AAC not get­ting its due, chief says

Navy, Hous­ton and oth­ers ranked low de­spite wins over Power 5 con­fer­ence schools

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Bill Wag­ner

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.”


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