AAC not getting its due, chief says
Navy, Houston and others ranked low despite wins over Power 5 conference schools
Mike Aresco is fired up. The American Athletic Conference commissioner, a veteran of college football, looks at the various rankings and can’t believe what he sees.
There are four Power Five conference schools with three losses slotted between 12th and 17th in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.
Houston, the only school in the country that has beaten two teams ranked in the top five, is relegated to No. 20 by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
Just last Thursday, unranked Houston destroyed No. 5 Louisville, 36-10, on national television. Louisville fell only to No. 11 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 while Houston returned to the rankings at No. 18.
“Does that make sense after what you saw the other night?” Aresco asked rhetorically. “Didn’t anybody watch that beatdown? That result should have elevated our entire league.”
As far as Aresco is concerned, the entire American Athletic Conference has not gotten the respect it deserves this season. Navy, which is 8-2 and the West Division champion, still is not ranked in the AP Top 25. The Midshipmen did debut in the College Football Playoff rankings at No. 25.
Houston is the only other American member in the AP Top 25 (No. 18) and the CFP rankings (No. 20).
South Florida, which is 9-2 with one of those losses coming at the hands of Florida State (No. 15 AP, No. 14 CFP), has not been ranked all season. USF is the only AAC school to have knocked off Navy, and coach Ken Niumatalolo is still raving about its overall speed and talent.
Temple (8-3), which leads the AAC East Division by tiebreaker over South Florida, has not been ranked all season. Tulsa, which came within a whisker of ending Navy’s impressive winning streak at NavyMarine Corps Memorial Stadium, has not been on the radar.
“I think our teams have been underappreciated and under-ranked all year,” Aresco said. “I think USF should be ranked. I think Temple should be ranked. I thought Navy should have been ranked weeks ago and should be higher now. I think Houston should be in the top 10. I don’t know why people aren’t talking about Tulsa.”
Aresco is concerned because the College Football Playoff rankings have serious implications. The highest-ranked Group of “I think there’s a double standard at work here,” American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said. “I don’t think there’s an appreciation for how good our league is.” Five conference champion is awarded a berth in a New Year’s Six Bowl. Western Michigan (11-0) of the Mid-American Conference is on pace to earn that spot in the Cotton Bowl.
According to published reports, the Cotton Bowl payout is $3,625,000 per team. That will provide a major lift to whichever conference gets the bid. Navy is due to appear in the Armed Forces Bowl, which pays $675,000 per school. That is a massive shortfall in terms of potential revenue for the American.
Aresco believes the American is on par with the self-proclaimed Power Five conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern and Pac-12). He is certain the American is on a higher level than its brethren in the so-called Group of Five (Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt).
Needless to say, Aresco cannot stomach the thought of the AAC champion’s not playing in the Cotton Bowl.
“We all know the system is flawed. It is clearly flawed when a team like Houston or a team like Navy is not playing on New Year’s Day and teams with weaker resumes might be,” Aresco said. “Unfortunately, we have to deal with it.”
Aresco is particularly concerned that American Athletic Conference schools are being dramatically downgraded because of one or two losses. Navy fell on the road to a good South Florida team and dropped out of the AP Top 25. Houston, which was ranked fifth when it lost at Navy by six points, plummeted out of the national rankings after getting upset by Southern Methodist in Dallas.
“I think there’s a double standard at work here. I respect the committee, but I truly believe there is a double standard,” Aresco said. “I think the P5 is treated differently than we are. I don’t think there’s an appreciation for how good our league is, how tough it is from top to bottom.”
As evidence, Aresco points to Houston, which opened the season by soundly defeating third-ranked Oklahoma, 33-23.
“If Houston was in a P5 league, with the two big-time wins it has and the overall record, it would be top five right now. The Cougars would be fighting for a playoff berth. Nobody has two wins like that. That has to count for something,” Aresco said.
A look at the latest Associated Press and College Football Playoff rankings certainly provides some head-scratchers. LSU, at 6-4, is No. 25 in the AP poll. Washington State (8-3), which opened the season by losing to Eastern Washington, a Football Champi- Saturday, 3:30 p.m. TV: ESPNU Radio: 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 7 onship Subdivision school, is No. 23 in the CFP rankings — two spots ahead of Navy.
Boise State, which is No. 19 in the College Football Playoff rankings, might not even appear in the Mountain West Conference championship game. That’s because Boise State lost to Wyoming (8-3), which will play San Diego State for the title if it wins this weekend.
That would be the same Wyoming that lost to Northern Illinois (4-7) to start the season. South Florida routed NIU, 48-17, on Sept. 10.
At the moment, the only school that really matters to the AAC is Western Michigan, which closes the season against Toledo on Friday night. If the Broncos win the MAC championship and stay unbeaten, they would most likely wind up as the highestranked Group of Five champion.
Numerous outlets rate the strength of schedule for the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision schools. No AAC school is ranked lower than Western Michigan in any of them.
The NCAA has Western Michigan 86th in terms of strength of schedule. One particular indicator has the Broncos at 128, last in the FBS.
Western Michigan has beaten only two teams with winning records: Central Michigan (6-5) and Eastern Michigan (6-5). The overall record of the opponents the Broncos have beaten to date is 36-57.
Navy’s opponents are 44-38 while Houston’s are 47-43.
“Collectively, the American schools have played a really tough schedule,” Aresco said. “In terms of strength of schedule, we’ve been rated higher than the Big 12 all season.”
Having closely followed all the rankings throughout the season, Aresco has noticed that the Power Five Conference schools are given credit for strength of schedule.
“It seems the polls and the committee don’t care about our strength of schedule, but they do care about the P5 strength of schedule,” he said. “It seems like strength of schedule seems to mean more for the P5, and that’s a real concern for me.”
It is that rationale that enables the likes of LSU to remain in the rankings despite four losses while Navy drops out after one defeat.
“When the P5 loses games, it doesn’t seem to matter very much,” Aresco said. “Look at all the three-loss teams in the rankings. A lot of them don’t have any great wins. I think it’s a case of the emperor has no clothes.”