Steelers 30, Texans 23: 4 Winners, 4 Losers

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At least Bill O'Brien is finally giving you the fire you've been waiting for, Texans fan..
Ask any NFL player what they enjoy about playing primetime, nationally televised football games, and one of the first things they'll all inevitably bring up is the fact that they know all of their peers are watching.

There's added motivation in showing off your wares to the other 30 idle teams around the league, and I would imagine as an NFL player, when you have two primetime games in a ten-day span, you would like to look back and say to yourself, "Man, we showed the nation what we're all about."

If you're a Houston Texan, you hope you can look back at the final gun last night in Pittsburgh and say "That was Houston Texan football."

Well, for better or worse, after an exasperating opening act last Thursday night against the Colts, and on the heels of a 30-23 loss to the Steelers last night in Pittsburgh in which the Texans gave up 24 points in the final three minutes of the first half (TWENTY FOUR!), we can all look back and say it together:

That was Houston Texan football. Unfortunately.


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Cougars Defeat Temple, But Does It Count if No One's There to See It?

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Does a win really count if there's no one there to see it?
The Houston Cougars (4-3) defeated the Temple Owls (4-2) 31-10 on Friday night. The game wasn't as close as the final score indicates, as the Cougar defense kept Temple bottled up for most of the night. The game was a bit of a yawner as the Cougars no longer offer up the high-flying Air Raid offense, instead relying on the running game, short passes, improvisations of new QB Greg Ward, Jr, and a stifling defense that forces turnovers at ease.

The game was also a yawner because the alleged "crowd" was pretty quiet. Alleged crowd because the announced attendance was 21,471 for a stadium that holds 40,000. And looking out over TDECU Stadium Friday night, it appeared that 21,471 number was a bit inflated; there's just no way the stadium was half-full.

"I want to recognize our fans and our students, " head coach Tony Levine said after the game. "I thought it was a terrific turnout tonight; the students have really made a difference, especially on that side of the field. It was loud there tonight and I really appreciate, eight o'clock kick-off, the game isn't going to end till eleven-thirty, twelve o'clock at night on a Friday evening. Our alumni, our fan base, our students, getting off work and coming out and supporting us, I thought it was tremendous."

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College Football, Week 8: 4 Winners, 4 Losers

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A few weeks ago, we had maybe the most thrilling college football weekend of the last ten years (possibly since the 2005 weekend that included, among other fantastic finishes, the "Bush Push" game between USC and Notre Dame). It was twelve hours of dramatic endings and pinball scoring stats, everything that's great about this time of the year and the age we live in (multiple games on television, computer streaming, social media).

The great thing about college football, though, is that you don't need great finishes for the sport to be compelling. This past Saturday we had plenty of buildup to marquee match ups and potential career altering twists for some head coaches. However, in the end, there were a lot more blowouts and popcorn farts on Saturday than there were Instant Classics.

And yet, even from the ashes of numerous boring thrashings, we get storylines. Sure, we love the hits, the physicality, the game day pomp and circumstance of a football Saturday (or Sunday), but no other sport has the episodic advantage and storyline arc that college and pro football have.

The games are great, but now they're over, and now we essentially have six days to pore over what it all means. THAT'S AWESOME. So let's commence poring with the winners and losers from this weekend's college football action...

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College and Pro Football: This Weekend's Best Bets

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Joel Kramer
If you followed my picks last season (and God forbid, used them as your own picks), then you know exactly how painful the hit was by the end of the year. In fact, you're probably cursing me and contemplating exactly how you can dismember me without getting arrested while you stand in the welfare line.

On the other hand, if you merely decided to fade my picks last year and just go opposite, you're probably toasting me from the additional wing you've added to your home.

Well, I don't ever want to got through 2013 again, yet sadly last week was a 1-5 effort that became commonplace as last season (much like the Texans 2013) slipped away into "Bolivian" (as the great Mike Tyson would say). I can't go through that again. I won't go through that again.

So for this week's wagering pep talk, I'm bringing in the big guns. When you need words of inspiration, words to remind you that you can make it through anything if you put your mind to it...you call on your home boy...you call on your friends...you call on your (Houston) blood....you call on....

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Fan Fighting League! Red River Shootout Edition

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YouTube
In the pantheon of college football rivalries, few have the combination of tradition and bitter hatred of the Red River Shootout between Oklahoma and Texas.

(NOTE: I refuse to call it by the more politically correct Red River Rivalry, as if somehow including the word Shootout means that the irresponsible usage of guns is somehow being endorsed and encouraged by those associated with this game.)

With the State Fair as the backdrop, the Sooners and the Longhorns square off every season (usually with a way-too-early-for-most kickoff time before noon) and, more often than not, this game has some sort of impact on the national title race. For many seasons, the big-picture implications applied to both teams, but this season only Oklahoma is relevant on the national front.

Texas is clearly in rebuilding mode, and when one team has such a clear advantage over the other, it can lead to emotions boiling over. And no, I'm not talking about the players on the field. I'm talking about the frat bro douche-sters in the parking lot.

For the next Fan Fighting League installment, let's head to Dallas this past weekend where feelings were hurt and blows were exchanged...

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If You Want More Teams in the College Football Playoff, Here's What to Root For

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colorblindPICASO
Some old habits are hard to break, and as flawed as the old Bowl Championship Series (affectionately referred to and twisted into juvenile alternate acronyms as the "BCS") was, it still began to consume me right about this time every college football season.

