With all of the talk about UCF and the new TV deal, it would be easy to forget that other teams in the AAC are playing in bowl games. Important bowl games at that. The AAC gets four shots at Power 5 competition this bowl season. Last year, they went 3-1 against Power 5 competition, fueling the #Power6 discussion. Like last year, the AAC sends seven teams to bowl games in 2018. Today, we go through each to discuss the importance of each game.
7. AutoNation Cure Bowl—Tulane vs. Louisiana
It may not be a Power 5 opponent, but this was a huge accomplishment for Tulane. After falling inches short in 2017, the Green Wave had their eyes set on a bowl game. A 2-5 start had many worried they wouldn’t reach their goal, but they managed to win four of their last five games to get here. The importance of this game: the AAC may do well against Power 5 competition, but they have struggled mightily against the rest of the Group of 5. In it’s young existence, the conference has gone 2-10 against the other G5 conferences. Tulane has a chance to help improve that record.
6. Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl— USF vs. Marshall
Essentially a home game for the Bulls, which should help them immensely. After a disappointing finish to their season, USF is trying to move on. Like Tulane, they will be trying to improve the AAC record against the other G5 teams. Marshall is a tough team, which typically hasn’t meant good things for the Bulls. Ending a five game losing streak is on the line, and Charlie Strong is hoping he can cool off his seat even a little bit with a win.
5. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl— Houston vs. Army
Houston will be playing without its two best players: D’Eriq King and Ed Oliver. King was hurt in the game against Tulane and Oliver has decided to sit out to focus on his future in the NFL. A bowl game is a welcomed distraction for the Cougars after a rocky beginning to the postseason. Major Applewhite needs to prove that he can beat a good team without his two best players. The defense hasn’t shown they’re going to help him much, so the triple option could be extremely effective for Army. A win for Applewhite is expected, but a loss would bring pitchfork nation out in full force (if it isn’t out already).
4. Walk-On’s Independence Bowl— Temple vs. Duke
Talk about roller coasters. Temple endured the craziest season of probably any team in the AAC. After losing to Villanova and Buffalo, the Owls won eight of their remaining ten games and competed for the AAC East crown. Now, they get a chance to beat a Power 5 team. Without their coach. Geoff Collins left to become Georgia Tech’s head coach. Collins won’t coach the bowl game for Temple, but the Owls have an important task at hand. A win over a Power 5 team would continue to help push the Power 6 agenda, and prove that these players can play against anyone no matter who is coaching.
3. Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman— Cincinnati vs. VT
Was Cincinnati legit this year? It sure seemed that way, but their two losses had fans bummed. A tight loss to Temple was disappointing, but the blowout loss to UCF showed how young they were. Now, they’re presented with a Power 5 opponent. Granted, this isn’t a typical Virginia Tech team, but a win here would give the Bearcats some serious credibility going into the 2019 season.
2. Jared Birmingham Bowl— Memphis vs. Wake Forest
A third consecutive heartbreaking loss to UCF had the Tigers down, and now they have to find two new coordinators in the offseason. That hasn’t seemed to phase Mike Norvell one bit. Memphis has their head coach for another year, and have a chance to redeem themselves after last year’s loss to Iowa State. Stopping Greg Dortch is going to be tough for the Tigers secondary, and Memphis still awaits word on whether their star, Darrell Henderson, will play.
1. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl— UCF vs. LSU
No surprise here. The Knights wanted a shot in the playoff, but didn’t even get into the conversation. A New Year’s Six bowl game is their consolation prize, but they need to move past the drama of the playoff. LSU is a great football team that will be tough to beat, especially without McKenzie Milton. Tigers start defensive back Greedy Williams isn’t going to play, but their leader will. Linebacker Devin White is going to provide some significant challenges for Darriel Mack and the offense. If we have to explain the importance of this game, you need to pay better attention.