (5 hits in 26 at-bats), and Matt Morris has also fared well (16 hits in 69 at-bats, .622 OPS).
- Albert Pujols has been somewhat human against the Astros' starting rotation. Pettitte's held him to 2 hits in 12 at-bats, and Clemens to 6 hits in 21 at-bats (1 HR). Pujols has 3 hits in 10 AB's v. Backe, with all 3 leaving the yard. Pujols has gone 14-41 against Roy O, but with only one HR in those 41 AB's. The Astros will need to continue to keep Prince Albert in the park to have a chance in the NLCS. Other notables for Albert: 1-8 v. Lidge, 4-6 v. Wheeler, 4-9 v. Springer and 1-5 v. Qualls.
- Reggie Sanders may be the biggest X-factor for the Cards. He is 3-9 v. Backe (1 HR), 1-5 v. Clemens, 4-14 v. Oswalt (1 HR) and 3-7 v. Pettitte (2 HR). Just get Lidge in there to face him: 0-6 with 5 K's.
- Larry Walker has also had success against the non-HOF portion of the Astros' rotation: 3-7 v. Backe (1 HR), 2-14 v. Clemens, 7-21 v. Oswalt (2 HR) and 3-7 v. Pettitte (1 HR). Walker is also 1-2 against each of the Astros "lefty specialists", Gallo and Wandy.
- Jim Edmonds has been held in check by nearly all of the rotation for the Astros. He is 3-30!!! v. Pettitte lifetime, 2-9 v. Backe, 12-50 v. Clemens (3 HR) and 10-35 v. Oswalt (2 HR and 15 K). He is 2-2 lifetime off of Gallo, 1-5 against Wandy and 1-12 against Lidge.

ESPN NLCS Predictions

Of the ten pundits questioned, it's an even split between the Astros and Redbirds as to who is going to go to the World Series.

Astros: Gammons (7), Stark (7), Crasnick, Olney (6), Neyer (6) and Caple (7)
Cards: Kurkijan (7), Crasnick (6), Phillips (7), Gillette (6) and Neel (7)

Since Olney's an established moron (further evidenced by picking SD over St. Louis in the NLDS), the tally is really 6-4 in favor of the 'Stros.

Here's my guess at the pitching matchups should the NLCS go seven games:

Game 1 (Wednesday 10/12): Pettitte (6 days rest) v. Carpenter (7 days rest)
Game 2 (Thursday 10/13): Clemens (6 days rest, not counting 44-pitch bullpen session Sunday) v. Mulder (6 days rest)
Game 3 (Saturday 10/15): Oswalt (6 days rest) v. Morris (6 days rest)
Game 4 (Sunday 10/16): Backe (6 days rest) v. Suppan (yet to appear in 2005 postseason)
Game 5 (Monday 10/17): Pettitte v. Carpenter (each on 4 days rest)
Game 6 (Wednesday 10/19): Clemens v. Mulder (each on 5 days rest)
Game 7 (Thursday 10/20): Oswalt v. Morris (each on 4 days rest)

A Keeper

Print and keep Jayson Stark's captivating column on Astros/Braves Game 4.

One additional thought: I wonder if Bobby Cox & Co. still feel that taking Smoltz out of the closer role was a good move. They cycled through Danny Kolb, Chris Reitsma and Kyle Farnsworth and never had a decent performance, while Smoltz ended up virtually unavailable by the end of the season as a starter. The Braves certainly encountered a lot of injuries, but I wonder whether or not they think they made the right decision in hindsight?

Weekend Thoughts

On Texas-OU:
To me, Vince Young is the most fascinating athlete in sports right now. If I were an NFL GM, I am not sure I'd spend more than a 3rd round pick on him as a QB because I am not certain of his ability to read complex defenses and make pressure, NFL-caliber throws. As a WR or RB, I'd take him first overall. And after another year of practice, I may be convinced that he could handle NFL defenses as a QB. After all, he did beat OSU and OU with his arm, not his legs.

VY is exhibiting Michael Jordan-like qualities in the realm of college football. There is no game that I think he will not win, no matter the situation. He exudes a quiet, yet brash, confidence that obviously spreads throughout his teammates. I know that this vaunted USC offense is one for the ages, but if I had to pick one team who I'd bet my life would be in Pasadena in January, I'd take Vince's Horns. Roadies to South Bend and UCLA and a bout with Jeff Tedford's Cal Bears are all games that I think USC could potentially lose. The Horns underrated defense is an asset that the Trojans do not have and is a reason that they are a serious, serious threat to USC's back-to-back dreams. Adrian Peterson's absence was certainly a problem for the Sooners on Saturday, but Rhett Bomar persistent horizontal state was the reason that UT would have won this game 10 times out of 10, with or without A.P.

