College and Pro Football: This Weekend's Best Bets

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Parker Anderson via Flickr
My girlfriend Amy and I moved into a new house this week, and as is bound to happen, the cable and internet installation is about five days behind our move-in date. Unfortunately, it's arguably the five best days of the year to sit around and do nothing but watch television and surf the internet.

So forgive me if this is one of the shorter Best Bets posts that I do, but right now I'm operating with a laptop that is getting internet from a daisy chained connection to my iPhone that is acting as a wi-fi hotspot, all while watching DVD's of the first season of 24.

No cable, no conventional wi-fi, no Netflix, no xBox Live. It's the first world equivalent of rubbing two sticks together in the middle of the woods. I'M DYING OVER HERE!!

Still, this will not stop me from sharing my money making secrets for this week. I'm like the post office -- come hell, high water, or delays from the cable company, I will get you your pick!!

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2014 Thanksgiving Day Football Gorging Guide

Flickr/Toby Jagmohan
This is going to sound a little strange, but there's a small part of me that was always jealous of the old bedridden grandparents in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I mean, sure, they were all pushing 80 and sharing a full size double bed with three other octogenarians. And yes, their entire diet appeared to consist of some sort of rancid cabbage water. And I would imagine if they were unable to get up period, then that means they were unable to get up to go to the bathroom, so yeah...rancid.

(Also, why was everyone cool with Grandpa Joe buying tobacco when the family clearly had no money? I mean, they're all drinking cabbage piss and he's noshing on some Red Man and smoking a pipe. What a dick, right? Anyway...)

Still, there's something to be said for being allowed to just lay horizontal all day and watch television with no fear of reprisal. And for one day a year, America gets to do this exact thing with unbridled sloth and joy (and WAY more food).

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College Football Playoff Rankings v 5.0: Cut, Paste, Repeat

We are on the cusp of a massive weekend of college football, a weekend where traditional rivalries shape the months of December and January, and they do so with the added bonus of massive amounts of food consumed over a 72 hour period.

It truly is glorious.

One price that we pay, though, for Rivalry/Thanksgiving Weekend football is the snoozefest the week before, where relevant teams are playing tune up games, including half the SEC staging a de facto jamboree with FCS schools. The only good things about the Snoozefest Appetizer Weekend are:

1. I can actually attend a wedding on a Saturday night and not feel any "I'm missing football!" animosity toward the bride and groom. (NOTE: I had a wedding to go to Saturday, and had a fine evening. Thank you, Jessica and Gabriel!)

2. I can basically cut and paste the top half of the rankings from last week, so...time saver!!

Here are the fifth iteration of the College Football Playoff rankings, along with thoughts.

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Bengals 22, Texans 13: 4 Winners, 4 Losers

Photo by Groovehouse
At this stage of the season, there are two different flavors of .500 (or around .500) football teams in the NFL.

There are the kind who have played hard schedules, have good quarterbacks, and have enough solutions on the roster to eventually win the 9, 10, or 11 games they need in order to make the postseason. Think San Francisco, Seattle, maybe New Orleans.

Then there are the kind who are still shuffling quarterbacks, getting contributions from a disproportionally small segment of the roster, and are basically a play here or a play there away from all of it falling apart. These types of .500 teams are generally held together with chicken wire, toothpaste, and J.J. Watt.

Yes, the Texans are the latter type. They proved that yesterday against the Bengals and showed the city of Houston just how fleeting relevance can be when your roster lacks any depth.

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UH And Rice Survive The Weekend Weather And Prepare To Go Bowling

John Royal
What if they threw a football game and no one came?
TDECU Stadium was lifeless on Saturday morning. Perhaps it was the 11:00 kickoff (originally scheduled to kick-off at 2:00 and moved up by the threat of bad weather). Maybe it was the grey, dismal, overcast sky. Maybe it was the stadium that looked to be two-thirds empty. Maybe it was just that the uninspiring Houston Cougars were hosting a two-win Tulsa Golden Hurricane team. Whatever the cause, the quiet atmosphere was not aided by the Cougars struggling to defeat Tulsa 38-28.

The Cougars (6-4) secured a bowl berth with the win, but there didn't appear to be much joy afterwards with the thought. Head coach Tony Levine was more thrilled by the idea of more practice for his young players than he was with his team going to a bowl. The players were more concerned with hopefully improving the bowl game for which they'll be practicing. And seeing how the team struggled to put away an awful (2-9) Tulsa team, the concern should be less on bowl games and more about not losing to a winless SMU team on Friday.

"In the past seven years that I've been here, we averaged 10 freshmen [with playing time] every year," Levine said. "This year we're playing four. What that tells you is that we're starting to get the depth that we need, and by extending our season and playing into the end of December or early January, you get 15-18 more practice opportunities for these young guys."

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Texans Regress in Loss to Bengals at NRG Stadium

Categories: Football, Sports

Photo by Groovehouse
A.J. Green torched the Texans all day long on Sunday.
Oh, what a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, the Texans went into Ohio and whopped up on a Cleveland team with a new quarterback and a second string running back. This Sunday, another team from Ohio walked into NRG Stadium and put it to the Texans with essentially the same lineup, 23-13.

Many of the things that went so well in Cleveland failed the Texans miserably against the Bengals. Quarterback Ryan Mallett, who won praise from coaches, teammates and fans for his first game at the helm, struggled mightily with accuracy, perhaps due to a pectoral injury revealed after the game that could keep him out for several weeks. Alfred Blue, so effective last week replacing the injured Arian Foster, was stuffed by a Cincinnati defense that came in ranked 28th in the league.

In fact, the offense was so bad that it scored fewer points than the defense. It was only able to manage two field goals. Mallett had a particularly tough day going for 189 yards, many of those after the game was no longer in question, and one interception with no touchdowns. After the game, it was reported that Mallett was in treatment for quite some time after the game for an injured pectoral muscle, literally adding injury to insult.

The loss, while not mathematically knocking the Texans out of the playoff race, almost certainly ends the team's chances for the postseason. To make matters worse, there will be little opportunity for the Texans to evaluate Mallett if he is indeed out for several weeks and their record probably keeps them out of contention for one of the better quarterbacks in what could be a rather weak draft at the position. So, business as usual on Kirby.

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Houston Texans: Your Definitive Week 12 Rooting Guide

As a society, we've never been more advanced in the functionality we have at our fingertips. Unfortunately, that functionality (which is 98 percent a result of having an app for nearly EVERYTHING on our phones) has made us a little lazy.

As one example, Jimmy John's latest ad campaign touts how quickly they can deliver us a sandwich by pressing a button on our phones, for God's sakes! I do not want to leave this chair for my processed meats and gobs of mayonnaise...BRING IT TO ME!! Hell, even Starbuck's is catering to the craze, promising us that soon they will be able to deliver their overpriced swill right to your office (to those of you who think calling a small "Venti" somehow makes you sophisticated).

We've gone from a microwave society, where we wanted to be able to procure everything in life ourselves just way faster, to a "serve me" society, where we want everyone else to do the work for us and, oh by the way, "bring it to me"! This chair is too comfortable to leave!

Honestly, you people disgust me. (I was looking in the mirror when I typed that, to be clear.) And yet, I want to help you. That means YOU, Texan fans!

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College and Pro Football: This Weekend's Best Bets

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Parker Anderson via Flickr
Normally, this is the portion of the Best Bets post where I complain (or, even on a rare occasion, brag) about how I did the week before.

But this week, no complaining and no bragging, and that's for two reasons.

First, I went 3-3 for a second week in a row, so I'm settling into that meaty part of the curve where there's nothing really compelling about how I'm picking games right now. I'm just kind of muddling along at .500 and hoping for the best. (Appropriate that I live in Houston, I suppose!)

Second, this gives me a chance to embed the video of Marcus Luttrell's pep talk to Alabama in this space. Luttrell, of course, is the Navy SEAL who was the subject of the movie Lone Survivor.

Guaranteed, you will feel like a total zero for ever complaining about anything after watching this video....

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UPDATED It's Perfect Football Weather This Weekend

Just because ESPN's College Gameday isn't coming to Houston doesn't mean they're not playing football this weekend.

Update 11/21 at 11 a.m.: UH announced this morning they've moved kickoff to 11 a.m. due to weather.

The weather's supposed to be wet and stormy this weekend. Just the perfect November weather for college football teams to slip and slide in the mud while dodging puddles on the field and scrambling to retain traction. Just the right conditions for fans to travel to Rice Stadium and TDECU Stadium to watch the Rice Owls and Houston Cougars host important games. Rice kicks things off tonight, hosting UTEP at 7 (on FS1) while Tulsa comes to TDECU for a 2 11 a.m. kickoff (ESPN3) tomorrow.

It's the final home game of the season for both, and they're both hoping to put aside embarrassing losses in their last games. The Owls' (6-4) hopes of again being CUSA champs were pretty much destroyed last week after the team's 41-14 loss to nationally ranked Marshall. The Cougars (5-4), meanwhile, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, giving up a 17-14 halftime lead in a 31-24 loss to 3-6 Tulane. And while Rice can claim to be bowl eligible, the Cougars still find themselves one win short of that magical six-win bowl qualification number.

The weather might play to the Cougars' advantage as UH has seemingly abandoned its trademarked high-flying Air Raid offense for something bordering on a power run game but more often resembling a reaction-inspired mess willing to take anything a defense will allow it to take. Head coach Tony Levine has stated on occasion that the team's offensive game plan is to see what the defense does, then react, rather than to go out and dictate the play. That often leaves the scrambling offense looking for any opening to exploit, and it's not always effective.

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College Football Playoff Rankings v 4.0: Welcome to the Party, Bama

And then there were seven. Okay, maybe eight. Nine? All right, I'll draw the line at ten. Ten teams that still have mathematical hope of getting into the four-team playoff.

Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State, Baylor, Ole Miss, UCLA and Georgia.

Ten teams, which is way more teams than would be in the mix in a two-team BCS Title Game Era season, and nothing feels cheapened or minimized. My team (Notre Dame) is out of it now officially (Brian Kelly, with Lindsay Lohan-level decision-making in an overtime loss to Northwestern on Saturday, took care of that), and yet I'm as excited for multiple games this Saturday as I've ever been.

The new playoff system has done the exact opposite of what the charlatans behind the BCS and the bowl system said it would -- it's made college football even more compelling, with a ton of games directly involving potential playoff teams, as well as games involving teams (Minnesota-Nebraska, Arizona State-Utah) that have strength of schedule implications for contenders.

In the meantime, we continue to gain awareness of the prism through which the committee views these teams and their performances. Let's look at the latest College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday night:

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