AAC should replace ACC in the Power 5

Mike Norvell, Memphis Tigers. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Mike Norvell, Memphis Tigers. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images) /

You know what? We’re going there. The ACC is so bad outside of the Clemson Tigers that the AAC should take that conference’s spot in the Power 5.

American sports will never be like they are in Europe. Relegation is a cool concept that we see most notably with the English Premier League in soccer. However, long-standing traditions state-side are never going to make that possible. But what if we could embrace relegation? What about relegating entire conferences? Yes, we’re talking about relegating the ACC and promoting the AAC.

Wait, why? What did the ACC do to deserve this? It’s simple really. Outside of the Clemson Tigers, it’s been nothing short of bad Power 5 football. In the latest College Football Playoff Rankings, only undefeated Clemson at No. 3 made the top-25 out of that Power 5 conference.

Every other team in the ACC has two losses this year. Outside of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the other 12 teams that make up the ACC have lost three times, including every single team that makes up the ACC Coastal Division. We’re likely looking at an unranked, three-loss Virginia Cavaliers team representing that division the conference title bout in Charlotte vs. Clemson.

Okay, we get it. Conferences have down cycles. The then-Pac-10 was bad when Pete Carroll was dominating the West Coast at USC over a decade ago. The second-best Pac-10 program was the California Golden Bears and that’s because Jeff Tedford had Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Not that long ago, the Big Ten was down. Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus in 2012 and that changed.

In due time, ACC powers like the Florida State Seminoles and the Miami Hurricanes well get back to being top-tier programs. Other teams like the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Louisville Cardinals may be able to carry their weight eventually under their new head coaches and join the pack of conference contenders. For now, the ACC will be college football’s Power 5 punching bag.

But what is the AAC’s case for getting a seat at the big kid’s table over the ACC, who keeps dropping their food, making a mess and misbehaving all together? Well, The American has four teams with one loss on the year and three are in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings: the No. 17 Cincinnati Bearcats, the No. 18 Memphis Tigers and the No. 23 Navy Midshipmen.

The other one-loss team in the AAC this year is the SMU Mustangs, whose only loss was on the road to division-rival Memphis. After those four teams, there is the next group of quality AAC teams that have already achieved bowl eligibility in the Temple Owls, the Tulane Green Wave and the UCF Knights, with Temple and UCF having won this conference before in recent years.

What has been key to the AAC’s success in the College Football Playoff is that they are in the southeastern footprint in terms of recruiting players, as well as having some pretty outstanding up-and-coming coaches. Memphis’ Mike Norvell may be poised to land a Power 5 job this December and Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell could very well do the same this offseason or next.

Of course, the AAC may be in its golden age as a Group of 5 conference, as it’s clearly better than Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt, but does not have the pedigree of underperforming Power 5 conferences, most notably the ACC. This stinks, but it is a reality. If the AAC were only slightly better at hoops would it have a shot at taking the ACC’s spot at the table?

For now, the AAC should feel great about having a handful of its schools in the College Football Playoff Rankings going forward. The Group of 5 bid to the Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington is The American’s to lose. That may just be these 12 teams’ lot in life, but what happens if the Midshipmen sink the Notre Dame Fighting Irish up in South Bend? Is that even possible?

Should Navy beat its rival Notre Dame, then the independent Power 5 team’s third loss of the season would only make the ACC look worse. Notre Dame has already lost to the Georgia Bulldogs and the Michigan Wolverines. Due to Notre Dame being an ACC member in everything else but football and play a good chunk of its schedule vs. the ACC, a Navy loss only helps the AAC’s case.

The point is that the ACC will rebound to respectability one day, but for now, it is the sixth-best conference in Division I college football. The AAC has been better all year. Without Clemson, the ACC has absolutely nothing to hang its hat on when it comes to holding its own on the gridiron on fall Saturdays.

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