In our recent series, we have looked at the American Athletic Conference’s bowl tie-ins if they had kept the Big East’s old tie-ins. The results have been advantageous match-ups with the Power Five with multiple signature wins in our simulations. Today, we bring the final installment in our series with a look at the most recent bowl season for the American.
Listed below are the match-ups with the changes in bold:
Cotton Bowl: 12-1 Memphis vs 10-2 Penn State
Liberty Bowl: 10-2 Navy vs 8-4 Kansas State
Birmingham Bowl: 10-3 Cincinnati vs 6-6 Boston College
Military Bowl: 8-4 Temple vs 6-6 North Carolina
Camping World Bowl: 10-2 SMU vs 10-2 Notre Dame
*Previously in Boca Raton Bowl vs FAU
Pinstripe Bowl: 6-6 Tulane(41) vs 8-4 Wake Forest(24)
*Previously in Armed Forces Bowl vs Southern Mississippi
Belk Bowl: 9-3 UCF(38) vs 8-4 Virginia Tech(20)
*Previously in the Gasparilla Bowl vs Marshall
SMU’s best season since the Death Penalty gets a high-caliber showdown against Notre Dame in Orlando, in a rematch of the 1984 Aloha Bowl. While FAU was a conference champion, Notre Dame towers over them in prestige and resume to be an upgrade for the Mustangs.
The underdogs score 19 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to win 35-26, with Xavier Jones leading the way with 119 rushing yards. The win gives SMU their first 11-win season since 1982 and their second since 1935.
UCF made their first-ever trip to Charlotte to face eight-win Virginia Tech looking for another win over a Power Five during bowl season. The Knights take care of the Hokies easily, 38-20, on the strength of Dillon Gabriel’s 294 passing yards and Otis Anderson’s 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Tulane got the short end of the stick geographically by having to go to New York City to face Wake Forest in the Pinstripe Bowl. But in a 41-24 blowout, the Green Wave surprise a Demon Deacons squad that spent parts of the year ranked. Their option offense is unstoppable as they run for 314 yards total, with Tyjae Spears running for 154 yards on only 12 carries.
The American already had an outstanding bowl season with wins over Boston College in the Birmingham Bowl and Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl. Our simulation only cements their status as the preeminent Group of Five conference with wins over Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, both high-prestige programs.
Had the American kept their Big East bowl tie-ins, the debate over the American’s Power Six status would have tilted quite favorably to the conference’s advantage.
In reality, while the American is the strongest Group of Five conference by a wide margin, this is of little note to most of the country, In our simulations, six years of bowl wins over quality teams would have increased exposure for the conference and possibly pushed talks for a permanent spot in the New Years’ Six, possibly even playoff expansion. Instead, we are left to wonder what could have been if the American were able to use their Big East heritage.
Previous articles in the series could be found here: