College Football

What is next on the college football expansion landscape?

Can Major Applewhite continue the Cougars' on-field success and help Houston raise the bar in the AAC? Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

At this time last year, the Big 12 was soliciting candidates for expansion. It turned into a big tease, and no expansion happened. In reality, it probably never will. 

Never mind how the Big 12 has lost the Houston market to the SEC, is top heavy, and has too many small-market programs. As long as Texas and OU are in the fold, they feel they have enough cache to carry on. And it's hard to argue with that.

So, what happens to Houston, which dumped tons of money into facilities, a new state-of-the-art stadium and continues to have on-field success and strong ratings in the nation's fourth-largest city?

There are really only three options:

1. Help raise up the American Conference

The AAC is pushing the "Power Six" narrative, and it's probably a little forced. Still, there are some solid programs. UH, Temple, Navy, South Florida, Central Florida and Memphis are all borderline Power Five type programs, and better than a lot of the bottom feeders in the other conferences. Miami lifted the Big East to then-BCS status, while Florida State did the same for the ACC.

If one program can emerge as a solid year-in, year-out TCU type program, it could elevate the AAC's profile just enough. The conference has to find a way to keep its coaches, losing several talented ones over the last two years to Power Fives, but this is the most likely path to big boy football.

2. AAC expansion

Boise already bolted once, but raiding the top four schools in the Mountain West — most likely Boise, San Diego State, Air Force and Colorado State and going to 16 teams — would add depth and quality throughout, and another potentially transcendent program in Boise. The rest of the conference has fallen off, so this might have some appeal to Boise this time around.

A better option would be adding BYU, but the Cougars seem content on staying independent. If they changed their mind, knowing — like UH — the Big 12 is never happening, then all the better.

3. Go west, young men

The Pac-12 seems content where it is, but adding a major foothold in Texas would make sense. Picking up the Houston TV market (or at least a significant share; the SEC is pretty entrenched) would be a coup. The problem? Who is a viable second candidate to get to an even number? There is no easy answer. The Pac-12 needs to figure something out regarding its TV network as well.

It all really comes down to which major conference wants to make the jump to 16 first and pick off the few viable candidates out there. If they want to do that. The SEC, ACC and Big 10 all seem pretty stable and unlikely to move. The Pac-12 is probably the only option, if it is one at all. 

So the reality for UH is probably answer No. 1. That means continued success on the field; other teams emerging, like South Florida; and other programs joining the arms race and spending money. That might be the best path longterm.

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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