Mike Aresco is confident that Saturday’s American Athletic Conference football championship winner, either Memphis or Cincinnati, will receive the Group of Five’s spot to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The main two other teams in contention are Boise State from the Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt stalwart Appalachian State. Aresco, the AAC commissioner, spent part of his address Monday on the American championship game teleconference comparing resumes.
“Boise beats Marshall 14-7 on its home blue turf. Cincinnati goes to Marshall and wins 52-14,” Aresco said. “It was 45-0 at one point. We have comparisons like that. ... This is an eye-popping number that we are 27-1 against all teams not from the Power (Five) conferences, and that includes Army and BYU.”
Memphis, Boise State and App. State are all 11-1. Cincinnati is 10-2 after its loss to Memphis, which will host the Bearcats in a rematch this Saturday for the American title at 3:30 p.m. on ABC.
Last week’s College Football Playoff rankings had Memphis leading the way in the Group of Five at No. 18. Cincy was 19th, Boise No. 20 and the Mountaineers No. 25. A new set of rankings will be released Tuesday night, likely with Memphis still as the best Group of Five club, but the Bearcats might be behind Boise State and/or App. State.
“If Memphis wins, I think they are pretty much a lock, based on the rankings right now,” Aresco said. “But even if Cincinnati wins, I think they should go as well. I believe a two-loss team from our conference should get the same respect and the same treatment that all these two-, three- and four-loss teams in the Power Five get compared to our teams. Why use a double standard?
“The only reason these two- and three-loss teams are ranked ahead of us is supposedly their strength of schedule, but I don’t buy it. Like I don’t think USC should be ranked ahead of SMU.”
Memphis’ only loss is at Temple, 30-28.
The Tigers’ resume includes multiple wins versus Top 25 AAC opponents plus a 15-10 victory over Ole Miss from the Southeastern Conference.
App. State, which won at North Carolina and at South Carolina, is a 6-point favorite for the Sun Belt championship game in Boone versus Louisiana. Boise State is favored by two touchdowns and also the home team versus Hawaii for the MWC title.
Cincinnati’s lone loss was at Ohio State until it was defeated, 34-24, last Friday by Memphis.
The Tigers are 10-point favorites for the championship rematch.
“Our one goal is to play for championships, and for the first time we really and truly have the opportunity to play for a championship,” Cincy third-year coach Luke Fickell said. “That is what we are excited about. Coming off a loss is typically difficult and tough, and it’s a situation where you have to go back to Memphis again, but the reality is 95 percent of college football is done until the bowl season. There are a lot of people who would trade places with you.”