AAC Review: Possible Conference Champions and Bowl Hopefuls

Chris Franklin examines the current American Athletic Conference (AAC) standings, and makes projections for each team's Bowl chances.

Chris Franklin examines the current American Athletic Conference (AAC) standings, and makes projections for each team’s Bowl chances.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Temple

Nov 1, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; East Carolina Pirates running back Chris Hairston (22) carries the ball during the third quarter against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. The Owls won the game 20-10. (Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — It is time again to take a look at what is going on around the American Athletic Conference.

And down the stretch they come…

Currently, four teams only have one loss in the conference, and one team has two losses. With the race this tight, this could very well come down to the last week of the season, Dec. 6. There will be one game that will have a major implication on who will win the title. East Carolina and Cincinnati will face off November 13th in what has the makings of what could be one of the best games in the AAC this season. Central Florida still has to play ECU. There is one dark horse who has emerged that has the best shot of the one-loss teams. The combined record of the three remaining teams left on the Tigers schedule (Tulane, South Florida & UConn) is 8-19. If you had Memphis winning the conference in July, go run out and purchase a lottery ticket as soon as possible.

Not so Peachy

Nov. 1 wound up being a costly loss for ECU and quite possibly the conference overall. East Carolina’s loss to the Temple Owls knocked the Pirates out of the College Football Committee’s rankings. Many projections (including one previously done on this website) had ECU receiving a bid to the Peach Bowl, but all of that may have changed.

The frustrating aspect of the committee’s new rankings is the lack of information of where the remaining Group of Five schools are currently ranked. Heading into the final weeks there are three teams that could stand in the way of the AAC placing a team in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. If Marshall, Colorado State or Boise State win their remaining games and conference championship, they could conceivably be ranked higher that the American Athletic Conference champion.

On the business side of things, the loss could have cost the conference $4 million, the payout given to the conference of a non-playoff game participant. Although it does not sound like a lot compared to how much money is generated by college football each year, every little bit helps when it comes to running a college football program.

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Memphis
Oct 19, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Tigers running back Doroland Dorceus (22) catches a pass thrown during the fourth quarter against the SMU Mustangs at Liberty Bowl Memorial. Southern Methodist Mustangs defeats Memphis Tigers 34 – 29. (Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

You never know

SMU, Tulsa and UConn have are not going to be going to a bowl game. Although they will not be playing in late December or early January, these teams very well play the role of spoiler. All three teams have played a close game against at least one of the top six teams in the conference. The key will be which team has the best chance of playing spoiler. SMU has an in state rivalry game against Houston; UConn has Cincinnati at home, and Tulsa will have East Carolina at home. Although these games may look like mismatches, do not be surprised if one of these games results in an upset.

Honor amongst thieves

One thing that AAC defenses have been successful at this season is creating fumbles. Currently, Temple (17), South Florida (12), Houston (10) and Tulane (9) are all towards the national leaders in forcing fumbles.

AAC Bowl Projections heading into Week 12

Birmingham Bowl-East Carolina: The ACC will be happy with this result. ECU has already beaten two ACC teams this season (Virginia Tech & North Carolina). A potential matchup against a SEC opponent looms and that could potentially make for a good game.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Tulane
Oct 31, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats running back Mike Boone (27) eludes a tackle by Tulane Green Wave cornerback Taurean Nixon (4) during the second half at Yulman Stadium. Cincinnati won, 38-14. (Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman -Cincinnati:  The main reason that the Bearcats are in this slot is because of distance. The trip to Annapolis has the potential to bring more Cincinnati fans to the game. Cincinnati versus an ACC opponent such as Boston College or Miami would be intriguing.

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl -Central Florida:  Just like Cincinnati, distance is the reason the Knights would be slotted to play in this game. The short trip to St. Petersburg against an ACC opponent could be in the cards.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl-Houston:  With the game in Texas, logical choice to have the Cougars, most likely against a Big 12 opponent.

Miami Beach Bowl-Temple:  Because of the automatic qualifier for BYU if they become bowl eligible, this limits the amount of teams that would matchup against the Cougars. UCF and Houston have already played BYU, and bowl games will do not want to have a game that will be a rematch. Temple would make sense to be Miami-bound.

Autozone Liberty Bowl-Memphis:  With the AAC having only five primary bowl affiliations and six projected bowl-eligible teams, secondary bowl affiliations come into play. This year, the secondary affiliation includes the Liberty Bowl. The Big 12 may not have enough bowl eligible teams. It does not happen as much anymore, but Memphis could very well be playing in their home stadium in the long-running bowl game for the first time.

There is still a ton of football to be played, and nothing is set in stone. It is going to be fun to watch what happens.

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