Well, we’re a week into October and a good portion into the 2018 college football season, so you all know what that means. It’s time for all the American teams who were overlooked and/or disrespected prior to the season to start popping up in the Top 25 and get their due, despite it being too late in the season for people to overcome the initial anchoring effect of their omission.
Yes, while UCF has climbed to No. 10 in the AP Poll (and ninth in the Coaches poll), they finally have some company. Undefeated USF and Cincinnati have joined the Knights in representing the conference in both polls at No. 23 and No. 25, respectively.
This gives them the same number of Top 25 teams as the ACC, Pac 12 and Big 12. Did someone in Providence, Rhode Island, just say Power 6?
Admittedly, a bunch of media and coaches who don’t regularly watch American conference football might not be the best gauge for who is actually good in college football. They say numbers never lie, and in Bill Connelly’s S&P Plus ranking Cincinnati is just No. 40, USF No. 27 and UCF No. 9 but Houston at No. 29 and Memphis at No. 30 join them.
The AAC is sixth in S&P+’s conference rankings. But they have more Top 30 and Top 40 teams than the ACC and more Top 30 teams than the Pac 12. Perhaps we can blame UConn, ranked dead last, for dragging everyone down.
Say it with me: “Power 6! Power 6! Power 6!” Am I cherry picking? Yes. Because that is what happens to this conference every year.
Last year, the American had one preseason Top 25 team and finished with three. 2016 was only one to one but 2015 was zero to two.
Obviously, teams in the American have to earn their respect. And they do generally play weaker schedules than the big boys. But this conference has good teams. The aforementioned anchoring effect is real; it is a barrier in achieving respect when people are primed to disregard you.
Good teams are cool in the midst of an isolated season but what the American needs is good programs. Memphis has stayed strong under Mike Norvell even after Justin Fuente left for Virginia Tech. UCF in year one under Josh Heupel is still top notch. USF hasn’t really missed a beat post-Willie Taggart.
However, these are big names who have left. Fuente, Taggart, Scott Frost, Chad Morris, Tom Herman. The American has been AAA baseball, cultivating coaching prospects a step before the big time.
Now, they are finally in a place of potential continuity. This is just year one under Heupel. He has at least another year or two before he can move to something better. Charlie Strong is probably still scarred from his time at Texas, and so is his reputation. He will be in St. Petersburg a while longer I would bet. Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell is an Ohio guy through and through. I don’t see him leaving unless it’s back to his hometown, Columbus. Plus, it is only year one of great success, so he needs to provide a little more evidence. Norvell is still in Memphis as well. This could be the first offseason in some time the conference doesn’t lose a quality coach. Several of these programs will come back strong next year, too. Get the ball rolling, and maybe guys realize they actually have things pretty good here. Hopefully, the TV networks will realize the same thing.
It seems perverse, but I look forward to the year, should it ever come (no promises), that the American has more ranked teams in the preseason than the post. In a myriad of ways, this conference is improving. It just needs enough power to maintain the surge.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.