Remembering the Past, Planning for the Future

Last week, I explained why the American is the strongest of the Group of Five conferences, and how that doesn’t appear likely to change. That makes great fodder for message board arguments, but what does it really mean?

Well, it depends…

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The American Is the Best Group of Five Conference

This is a two-part post. In Part I, I talk about how the American has established itself as the top Group of Five conference. In Part II, we’ll discuss what that means, and where we go from here.

The American Athletic Conference is only three years old, but they’ve done pretty well for themselves in those three years. 2015 was the American’s best season yet, with a New Year’s bowl winner, two teams in the final top 25, the consensus national defensive player of the year (Temple’s Tyler Matakevich), and a player who finished in the top five in Heisman voting (Keenan Reynolds). There were plenty of skeptics who doubted the viability of the Big East’s football remnants, but the conference has not only survived, but thrived.

Indeed, the case can easily be made that the American has emerged as the top Group of Five conference.

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The American, the G5, and New Year’s

There is Tuesday Night MACtion tonight with the potential to affect the Group of 5 New Year’s 6 bowl landscape. Otherwise, this post could await the College Football Playoff rankings refresh and could be a lot less speculative. The speculation: How far will Houston (#19 last week) fall? Will Temple replace Memphis as a third AAC team in the committee’s rankings? Will Toledo re-appear, as the Rockets did in the AP poll?

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G5 Access Bowl Roundup

The top-ranked champion of the “Group of Five” or G5 conferences earns a slot in one of the New Year Six bowls – this year the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl. For the second week in a row, the American Athletic Conference is the only G5 conference appearing in the College Football Playoff Committee top 25 rankings. With three AAC teams there, to all others’ zero, it is safe to say that the American has established itself as the cream of the G5s. While that gives the AAC champ the inside track, the other conferences have some contenders lurking, and worst-case AAC fratricide could leave the door open.
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Does AAC stand for “American Access-bowl Conference”?

That was a good Tuesday for Navy Football.

ICYMI, the College Football Playoff Committee released the first set of rankings, which included American Athletic Conference members Memphis at #13, Temple at #22 and Houston at #25. With the only other “Group of Five” team in the rankings being then-undefeated Toledo at #24, a very clear path is drawn up for the AAC champion to be the highest ranked G5 champion and get the resultant Peach / Fiesta Bowl bid.

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We’re in a Conference Now and Oh No Everything’s Different

The best time to write about football games from 60 years ago probably isn’t just before the start of a new season. While I was off talking about how Irving Rumblesnot was running the single wing at Ursinus in nineteen dickety-two, the rest of the world was talking about more timely subjects like “practice” and “media day” in the “here” and “now.” It’s about time that I joined them, although at this point I doubt I have any original thoughts to offer. Tough luck, you’re going to get them anyway.

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The 10 Most Notable Games from Navy-American Athletic Conference History: #1

1949: Navy 21, Tulane 21

Among the members of the American Athletic Conference, no team has faced Navy more than the Tulane Green Wave. The two have squared off against each other 19 times dating back to 1949. Looking back on this list I’ve put together, Tulane is probably underrepresented. It wouldn’t be too difficult to come up with a pretty decent list made up of Navy-Tulane games alone.

Why don’t we give it a try?

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The 10 Most Notable Games from Navy-American Athletic Conference History: #2

1960: Navy 26, SMU 7

The Naval Academy has produced two Heisman Trophy winners. While Joe Bellino was the first to win the award in 1960, he tends to be overshadowed some by Roger Staubach. Staubach’s professional accomplishments certainly contribute to that, as does the fact that he played quarterback, football’s most celebrated position. The 1963 team’s legendary status among Navy fans also plays a part. Navy has been blessed with other excellent running backs, too, like Eddie Meyers, Napoleon McCallum, and several fine runners in the current triple-option era, making it more difficult for some of Bellino’s statistical accomplishments to stand out. As ridiculous as it may sound, one could say that Bellino– the Heisman Trophy winner, Maxwell Award winner, and consensus All-American– is actually underrated.

It shouldn’t be that way.

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The 10 Most Notable Games from Navy-American Athletic Conference History: #5

2008: Navy 33, Temple 27

The history of Navy’s football program over the last 60+ years has been one of extremes. When things have been good, they’ve been really good. The ’50s and ’60s were glory days by any definition, with the Mids producing multiple top-20 finishes, Heisman winners, and playing for a national championship. The George Welsh years ended with four consecutive winning seasons (five if you include Gary Tranquill’s first season), three bowl berths, nationally ranked defenses, and the occasional appearance in top-25 polls. Paul Johnson led the Mids to five straight winning seasons that each ended with a bowl berth, beat Notre Dame, finished ranked #24 in 2004, and never lost to Army.

Between those happier days were absolute deserts of futility. Navy played for the national championship in 1963, but only had two winning records over the next 14 years. Things were even worse after George Welsh left for Virginia, as the Mids could manage only three winning records from 1982-2002. They had twice as many seasons with two wins or less over the same period. Things got so bad that in 1994, Sports Illustrated suggested that Navy drop to Division I-AA. People weren’t exactly lining up to write dissenting opinions.

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