The BCS got a lot of stuff wrong, but one thing that they did get right was that they didn't release their rankings until the week around October 15, as opposed to the other polls that came out before anyone had played a game yet. (Of course, a huge element of the BCS rankings was the coaches poll that started in the preseason, so even in the parts the BCS had right, it was still laced with flaws.)

So normally, this week would be the time where we would brace ourselves and see how exactly the Harris Poll voters and the computers would effect the BCS big picture.

Now, though, we live in a brave new college football world, a world with a four team playoff, creatively entitled the "College Football Playoff." (Side bar: I'd love to see the presentation by the marketing company that came up with that name. "After weeks of deliberation, here's what we've come up with....COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF..." Cut to Bill Hancock asking his secretary if they kept the receipt for the marketing firm's hourly charges.)

So at the halfway point of the season, it's time to examine just who's eliminated, who's still in, who's got the most work to do, and most importantly, what we should all be rooting for (independent of our own collegiate affiliations) in order make this thing bigger than just four teams (which is one consensus everyone seems to agree on...this playoff needs to be BIGGER. Eight teams, at least).

So let's take a look....

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Cougars Declaw the Tigers, Get a Much-Needed Win

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The Cougars tamed the Tigers to go to 3-3 on the season
The Houston Cougars have seemingly operated without a plan when on offense this season. There's been the running play. There's been a passing play and/or the QB running for his life depending on whether if the offensive line was able to make any blocks. Then there's generally been the punt on fourth and long after everything else failed.

Every now and then the defense would create a turnover, giving the offense the ball in great field position. Or there's been the timely penalty on a defensive player, giving the Cougars a first down and keeping a drive alive. And more often than not, the Cougars have had to settle for a field goal whenever getting in scoring position. The result's been lackluster play, a disappointed fan base, and the benching of quarterback John O'Korn.

The Cougars (3-3) got the 28-24 win over the Memphis Tigers (3-3) in Memphis on Saturday night. The offense, behind O'Korn's replacement, Greg Ward, Jr., showed more signs of life than it had at any time this season. The defense struggled at times -- the Tigers led 21-14 at the half. But the defense did what has become it's trademark, creating turnover after turnover -- the final fifth Memphis turnover of the night was an interception with under a minute on the clock to stop a Tiger attempt to regain the lead.

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Colts 33, Texans 28: 4 Winners, 4 Losers

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Photo by Marco Torres
Watt recovered a fumble by Andrew Luck and to it to the house...for his THIRD touchdown of the season.
Well, that was a pretty freaking painful four days, huh?

If you're trying to construct the most painful way to chase an overtime loss to your hated in-state rival, the Texans did a pretty good job of it on Thursday night, falling behind the Indianapolis Colts 24-0 in the first quarter, riding the greatness of J.J Watt to a furious comeback, before two fumbles in the final five minutes allowed the Colts to breathe a sigh of relief and leave town with a 33-28 win.

It's painful to quantify just how disastrous this loss is, especially considering that a) the Texans have never won in Indianapolis (meaning 0-2 against them is heavy chalk) and b) Indy seems to be hitting its stride. If you're a Texans fan who aspires to have postseason football on the schedule in January, then the route (as jagged and unlikely as it may be) now goes through the collection of teams in the AFC North plus the Buffalo Bills in going after the other wild card spot.

Assuming the Patriots win the AFC East and the AFC West has two playoff teams (major chalk bets right now), then Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Baltimore is the new "division."

So great news, Texans Fan! You're 1-0 in the division! Suck it, Buffalo!!

Okay, now on to winners and losers....

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College and Pro Football: This Weekend's Best Bets (Including Colts-Texans!)

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John Wardell
In betting, there are weekends where you're looking to score big, where even finishing at or slightly above .500 feels like a slight disappointment, like a running back who left yards on the field.

Then there are weekends like last weekend.

Saturday was utter chaos, like the last 45 minutes of a Transformers movie combined with the Rahad Jackson scene from the climax of Boogie Nights (and yes, I just emitted a juvenile snicker typing the words "climax of Boogie Nights," sue me). Underdogs not only covering left and right, but outright winning some of these games to where, by the end of the weekend, five of the top eight teams in the AP went down, and somehow on Sunday morning, TCU and Arizona were in the top ten.

It was like a drug-induced haze, and by the time Connor Holliday was done putting up 734 yards passing in a loss to Cal, we had blacked out long ago, then on Sunday we woke up with a Horned Frog and a Wildcat on our beds.

Truth be told, it would've been less weird waking up with an actual horned frog and wildcat in our beds than seeing what we saw on Saturday in college football. And I feel fortunate. Why?

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The Houston Texans "Behind the Chains": Lose Yards, Kill Drive

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Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher
If you read my entries in this blog, you know there are certain things that I find intriguing -- fan fights in stadium bathrooms, crime stories from the state of Florida, crime stories involving NFL players, the occasional recreational wager. These things all intrigue me.

But if you examine closely, those things all involve some sort of debauchery and, most times, some illegality. I don't want all of you to think that I'm some meathead crime troll. I can be analytical as well!

One thing that also concerns me greatly (aside from toothless rednecks on meth and whether or not Alabama can cover a ten point spread) is the welfare of our hometown football team. I like the Houston Texans, and while they're a respectable 3-2 right now, it's a rickety 3-2, built on the duct tape of positive turnover margin and the toothpaste of a weak early season schedule.

So what's my biggest concern right now?


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