On the Astros:
Hats off to everyone in the Astros organization (outside of Phil Garner) in this legendary win. Dan Wheeler earned my permanent respect with his three gutty innings, and Cha-Cha will always be remembered for putting his girth in front of that laser one-hopper at first base (I heard third-hand that Chamo was allegedly drafted as SS - I will search relentlessly for verification...I'm thinking maybe the truth is that he accidentally swallowed a SS shortly after being drafted as a rotund catcher).

I could not be happier for Chris Burke, a stud prospect who has been screwed over by Drayton's Chase for 3000. Maybe the Astros will capitalize on this moment by dealing Burke in the off-season, which would certainly be a benefit for Burke, who has absolutely excelled at every level of baseball when given the chance.

I could not believe that the ESPN broadcast team did not make more of a fuss over Garner's removal of Lance Berkman. The Astros lineup, with Berkman, is one of the worst in major-league baseball. Only thanks to their once-in-a-lifetime pitching staff are they in the postseason. Nothing outside of a death threat (and only a very, very credible death threat) should have removed either Berkman or Ensberg from the game. I realize that Lance's knee may be bothering him, but only his wit has ever been quick. Any marginal benefit that a pinch-runner may have provided in that situation was completely offset by the immensely negative impact that Lance's absence from the lineup would have on the Astros' offense for the remainder of the game. I am sure that Scrap has a spot on his mantle just waiting for his self-made plaque honoring him for using a record 23 players in one game, but the Astros certainly won in spite of his managing rather than as a result of it.

One move that Garner does deserve credit for is sticking with Ausmus in the 9th. The ESPN knuckleheads had already set the stage for Baggy pinch-hitting for Brad in storybook fashion, obviously unaware that Baggy's one-armed swing was less likely to produce a walk-off HR than Ausmus' healthy swing. Credit to Scrap for letting Ausmus hit, although I thought that was a clear non-decision.

Speaking of bad managing, was anyone else stunned that the Braves did not try a suicide squeeze with the bases loaded and one out against Wheeler in the 15th (or maybe it was the 14th?) It sure seemed obvious that one run would likely win the game at that point, and I was very surprised that the Braves did not try to push that runner home the LaRussa way.

On the Texans:
Just when you thought it could not get any worse... I know that the offensive line stinks, but I swear that David Carr's pocket presence is non-existent. He is so gunshy that he refuses to stay in the pocket for more than a single second on any passing play. I'm no offensive-line guru, but at least one of the sacks that he took yesterday was the direct result of Carr refusing to stay in the pocket that had been nicely formed by his O-line, and he nervously shuffled out to the right a few steps, right into the arms of an otherwise-occupied D-lineman. Additionally, when Carr does roll out, rarely does he make a play other than a six yard run/slide. He ran out of bounds for significant losses of yards on multiple occasions rather than throwing the ball away. He needs a lot of work, regardless of the line problems. He has to start letting the ball fly when he does have the time, even if there is not a wide-open receiver. Also, it sure seems like quick slant routes would be a welcome addition to Joe P.'s playbook.

That said, I better not see a Riley-Pitts-McKinney-Wiegert-Wade offensive line trot out for the first series next Sunday night in Seattle.

The two most troublesome points of emphasis for me are: (1) the lack of offensive playmakers and (2) the lack of any semblance of a pass rush. The Texans may well possess the worst set of tight ends in the history of football. Never would I have thought that I would be longing for Billy Miller after four games. And whatever urban legends exist about Bruener and Murphy being "known for their blocking" are no longer accurate, if they once were. Sure they've got cinder blocks for hands, but at least hoist those things into an oncoming pass rusher if you're not going to use them to occassionally catch a pass. Each time Erron Kinney or Ben Troupe made a play yesterday (they combined for twelve catches), I cringed with envy.

The wide receiving corps is horrendous. Why Derrick Armstrong is not on the field continues to amaze me; I understood the argument about his lack of speed being a detriment, but at this point, a completion is virtually a miracle. At least if Carr manages to let go of the ball in DA's vicinity, there's a very good chance it will be caught, if only for a yard. Corey Bradford may as well be handcuffed when he breaks open downfield. Jerome Mathis certainly shows signs of potential. As a matter of fact, I felt like the Texans' best chance to score was when Mathis returned kickoffs after each Titans TD. Andre Johnson does not escape scrutiny either. Yesterday's injury-shortened game aside, Andre has not shown the ability to make plays while being the focus of the opponents defense. Double and triple coverage do not prevent true #1 WRs from making tremendous impacts on games. Andre has to find a way to impact games, no matter the intensity of the coverage.

