Proud To Be An American
When the American Athletic Conference became a Division I football conference in 2013, it seemed to be a punchline. With a combination of a handful of former Big East teams along with a hodge podge of schools ranging from Rutgers in the northeast, to South Florida in the south, to SMU all the way in Dallas, it seemed that several non-power five schools decided to make a conglomerate.
However, the AAC’s odd geographical combination of teams has led to one of the most compelling to follow and one of the best in the country, due to a very simple fact: the AAC wins.
A conference which wins a lot conversely must have few losers. Just four of the 12 teams in the AAC have losing record and of those just three teams are eliminated from finishing the season with at least a .500 record.
Those look good compared to other non-power five conferences. Conference USA has nine teams with below .500 record, the MAC has six teams, the Mountain West has six, and the Sun Belt has seven.
Against Power Five teams, the AAC have eight wins entering Saturday. The AAC had just four wins against Power Five conference schools all of last year.
Although the conference is doing well as far as winning top to bottom, it has been helped by four teams, which should all be at the very least, inline for a very good bowl game come post season.
Two of the newest members of the conference in Memphis and Navy have also been two of the most impressive teams.
Memphis was ranked 10th in first 2015 CFP Poll after an 8-0 start, which included a thorough victory over Ole Miss thanks in large part to an offense which entered Saturday ranked 8th in points per game. Those wins plus the offense had the Tigers ranked as high as 10th in the coaches poll.
The team that dropped Memphis, Navy, currently sports just one loss on the season, a closer than perhaps anticipated game against Notre Dame. Perhaps most amazingly for the Midshipmen, who were ranked 20th in the latest CFP poll, is they have scored fewer than 30 points just twice this season, despite running an option offense. These accomplishments are that more impressive considering the disadvantage the Navy has when it comes to recruiting due to how hard it is to get into a service academy.
Additionally, Temple was another school which started out 7-0 including. Unlike Memphis and Navy, the strength of the Owls is defense. A unit which ranks 20th in points allowed per game. The notable win for the Owls includes a win over Penn State, the first time that has happened in 74 years.
While Temple, Navy and Memphis are all impressive, the cream of the crop of the American Athletic Conference is the Houston Cougars. Houston currently stands undefeated at 9-0 and has wins over an ACC team in Louisville, 34-31 and over a very strong defensive team in Vanderbilt, 34-0. The Cougars currently sit at 24th in the latest CFP Poll. Houston and its opponent Saturday, Memphis, are two of just eight averaging more than 44 points per game.
If there is a blemish it is that the AAC is also home to two of the teams that win the least (a combined 1-18 record), UCF and SMU, call the conference home.
Some of these impressive records might appear more blemished by the seasons end. As mentioned Houston plays Memphis, who faces Temple next week. Navy closes out the season against the Cougars. Still, this is the season the AAC needed to show that it’s conference can provide top-notch football.