The American Athletic Conference released its 2016 conference schedule highlighted by, oddly enough, non-conference games that pit league gem Houston against Oklahoma (on opening day at Houston’s NRG Stadium) and Louisville (in Houston on Nov. 19).
Those two games, more than any others, will sink or swim the conference’s chances of not only grabbing the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six, but a spot in the College Football Playoff itself.
The 2016 conference slate kicks off with Navy meeting Connecticut on Sept. 10 and concludes with the second annual AAC title game on Dec. 3 at a to-be-determined campus site.
The AAC led the way in scheduling Power 5 opponents — highlighted by a Week 3 schedule that will see the entire East Division punching up a weight class — and includes the likes of Florida State, Maryland, N.C. State, Virginia, Syracuse, Kansas, TCU and Oklahoma (for all intents and purposes) visiting AAC campuses.
View the full AAC slate here:
With a loud protest taking place just outside, Temple’s board of trustees voted unanimously in favor of pursuing a new football stadium for the Owls program. A study to review potential stadium options could cost the school up to, but not exceeding, $1 million.
The latest plans for a new football stadium would have a proposed 35,000-seat stadium costing up to $126 million placed on Temple’s campus, thus eliminating the need to rent out space in Lincoln Financial Field. Temple’s football program has called The Linc home since the doors opened in 2003. Temple has not played its home games on its campus since leaving Temple Stadium in 1977, at which point it moved its home games to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia’s sports complex. The vote to pursue a new stadium today is a giant step forward for Temple and the football program and perhaps a long time coming, but it is not one without its share of controversy.
The talks of a new football stadium at Temple have gone on for years, but are now finally seeming to take some steps forward despite a vocal objection from many around Temple’s campus and the Philadelphia community. Protests and demonstrations were planned as the board reviewed the next steps in a new stadium, which is still not a certainty for the university at this point. Among those voicing their opinions on Monday afternoon were students, Philadelphia citizens and more concerned about what a stadium dropped in the middle of North Philadelphia might mean for the community. Given the lackluster impact and results seen at similar campuses, there is legitimate reason for some concern at Temple, which is just now experiencing a new high in football success.
This is just one step out of many that needs to happen in order for Temple to construct a new football stadium. Approval from the city to build such a facility would have to be given, and that is no guarantee.
With the Cleveland Browns (again) changing regimes, George DeLeone found himself on the outside of the coaching profession looking in. A couple of weeks later, DeLeone is back on the inside, and in a familiar locale at that.
While the school has yet to officially confirm it, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that DeLeone has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff at Temple. Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com subsequently confirmed the report.
According to both outlets, DeLeone will serve as the Owls’ running-game coordinator.
The past two seasons, DeLeone worked as an assistant line coach with the Browns. Prior to that, however, the vast majority of his 46-year coaching career had been spent at the collegiate level. And a sizable chunk of that time was spent in the Northeast.
DeLeone’s first FBS job came at Rutgers from 1980-83. Two different stints at Syracuse (1985-96, 1998-2004) were sandwiched between his the job at the NFL level with the Miami Dolphins (1997). Temple was his home from 2006-07, and then UConn from 2011-13 before the Browns called.
And here all of you haters thought that the SEC in general and Alabama specifically were focused solely on the latter portion of the “student-athlete” moniker.
As you may or may not have heard, Alabama will take on Michigan State in the 80th renewal of the Cotton Bowl Thursday that will simultaneously serve as one of two College Football Playoff semifinals. At the moment, the Tide is nearly a 10-point favorite over the Spartans because of their ability on a football field; if brains in the classroom mean anything when it comes to this contest, perhaps Vegas should rethink that line.
In a press release, UA revealed that it currently has 29 college graduates on its bowl roster. That number breaks the FBS record of 28… set by ‘Bama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl (following the 2013 season) against 2015 CFP participant Oklahoma. Three of the 29 this time around have also earned their master’s degree: starting quarterback Jake Coker, starting center Ryan Kelly and reserve offensive lineman Isaac Luatua.
Deservedly so, ‘Bama patted itself on the back in a release that highlighted the academic prowess of their football players:
This year’s Tide total means that more 20-percent of those wearing the crimson and white of Alabama in the Cotton Bowl have at least one college degree already in hand.
The Tide’s Cotton Bowl graduate tally is three ahead of second-place Temple and seven ahead of third-place Kansas State. Clemson is the closest squad in the College Football Playoff with 15.
In addition to leading the nation in graduates on a bowl roster, the Tide also has the highest Graduation Success Rate among the four teams selected for this year’s College Football Playoff. When the GSR was announced by the NCAA in October, the Tide football program produced a score of 86 while Clemson posted an 84, Michigan State a 66 and Oklahoma a 65.
This year’s Cotton Bowl also marks the seventh straight year that the Crimson Tide has suited up more than 20 graduates for a bowl game.
With all of that officially on the record, I’ll brace myself for the inevitable onslaught of basket-weaving major comments in three… two… one…
Heading into the bowl season this year it seemed pretty clear there was no Group of Five conference that could go toe-to-toe with the American Athletic Conference. Four bowl games into the postseason though and the story appears to be a little different. The good news is there is still time to redeem the image of the conference in this current postseason and make up for early woes.
The American Athletic Conference has lost each of its four bowl games played to date. South Florida lost to Western Kentucky, 45-35, in the Miami Beach Bowl. Temple took a 32-17 loss in the Boca Raton Bowl against Toledo. Cincinnati was clobbered by San Diego State, 42-7, in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.On Saturday, Connecticut lost to Marshall in the St. Petersburg Bowl (16-10) and Tulsa was edged by Virginia Tech in a wild shootout in the Independence Bowl, 55-52. That is a record of 0-4 with losses to Conference USA, the MAC and Mountain West Conference included in the mix. When comparing Group of Five conferences against each other, those are not good results for the AAC. It is also strange, because the AAC was fairly good against other Group of Five conferences this season. The conference has already clinched a losing record in postseason play with three games left to play.
The question for the AAC now is whether or not three wins in the final three games can outweigh the weight of the four losses. There is no question the three games left to play are to be considered the most notable matchups for the conference, although Temple vs. Toledo was respectable as well. Navy will play Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl in Annapolis on Monday afternoon. Memphis will take on 6-6 Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl on Wednesday afternoon and Houston faces Florida State in the Peach Bowl on New Years Eve. If the AAC managed to go 3-0 in those games, the conference would regain some credibility among Group of Five conferences, but that will not come easily..
It is far from impossible to believe though. Navy is practically playing at home. Despite coaching changes ongoing, Memphis still has an offense that should give Auburn plenty of trouble (remember, Memphis beat Ole Miss, and Ole Miss beat Auburn). Houston may not be as deep as Florida State is, but its first team offense has potential to give Florida State some trouble. Can the AAC win all three? Sure, it’s possible. Is it expected? Probably not, but for a conference that was pumped up as much as it has been this season from multiple voices (myself included), the AAC needs to go 3-0 in their final games to regain its footing. The AAC is clearly not a power conference, but being the top of the Group of Five is not a bad place to sit either.