Mid-American Conference

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)
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

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

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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)

Group of Five Power Ranking: So long, Houston

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars is sacked by Demerick Gary #10 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs and Mason Gentry #93 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the first half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to pay our respects to the New Years Six hopes of the Houston Cougars. A year after representing the American Athletic Conference in the Peach Bowl by defeating Florida State, the 2016 Cougars have gone from playoff hopeful to New Years Six hopeful to fourth place in their own division. Houston is now out of the running for a big bowl game at the end of the season.

SMU dealt the knockout blow to their rivals Saturday night with a 38-16 victory that took many by surprise. SMU jumped al over Houston early on and never allowed the defending AAC champs to get too close. As a result, Houston falls out of contention for a New Years Six bid in all likelihood unless pure chaos unfolds.

What was bad news for Houston was extra good news for programs like Boise State and Western Michigan, but the AAC still has some valid contenders in the running as well. So does the MAC and Mountain West Conference.

The highest-ranked conference champion from the American Atletic Conference, Conference USA MAC, Mountian West Conference or Sun Belt Conference as determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee will be given an automatic spot in the New Years Six line-up. Here’s how the contenders rank according to me.

1. Boise State (7-0)

The Broncos scored a solid win against BYU on Thursday night to remain undefeated and atop the New Years Six power ranking. Boise State still probably needs to run the table to stay ahead of the curve. One loss could leave Boise State behind some other worthy contenders.

2. Navy (5-1)

Navy scored a big win against Memphis to remain the AAC’s most likely New YearsSix representative heading into the final weekend of October. The Midshipmen have a big conference game this weekend at USF, followed by a game against Notre Dame the following weekend in Jacksonville. The state of Florida could make or break Navy’s chances.

3. Western Michigan (8-0)

Keep rowing those boats! Western Michigan got a good fight from in-state rival Eastern Michigan but he Broncos managed to stay ahead on the scoreboard to keep their perfect record in play. Western Michigan has some very favorable games coming up, and it is starting to get hard to not look ahead to the regular season finale with Toledo.

4. San Diego State (6-1)

Not t be forgotten in the Mountain West Conference, San Diego State continues to win games. The Aztecs should still be a solid threat to win the MWC behind Boise State, and appear as able as Boise State to make a run in the conference. The only thing holding San Diego State back right now is a road loss at South Alabama.

5. Toledo (6-1)

It’s been a weird year for the MAC with Northern Illinois and Bowling GReen struggling, but Toledo is letting everyone know this conference has more to offer than just Western Michigan. The Rockets continue to impress and are also undefeated in MAC play.

On the Radar: Temple, Wyoming, Toledo, Memphis, Tulsa, USF

Coaches Poll: Michigan takes Ohio State’s spot behind Alabama as Buckeyes drop

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines leads the team onto the field prior to playing the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 22, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 41-8. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After slipping on the road against Penn State, Ohio State took a slight fall in the coaches poll this week. The Buckeyes dropped from second in the poll behind top-ranked Alabama to eighth. Adding salt to the wound, Michigan took over the second spot in the poll previously occupied by Ohio State. Clemson remained at third in the poll and Washington moved into the top four.

Arkansas and Ole Miss dropped out of the rankings this week, making room for Colorado and Virginia Tech. Houston, despite a blowout loss at SMU, remained in the top 25 at No. 24.

Here is this week’s coaches poll, with first-place votes noted:

  1. Alabama (63)
  2. Michigan
  3. Clemson (1)
  4. Washington
  5. Louisville
  6. Nebraska
  7. Baylor
  8. Ohio State
  9. West Virginia
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Florida
  13. Boise State
  14. Florida State
  15. Oklahoma
  16. Utah
  17. Auburn
  18. Tennessee
  19. LSU
  20. North Carolina
  21. Western Michigan
  22. Navy
  23. Colorado
  24. Houston
  25. Virginia Tech

Boise State, Western Michigan rejoice as Houston stumbles again

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars is sacked by Demerick Gary #10 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs and Mason Gentry #93 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the first half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Houston’s rather significant loss could prove to be a sizable gain for a couple of fellow Group of Five programs.

Entering Saturday’s game against SMU ranked 13th in the country, the Cougars inexplicably fell behind 21-0 to a Mustangs team that came in at 2-4. Instead of mounting a comeback and righting what’s suddenly become a listing season, the Cougars could get no closer than 14 points (twice) the rest of the way in falling 38-16.

The loss is UH’s second in its last three games, a stumble that came after winning its first five games of the season and moving to as high as sixth in the Associated Press rankings. While Houston hasn’t seen its New Year’s Six bid completely go up in smoke, it’s seen it severely damaged.

Ready to pick up the G5 pieces are Boise State and Western Michigan.

Both of those Broncos exited Week 8 undefeated, the MAC version at 8-0 and the MWC’s 7-0. Boise, which was No. 14 following Week 7, will most certainly leapfrog Houston, while WMU, ranked 20th, should do so as well.

One other G5 team is currently ranked: No. 24 Navy, whose 4-1 record includes a win over Houston that doesn’t look quite as good as it did a couple of weeks ago.  Another of that group received more than one vote in the most recent poll, although those votes will likely evaporate Sunday as USF lost to Temple Friday night.

The first set of rankings that actually matter, the College Football Playoffs, will be released Tuesday, Nov. 1.

WMU prez talks possibility (probability?) of P.J. Fleck departing

CHAMPAIGN, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coach P.J. Fleck of the Western Michigan Broncos celebrates after the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Champaign, Illinois. Western Michigan defeated Illinois 34-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Western Michigan will have a tough row to hoe — or boat to row, as the case may be — in retaining their outstanding young head coach, a possibility the university’s president has publicly acknowledged.

Outside of Houston’s Tom Herman, P.J. Fleck will likely be the hottest young commodity on the coaching carousel in the coming weeks — and rightly so.  WMU, at 7-0, is off to its best start since 1941, and ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in its history.

Fleck will undoubtedly have his share of suitors as the carousel picks up speed over the next month, and has already been mentioned as a possibility at Purdue.  During an interview earlier this week, WMU president John Dunn was seemingly resigned to losing the 35-year-old head coach to someone at some point in the not-too-distant future.

“Whatever ultimately happens we wish him (the best) as well as we’ll recover and move on,”  Dunn, who is set to retire in June of 2017, said according to mlive.com. “I think the commitments we’ve made to P.J., I think he appreciates deeply and he’ll be very thoughtful and he’ll be very fair.”

At $800,000 Fleck is already the highest-paid head coach in the MAC.  When speaking of bumping up that pay in an attempt to entice the coach to stay, Dunn responded that he’s “quite confident those conversations have occurred already.” That’s all well and good, but any Power Five program that chases Fleck would be able to triple or even quadruple what the coach is currently making or what he would be making with an enhanced package from WMU.

Dunn, then, is hoping the current situation appeals to Fleck’s non-monetary side.

“The idea that money is important, we never want to negate or argue against that, but there’s also a quality of life and a level of happiness,” said the president.

Nice try, Mr. President.  And prepare your goodbyes accordingly.