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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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