WATCHING THE AMERICAN

This time next year, we’ll be talking about the American Athletic Conference championship game.

This year, though, the American joins the Big 12 in adding to the slate of non-championship games this weekend. Memphis clinched a share of the championship last week, and UCF joined them at 9-3 (7-1) Thursday night with a Hail Mary win over East Carolina. Cincinnati can match those records, hosting Houston. The conference will declare co-champions, and allow the College Football Playoff Committee to choose one if there is a shot at the Cotton/Peach/Fiesta access bowl. Memphis is presently ranked ahead of the others, and in the only game between the three beat Cincinnati in October, so they probably look the best to the committee. However, that is an increasingly small chance: Boise State should clinch that bid with a win today, and Northern Illinois made its own strong case dominating the MAC conference championship game for the Huskies’ 11th win. Marshall could still look better than one of our tri-champions as well with a similarly strong performance in the CUSA championship.

Farther down the food chain in the American, Temple is trying to improve to 6-6 and get bowl eligible at Tulane. (Is this where I mention that SMU is looking for the Mustangs’ first win, visiting 2-9 UConn? Okay, done.)

The Owls would be the sixth bowl-eligible team in the conference. Without an access bowl bid, the American has five bowl tie-ins, and Temple might not be able to secure a bowl spot left open by another conference. The American’s bowl line up looks pretty good this year: BYU, two matchups with the ACC, one with the SEC, and supposedly a Big 12 backup to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl (depending on how Playoff and New Year’s Day slots go out, Big 12 may not meet all their primary tie-ins though, much less secondary ones.) Next year’s lineup for the expanded American expands to seven games, but only one each against the SEC and ACC, while covering the waterfront against the other Group of FIve teams.

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