Rice Owls

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 29: Head Coach Mike Riley of the Nebraska Cornhuskers walks the sidelines during the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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DC Mark Banker one of two coaches no longer on Nebraska staff

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Once again, change has come to Mike Riley‘s Nebraska coaching staff.

In a press release Wednesday, Riley announced the departures of a pair of his assistants.  One of those was a forced departure as Riley confirmed that the contract of defensive coordinator Mark Banker is not being renewed.

Banker recently completed his second season coordinating the Cornhuskers’ defense.  All told, Banker has spent the past 17 of the past 18 seasons coordinating Riley’s defenses, including stops at both the collegiate (2003-14) and NFL (1999-2001) levels.

“I want to thank Mark for his hard work and contributions to our football program the past two years and for all of his service and dedication as a member of my other coaching staffs,” Riley said in a statement. “We will conduct a national search to find a great coach, teacher and recruiter as we continue our pursuit of championships.”

In addition to Banker, Riley announced that safeties coach Brian Stewart had left to pursue other opportunities.  That other opportunity is expected to be as the defensive coordinator at Rice.

Stewart was the defensive backs coach in 2015, then moved to cornerbacks in 2016.  He further moved to safeties in December last year following the addition of Donté Williams, who was hired to replace Bruce Read.  Riley fired Read as special teams coordinator shortly after the Cornhuskers’ regular-season finale.

“Brian Stewart has informed me of his plans to take a defensive coordinator position at another university,” Riley said. “Brian feels this is a great opportunity for him and his family and I respect his decision. We appreciate Brian’s contributions to our program the past two years and wish him the best of luck. We will work diligently to replace him with an outstanding coach, teacher and recruiter.”

Report: Rice, Stanford heading Down Under for 2017 opener

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Keller Chryst #10 of the Stanford Cardinal runs up the sidelines for a sixty two yard touchdown run against the Rice Owls in the first quarter of an NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Rice and Stanford are scheduled to meet in Houston to open the 2017 season, but that meeting could be moved quite a bit away from Rice Stadium.

According to Mark Berman of the Fox affiliate in Houston, the Owls and Cardinal are set to move that game to Sydney, Australia.

It’s not yet known if the powers that be would move the game off its Sept. 2 date. Cal and Hawaii opened this season in Brisbane, Australia, and moved the game a week ahead of the rest of FBS to accommodate the transpacific travel.

In an odd scheduling note, Rice and Stanford will play two consecutive regular season games against each other. The pair closed their 2016 slate in Palo Alto, a 41-17 Cardinal win.

PJ Fleck tells Cubs to Row the Boat, and a brief look at longest conference title droughts in college football

EVANSTON, IL- SEPTEMBER 03: P.J. Fleck head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos reacts after his teams win against the Northwestern Wildcats on September 3, 2016 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. the Western Michigan Broncos won 22-21. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The World Series gets underway tonight in Cleveland. The Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs are each looking to bring an end to a championship drought that dates back over 70 years. The Cubs are playing in their first World Series since 1945. The Indians have been back to the Fall Classic a small handful of times since last winning a World Series in 1948. There are three college football programs from the Power Five that have similar droughts they continue to look to end, as far as a conference championship is concerned.

No team has waited as long to win a conference title than Iowa State, who last saw a conference championship in 1912. That came in the old Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. That conference would pave the path to the old Big Eight Conference, which of course later merged with departing members from the Southwest Conference. As the conference has evolved, Iowa State has struggled to compete for a conference crown.

The only two conference championship droughts comparable to the current droughts of the Cubs and Indians reside in the SEC. Mississippi State has not won a conference championship since 1941 (SEC), and Vanderbilt has to go all the way back to 1923 for its last conference title (Southern Conference). Playing in the same conference as college football powers like Alabama, LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia over the years has not allowed for much opportunity for either SEC program, and that likely will remain the case for many years to come.

While not quite as long of a wait, Western Michigan looks to be on track to snapping their conference championship drought that goes back to 1988. The Broncos are undefeated and have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, aside from a regular season finale against Toledo. Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck gave the Cubs a pep talk during a stop on SportsCenter this morning.

Row the boat, Cubs (or Indians, depending on your rooting interests)!

Longest Conference Title Droughts By Conference

ACC: North Carolina State (1979)

Big 12: Iowa State (1912)

Big Ten: Minnesota (1967)

Pac-12: Arizona (1993)

SEC: Vanderbilt (1923)

American: Temple (1967)

Conference USA: Rice (1994)

MAC: Ohio (1968)

Mountain West Conference: New Mexico (1964)

Sun Belt Conference: New Mexico State (1978)

Big 12 expansion decision coming Monday?

Matt Ritchey
Associated Press
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After months of speculation, the end, one way or another, could be near for one of the biggest off-field storylines in college football over the past several months.

The Big 12’s board of directors will gather Oct. 17 for a previously-scheduled meeting that will continue the conference’s discussion on expanding the league from 10 to 12 or 14 teams — or staying put — with some previously noting that that date could prove to be D-Day for the group.  With that date fast approaching, that could very well be the case as Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News writes that “[a] news conference has been scheduled after the… meeting, presumably to let everyone know whether the Big 12 will” expand or not.

The speculation of late, especially as it pertains to the reported waning of Oklahoma’s support for expanding, is that the Big 12 could indeed be leaning toward staying at 10 teams, or at the very least tabling the expansion discussion for now.  While “pretty much all the options are on the table,” Carlton writes, the likelihood of standing pat has grown of late.

Sources confirmed Wednesday that pretty much all the options are on the table, including the possibility of football-only membership with Houston and BYU the most likely members. The sources also confirmed that expansion has gone from likelihood about six weeks ago to maybe a 1-in-3 chance.

A total of 20 Group of Five schools, including 10 alone from the AAC, made initial pitches to the Big 12 for inclusion if the conference opted to expand.  Ultimately, nearly a dozen of those made the cut as “finalists.”

Of the 11 that are currently under consideration, seven come from the AAC — Cincinnati, Houston, SMU, Tulane, UCF, UConn, USF — two from the Mountain West — Air Force, Colorado State — and one from Conference USA — Rice. The lone remaining school, BYU, is a football independent.

Checking in on the nation’s longest winning & losing streaks

Alabama's head coach Saban instructs his players as they take on the LSU Tigers during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge
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Unbelievably, at the end of today, we’ll be more than one-third of the way through the 2016 regular season as the calendar flips from September to October. And, not surprisingly, some teams are faring better than others — and some, suffice to say, are not.

In “water’s wet, sky’s blue” news, defending national champions and undefeated top-ranked Alabama holds the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 in a row. ‘Bama’s last loss came Sept. 19 a year ago against Ole Miss. In fact, the Tide hasn’t really come close to seeing that streak end since as just two of their last 16 games have been decided by 10-plus points, with the lone exceptions being a 19-14 win over Tennessee in October of last year and 43-37 over Ole Miss just two weeks ago.

What might surprise you, though, is the second-longest streak behind ‘Bama. The holder of that honor? San Diego State, which has peeled off 13 wins in a row entering Week 5. Tennessee is the only other team in double digits, with 10 wins in a row dating back to last season.  The Vols’ last loss?  To the Tide, of course, a defeat that UT will get to avenge two weeks from today in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium.

A total of nine teams will also take the field Saturday with a winning streak of at least five in a row:

7 — Houston, Washington
6 — Louisville, Utah, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
5 — Boise State, Navy, Ohio State

Clemson could join some combination of the above at that five-game winning-streak plateau Saturday, but to get there they’ll have to beat… Louisville.

On the other side of the won-loss ledger, the “proud” owner of the nation’s longest losing streak entering the 2016 season was Kansas* at 15 straight, followed by UCF (13), Charlotte (10), Eastern Michigan (10), Oregon State (nine) and Boston College (eight).

All six of those teams have seen those losing streaks come to a merciful end, with EMU actually off to a 3-1 start to the year. The team that was just behind BC, Wake Forest, carried a six-game losing streak into 2016 before surprisingly (stunningly?) winning their first four games of the season.

So, with all of that winning from last year’s biggest losers, who’s the current “top” loser? That title now belongs to the Northern Illinois Huskies, the winners of the last six MAC West championships — and three of the last six conference titles — who have started this season with four straight losses to stretch their ignominious streak to a nation’s best/worst seven in a row. Just three other teams have a streak that began during the 2015 season: Florida International, which has lost six in a row and already fired their head coach; Arkansas State, which lost its first four of this season to push its streak to five in a row; and Georgia State, 0-3 on the season to add to a loss in the 2015 Cure Bowl for a four-game losing streak.

Two additional teams are winless on the season after winning their last game of 2015: Miami of Ohio and Rice, which are each 0-4 in 2016.

(*While Kansas’ overall losing streak came to an end, they’ve still lost 17 in a row against FBS opponents, with the last one of those coming in early November of 2015 against Iowa State.)