Previously, we analyzed what the American’s bowl matchups might look like in 2014 and 2015 with the improved tie-ins their predecessor, the Big East had. Today, we continue our series and look at what the 2016 AAC postseason might have looked like in Big East-colored shades.
Here are the matchups with the changes in bold:
Birmingham Bowl: (10-2) USF vs. (6-6) South Carolina
Military Bowl: (10-3) Temple vs. (6-6) Wake Forest
Armed Forces Bowl: (8-5) Louisiana Tech vs. (9-4) Navy
Las Vegas Bowl: (9-3) Houston vs. (10-3) San Diego State
Belk Bowl: (8-4) Memphis vs. (9-4) Virginia Tech
*Previously in Boca Raton Bowl vs. Western Kentucky
Camping World Bowl: (6-6) UCF vs. (8-4) Miami
*Previously in Cure Bowl vs. Arkansas State
Pinstripe Bowl (9-3) Tulsa vs. (8-4) Pitt
*Previously in Miami Beach Bowl vs. Central Michigan
In this scenario, the American gets some signature win opportunities. The Belk was the most geographically logical option for Memphis, as they trade a matchup with Western Kentucky for a date with 9-4 ACC Coastal Champ Virginia Tech. The Hokies would have been a more than formidable foe for the Tigers as they were competitive against the eventual national champions, Clemson. In the simulation, the Tigers lose a close one 26-24, as the Hokies intercepted Riley Ferguson four times.
UCF moves from Camping World Stadium for the Cure Bowl to… Camping World Stadium for the Camping World Bowl against Miami. This would have been the first meeting between the schools since a 27-7 Hurricanes victory in 2009. It’s hard not to imagine this one not selling out or coming close to doing so. Come kickoff, the Knights are unable to stop Brad Kaaya through the air as he passes for 372 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 27-16 defeat.
Tulsa really had no geographical match in this scenario and got dealt a tough situation. While it would have made sense to put them in the Armed Forces Bowl and put Navy in the Pinstripe, Navy and the Armed Forces Bowl are a natural fit, if only by name. Despite this, Tulsa gets a quality opponent in an 8-4 Pitt team that gave Clemson its only loss on the season. The Golden Hurricane is unable to translate this into a signature win as a balanced Pitt attack is too much in a 48-13 loss. Nathan Peterman (yes that Nathan Peterman) throws for 246 and two touchdowns, while James Connor adds 134 yards and a pair of scores of his own.
While the American got more opportunities to prove their P6wer label, they only notched one win in six opportunities. One has to wonder if this would have to wonder how substantially this would damage the conference’s reputation. However, the exposure gained from more engaging bowl matchups still likely would have benefited the American in their quest to gain Power conference status.