A Power 6 conference isn’t a guarantee, but the AAC is trying to make it happen. With the Group of 5 trying to bridge the gap between Power 5 teams and themselves, this should be seen as a step in the right direction.
The next step will be for the AAC to schedule more games against Power 5 competition, and consistently win those matchups. They have shown the ability to beat these teams in the past, and today we take a look at the Top 10 wins this conference has produced over Power 5 teams. These games had an impact not only on the conference, but on the college landscape to some degree. AAC football may or may not be ready to be with the Power 5, but these ten games show they’re capable of competing with anyone.
*Games are from 2013 to present and are from current members only
10. September 10, 2016: East Carolina 33 - NC State 30
Zay Jones didn’t lead the team in catches or yards, and the Pirates improved to 2-0. Pretty hard to believe either when Jones finished with 100 more catches and over 900 yards more than the next teammate, and that the Pirates finished 3-9. This was also the same Wolfpack team that should have defeated Clemson later in the season
9. September 20, 2014: East Carolina 70 - UNC 41
Coming off a 10-3 season, Ruffin McNeil had high hopes for his team in 2014. Minus a loss to #21 South Carolina, ECU was rolling. The Pirates dominated the Tar Heels in a high scoring affair, and they pulled away in the second and third quarters. Shane Carden passed for 438 yards and four touchdowns, Breon Allen rushed for 211 yards and two scores, and Trevon Brown, Zay Jones, and Justin Hardy combined for 325 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Safe to say we won’t see them dominate like this again for a while
8. December 29, 2016: Birmingham Bowl, USF 46 - South Carolina 39
Quinton Flowers capped off a spectacular season by 366 yards and 4 touchdowns in a shootout with the Gamecocks. The win gave USF their first 11-win season in school history. It also began the Heisman and CFP hype for Flowers and the Bulls heading into this season. Funny how quickly the bandwagon filled up.
7. November 5, 2016: Navy 28 - Notre Dame 27
Is it weird to say that Will Worth did something that Keenan Reynolds couldn’t do? In just one year as a starter, Worth beat Notre Dame. The Midshipmen rushed for 320 yards, and held off the Fighting Irish for their first win since 2010. How Brian Kelly didn’t get canned after this is beyond us.
6. September 5, 2015: Temple 27 - Penn State 10
The Temple Owls scored 27 unanswered points to get their first win against their in-state “rival” since 1941. The Owls’ win ended a 39-game winless streak against the Penn State Nittany Lions, which was the longest active losing streak against a single opponent in college football. The Owls defense sacked Christian Hackenberg 10 times in the contest, while Jahad Thomas accounted for two rushing touchdowns. It was a big win for Temple as the last time they beat Penn State Joe Paterno was still in high school.
5. October 17, 2015: Memphis 37 - #13 Ole Miss 24
Paxton Lynch threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns to help keep the Tigers unbeaten. Ole Miss beat #2 Alabama in Week 3 of the season, and no one expected them to struggle against the upstart Tigers. This win helped launch the Tigers to #13 in the inaugural College Football Playoff Committee rankings. It also gave the Rebels their second loss in three weeks after what seemed like a season destined for a playoff appearance.
4. November 17, 2016: Houston 36 - #5 Louisville 10
At first, this appeared to be a close game. As the season progressed, it was hard to believe that Houston could win this game. Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign was well on its way even with some bumps in the road. Louisville found themselves down 31-0 at halftime, and could never recover. Jackson finished with season lows in completion percentage and rushing yards while being sacked 11 times. Houston proved that even though the season wasn’t going the way they wanted, they could still compete against the best.
3. September 3, 2016: #15 Houston 33 - #3 Oklahoma 23
Even with all of the hype Houston had coming into this game, Oklahoma was still favored by nearly two touchdowns. With a possible jump to the Big 12 coming, Houston was out to add to their resume. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Joe Mixon dominated the first quarter, but were shut down for the rest of the game as Houston outscored the Sooners 30-13. An inclusion into the Big 12 appeared all but imminent after this game, but as we found out, the conference had other plans.
2. December 31, 2015, Peach Bowl: #18 Houston 38 - #9 Florida State 24
Tom Herman’s first year as head coach was extremely successful, and #HTownTakeover was going strong. Their biggest test awaited in the Seminoles, and the Cougars never skipped a beat. Forcing ‘Noles QB Sean Maguire into four interceptions while also holding star RB Dalvin Cook to just 33 yards gave Houston a 14 point win. The hype surrounding this program exploded after this win as the Coogs were able to become the first G5 school to ever sign a 5-star player in Ed Oliver and bring home the best recruiting class in the G5.
1. January 1, 2014 Fiesta Bowl: #15 UCF 52 - #6 Baylor 42
If you were a Knights fan heading into this game, you had to be worried about what might happen. Baylor came in averaging 619 yards and 52.4 points per game. The Bears thoroughly dominated their competition during the season, and the Knights figured to be next in line. Instead, the Knights jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
But Baylor would battle back, tying things up in the third quarter. UCF pulled away and held off the furious comeback attempt. It ended up a high scoring affair with Blake Bortles and Bryce Petty combining for nine of the 16 touchdowns scored. This upset was one of the most shocking in bowl history considering Baylor’s level of dominance and offensive proficiency. With the win, UCF became the youngest program to ever win a BCS bowl game.