On defense, only Robaire Smith seemed to make his presence felt. Seth Payne seems to do a good job of occupying blockers at nose tackle, but I thought the point of his doing so was to open up gaps for athletic LB's to fire through and make plays in the backfield. Instead, said gaps are utilized by opposing RB's who dance freely through into the secondary or for opposing QB's, who could recite the Iliad prior to making a throw. Steve McNair actually took a full circle tour of the pocket yesterday, then spun around, called Marc Vandermeer a "goodie two-shoes", then stepped up into the pocket before firing a completion downfield. Questions lobbed from Katie Couric's piehole to the Celeb-of-the-Day are more pressure-packed.

Does anyone else feel bad for legendary NFL referee Ed Hochuli for being subjected to the Texans-Titans game?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

College Football Picks - Week Six

Week Six already! 3-2 last weekend to run the record to 14-10 overall ATS. I'm holding off from playing the Red River Shootout (UT 34, OU 17) so that I can most fully soak in what should be a memorable afternoon. On to this week's picks, which you'll notice, are quite numerous:

Georgia Tech -4.5 v. N.C. State
The Wolfpack have only covered the spread in four of their last 17 conference games, and the Wreck has covered 10 of the last 12 tilts between these two rivals. This game calculates to a score of -20.369, which is completely off the charts. All four of the major power rankings systems which I consult see this as a 9-point GT victory. This is a Thursday night home game, and GT should be out for blood after an embarrassing rout in Blacksburg.

Ohio State -3 at Penn State
If Ohio State's TE had hung on to Justin Zwick's late would-be TD toss, or if Jim Tressel had left Troy Smith in at QB, the Buckeyes would be in Texas' shiny shoes. Instead, they've been forgotten about on a national scale. Penn State needed a miracle to defeat Northwestern, and despite what will surely be a rowdy crowd in Happy Valley, the Buckeyes should make relatively easy work of the Nittany Lions.

Colordao -3 v. Texas A&M
The Ags continue to get the respect of Vegas' linemakers for reasons beyond my comprehension. Baylor is a good team, one who Vegas does not truly appreciate, but despite all of the emotion and revenge factors at play last Saturday in College Station, the Ags came out flat and were completely out-played by the Bears. The Buffs continue to fly under the radar, with their only setback being a decent showing in South Beach. This one's huge for both teams, and the Buffs should be sky-high off their crush job at Stillwater, while the Aggies have to be (justifiably) unsure of just how good they truly are.

Wyoming -6.5 v. TCU
It's pretty simple, really. The Cowboys are 11-3 ATS at home, while the Toads are 5-11 ATS on the road. On top of that, Wyoming is playing great football right now, and I believe that TCU is overrated. The season-opening win at OU was still a great one for the program, but it has been put in perspective thanks to the Sooners' play subsequent. A loss at SMU speaks for itself, Utah has been a tremendous disappointment and BYU is not Jim McMahon's BYU any longer. Last week's win over New Mexico was certainly a solid one, but I do not think that the Frogs have what it takes to keep this game within a TD.

Houston -1.5 v. Tulane (at Lafayette)
Art Briles' Cougars hung tough versus Oregon and made a valiant showing on the road at UTEP. Last week's win at Tulsa finally gave the program the confidence that the close calls of weeks prior are not immune from becoming victories, and I think that it will give the whole program a giant shot in the arm. Tulane has done nothing worthy of positive mention in 2005, and it must be tremendously difficult for its players and coaches to maintain focus during such a nomadic season. I like the Coogs to take care of the Green Wave rather easily.

Baylor +9 at Iowa State
Baylor is 17-7 ATS in its last 24 outings, while the Cyclones are 4-13 ATS in its last 17 games. Iowa State's win over Iowa also looks much less impressive now, especially considering that the Hawkeyes were without Drew Tate for much of the game. Baylor handled the same Army team that Iowa State struggled to put away, and I think Guy Morris' troops will have nothing to lose in Ames on Saturday. Look not only for a Baylor cover, but I believe that they will come away with the straight-up win.

Florida State -20.5 v. Wake Forest
Wake Forest was actually out first-downed 28-17 in last week's win over a beleagured Clemson squad, and last year's close contest versus the Seminoles was (a) at Winston-Salem, (b) accomplished by a much better Demon Deacon team and (c) courtesy of 3 FSU turnovers. Florida State is resting eagerly after a rout of Syracuse, and the Demon Deacons had better home for 13 Seminole TO's in this one.

Hawaii +5 at Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs are 0-8 ATS coming off of a conference win, and Hawaii has handled them easily in each of the past two seasons. The Rainbows should have beaten Boise State last Saturday rather handily, but BSU escaped with a three-point win. Assuming the Rainbows bounce back, they should not just cover, but defeat La Tech on the road. The power rankings that I consult suggest that the spread should be Hawaii -6, not +5.