Is this the year the American Athletic Conference Rises to a Power Conference?
In the latest College Football Playoff Committee Rankings that were released Tuesday. Houston, Memphis, Navy and Temple found themselves in the Top 25. With the American Athletic Conference having as many teams in the committee’s rankings as the Big 10, Big 12 and the SEC, should the AAC be referred to as the sixth Power Conference?
A couple of weeks ago, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco addressed the media before the Temple Owls game against Notre Dame. When asked about the possibility of the AAC becoming an Autonomous Conference in the next three to five years, he stated the following:
“We have really good coaches from top to bottom. If we can get into that designation, I think we stand a better chance to keep our coaches. It’s really important to us down the road. We are still thinking of ways to crack that barrier. I said it in the beginning that the first step was winning and establishing credibility. As a league, we are paying cost of attendance and getting better attendance at our stadiums, which we are. We are building new facilities and looking like the Power Conferences. We are not precisely like them obviously. We do not have an Alabama or USC, but we are getting a lot closer. That is a real goal for us because the only way we will sustain and build these programs is to have that kind of designation.”
When looking at what Commissioner Aresco said, his vision is starting to take form. The American fared better this year against Power Conferences going 8-11 with wins that included Ole Miss, Penn State and Louisville. The conference separated itself from the other Group of Five conferences, only losing once out of 11 games against teams in that designation. With the recent success comes other programs that would want to hire coaches such as Houston’s Tom Herman, Memphis’s Justin Fuente or Temple’s Matt Rhule. If the conference wants to continue to trend in the right direction, they will have to find ways to keep them at their respective schools. As it stands right now, the AAC is very close to becoming a Power Conference.
New York State of Mind?
On Wednesday night, Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle reported that Houston Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Jr. received a letter from the Heisman Committee stating that he is officially a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Ward Jr. has had an exceptional year. He is tied for fifth in the nation in touchdowns scored (16). He is also among the best in the country in quarterback rating (161.66) and has made many plays with his legs as well. Although it is unlikely he will win the Heisman, it would be a major accomplishment if he receives a substantial amount of third place votes.
Chaos In The West
With its 45-20 win over Memphis Saturday, Navy has maneuvered itself into the inside track of the AAC West Division. Memphis now has to bounce back and travel to play 9-0 Houston this weekend. For the Tigers, this is a must-win game. If they lose, they are eliminated from the conference championship race. Navy still has to play Houston Nov. 27. The outcomes of these quasi-round-robin games will not only determine who wins the division but also who has home field advantage in the AAC Championship Game. These next three weekends will be fun to watch.
Knocking on the Door
Heading into this weekend, four teams (Cincinnati, South Florida, Tulsa and UConn) have the opportunity to become bowl eligible. Cincinnati and Tulsa play each other, meaning the loser will have only a few more chances to fight for postseason eligibility.
Projected Bowl Assignments
Chick Fil’A Peach Bowl-Temple
Miami Beach Bowl- Cincinnati
Birmingham Bowl- Memphis
Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman: Navy
St. Petersburg Bowl: South Florida
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Houston
Marmot Boca Raton Bowl: East Carolina
AutoNation Cure Bowl: Tulsa