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's winning streak is up to nine

Astros secure series over Orioles as winning streak continues

Zack Greinke provided another long outing for his team on Tuesday. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After continuing their recent dominance with a lopsided win over this Orioles team on Monday in the rain-plagued opener, the Astros eyed number nine in a row if they could do it again on Tuesday. Though not as one-sided, the Astros would get the victory to secure the series win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Orioles 1

Astros' Record: 45-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (8-2)

Losing Pitcher: Jorge Lopez (2-9)

A tame start for Houston's offense

After a scoreless first inning on both sides, Myles Straw started the scoring with two outs in the top of the second, sneaking a ball off and over the left-field wall just out of the grasp of Austin Hays for a solo homer to put Houston ahead 1-0. After Baltimore tied the game in the third, the game remained gridlocked 1-1 until the top of the seventh, when Chase McCormick would reach on a one-out infield single then raced around to score on a Myles Straw RBI single, putting Houston back in front 2-1.

Greinke pitches into the eighth

Over that span, Zack Greinke was getting efficient innings against Baltimore's lineup. He allowed that trying run in the third, which came after a one-out walk moved to third on a single, then scored on a sac fly. That was one of his few moments with runners in scoring position, as he erased a single in the first, a single in the fourth, and a double in the seventh to maintain the new 2-1 lead.

The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eighth but came away with only one run of insurance on a McCormick sac fly, making it 3-1 as Greinke returned to the mound to continue working. He allowed a leadoff single then retired the next batter before Dusty Baker would come out to get him as the left-handed portion of the lineup was due up and a better match for Brooks Raley, who had been warming. Greinke's final line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 91 P.

Astros make it nine in a row

Raley completed the eighth for Greinke with two strikeouts to strand the inherited runner. With it still a two-run game in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save. He erased a two-out single to finish things off, giving Houston their ninth win in a row and securing the series with a chance at the sweep in the finale.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set will be another 6:05 PM Central start time on Wednesday. Thomas Eshelman (0-0, 1.93 ERA) will be on the mound for Baltimore to face the Astros, while Jose Urquidy (5-3, 3.65 ERA) will start for Houston.

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