If you’re tired of the American Athletic Conference using the Power Six moniker to describe their league, the 2018 AAC Media Days were not the place for you.
The “P6” and “American Pow6r” logo adorned the walls, the media guides, there was even a football helmet bearing the logo.
And it was certainly present in Commissioner Mike Aresco’s opening remarks on Tuesday morning, where he came out in full support of UCF’s proclaimed 2018 national championship.
“I salute the UCF Knights on their great undefeated season, and on the national championship that they have a right to claim,” Aresco said. “But a larger point can also be made, that this UCF team deserved a shot at the national championship and could have won.”
Several of the other coaches in attendance strengthened the conference line: that the College Football Playoff needs to be reformed, and that AAC teams need a shot in the current system, including UConn head coach Randy Edsall:
“Unless we’re gonna create another division between FBS and FCS, if you win your conference championship, if this is college football and this is what it’s all about then yeah, we should expand the playoff,” Edsall said.
The glass ceiling, or “grass ceiling” as Aresco referred to it, almost certainly does exist in current college sports between the Power Five and the rest. A perfect example of that is UCF’s 2017 campaign.
The Knights won every single game in the 2017 season, as they’ll continue to remind you, but only slowly inched their way up the CFP rankings:
18th in week 10 after wiping Austin Peay off the face of the map. 18th again in week 11 after beating a bowl team in SMU on the road. 15th in week 12 after smoking UConn, and again after beating another bowl team in Temple on the road in week 13.
Mississippi State, in the meantime, beat a hapless Arkansas at home, and leapfrogged the Knights in the rankings. The next two weeks, UCF beat South Florida and Memphis, two ranked teams in a rivalry game and a conference championship respectively, and only moved up three spots to #12.
Not even close to the top four teams in the country.
Different AAC coaches had different solutions to the problem in the roundtable session. Tulane head coach Willie Fritz suggested an eight-team playoff, USF head coach Charlie Strong suggested a six team playoff (“for the Power Six” he said).
Edsall had maybe the most radical pitch of them all: if you win your tournament, you get into the college football playoff, and figure the rest out from there.
“Why do you play a full conference schedule and a conference championship game, if winning won’t guarantee a spot in a playoff,” Edsall said.
Strangely, new UCF head coach Josh Heupel had a more conservative take on expanding the college football playoff. The former Mizzou offensive coordinator wanted the playoff expanded to eight teams, and with no mention of an auto-bid for the best group of five school, this would not give the AAC a great shot at inclusion.
Whatever the answer is, AAC teams just have to beat everyone that gets put in front of them, since playoff expansion doesn’t seem to be imminent just yet, not by a long shot.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.