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What would AAC teams’ prestige rankings be in a new NCAA Football video game?

A lot has changed since NCAA Football 14 so just how good would your team be in the new video game?

The NCAA made headlines last week by announcing a committee has been formed to explore the idea of student-athletes being compensated for use of their names, images and likenesses. This would be huge for student-athletes, as we have heard countless stories of players being suspended and thrown out of the history books, while universities make millions of dollars on their name and likeness regardless.

It is a big deal for college athletics, but that is a story for another day.

What has the internet buzzing for many college football fans is that the NCAA Football video game franchise, which was eliminated after NCAA Football 14 because of the use of player’s likenesses, has a good shot at coming back if the NCAA can modify its current rules. Every college football fan has been anxiously waiting for that day to come.

There were so many things to like about the game, but dynasty mode was the best part. The recruiting, configuring your own crazy conference realignments and scheduling yourself against the best were just a few of the great features in the game. However, my favorite thing about the NCAA Football video game was not only playing as my alma mater, - Temple Owls for those who don’t know - but taking one of the worst teams in the country and turning them into one of the nation’s elite. Let’s be honest, that’s probably the only way I’m going to see Temple win a national championship in my lifetime too.

If you recall, every team had a prestige ranking by a number of stars. The best programs in the country were six stars and the worst programs were ranked as a one star. It was a critical part of the in-game recruiting. The better your prestige, the better recruits you could land.

It got me thinking about present day Temple and the AAC. The AAC was coming into their inaugural season and many around the country did not know how long it would survive. So it really should not be a surprise that no team in the previous game had a prestige over three stars.

A lot has changed for the Owls, American Athletic Conference and college football as a whole since NCAA Football 14 was released. For those who are not aware, even though it’s called NCAA Football 14, the season starts in August of 2013. Louisville and Rutgers were still members of the AAC when the game was last released. Meanwhile ECU, Tulane and Tulsa were in their final years in Conference USA. Navy was an independent. Since then, the conference has proven that many of these programs are more prestigious.

So just how many prestige stars would each team in the AAC have in a new video game? Find out below.

*Note: Teams are listed in alphabetical order*

Cincinnati Bearcats

NCAA 14: 3 Stars | New NCAA: 4 Stars

Their previous ranking stunned me in all honesty because the Bearcats were one of the best teams in the country at this time, first under Brian Kelly and then Butch Jones. From 2007 to 2012, Cincy won 10 or more games all but once, and were a regular fixture in the polls. They followed that up with nine wins in their first two seasons in the AAC, and while they had a couple of down years in 2016 and 2017, they came back strong with 11 wins last season. They are considered one of the better Group of Five programs because of the talent that comes from Ohio and are often linked to a move to a Power Five conference, something you’ll see mentioned a lot in this piece.

ECU Pirates

NCAA 14: 2 Stars | New NCAA: 2 Stars

As I previously mentioned, they were still in C-USA when the last game was out and went bowling regularly from 2006 to 2013. They reached 10 wins in 2013, but that was their only double-digit winning season since joining a conference in 1997. They entered the AAC with an eight-win season, but they have taken a step back since, including three straight 3-9 seasons.

AAC Championship - Temple v Houston Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Houston Cougars

NCAA 14: 3 Stars | New NCAA: 4 Stars

You can make a case that up until the last two seasons since UCF has taken over the headlines, Houston was the most coveted G5 program when realignment discussions come up. They are in a recruiting hotbed, and have had only two losing records since 2005, with two 13-1 seasons in that span. Add in that they made major waves this offseason by plucking Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia and making him the highest-paid G5 head coach. Taking a coach away from a Power Five gig and often being considered as good, if not better than many P5 programs, you’ve earned the right to be in this category.

Navy Midshipmen

NCAA 14: 3 Stars | New NCAA: 3 Stars

The Mids are going through a rough patch right now, but they are still a team you have to respect every week, on and off the field. You also have to admire that they are winning in bunches while running an option offense that is unique in today’s football landscape, while never having the same level of talent as their counterparts. However, the latter is the reason why three stars is their peak.

Memphis Tigers

NCAA 14: 1 Star | New NCAA: 3 Stars

The Tigers certainly do not deserve to be a one star anymore after five straight seasons with eight or more wins, which includes a co-conference championship in 2014 and back-to-back appearances in the AAC Championship game the last two years. But like we’ve said numerous times on the Underdog Pawdcast, they just are not as prestigious as the top four. Any of those programs could leave for greener pastures if realignment should happen. Memphis is in the perfect conference for what they bring to the table. For that reason, I’m not ready to put them in the same class as the four teams I have ahead of them.

SMU Mustangs

NCAA 14: 3 Stars | New NCAA: 2 Stars

SMU was a powerhouse in the early 1980s until the dreaded death penalty sent the program into a free fall, essentially destroying the Southwest Conference in the process. They have been in three conferences since the SWC dissolved, and they have never fully recovered from the scandal, other than a couple winning seasons under June Jones. When you are the only program in the history of college football to have your season cancelled by the NCAA and haven’t been competitive since, you don’t deserve to be considered an average program.

AAC Championship - Temple v Navy Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Temple Owls

NCAA 14: 2 Stars | New NCAA: 3 Stars

Temple has five winning seasons in six seasons since the AAC’s inception, including a conference championship. They’ve become a pipeline for coaches to move to the P5, and are the only G5 program to have multiple players drafted in the past four NFL Drafts. However, with an all-time record of 322-406-26 and only 16 weeks ranked in the AP polls over 71 years, they are not worthy to be anything but the middle of the pack... for now. If they can sustain the recent success for another decade or so, they could move to four stars.

Tulane Green Wave

NCAA 14: 1 Star | New NCAA: 1 Star

Steady improvement has been the case since Willie Fritz took over as head coach in New Orleans, including a bowl win last season, but they will never be one of the conference’s elite. Tulane has higher academic standards than much of the nation, which makes it a bit more difficult for them to recruit, but when there has been only four winning records since the start of the new millennium, you are way behind most of the country.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

NCAA 14: 3 Stars | New NCAA: 2 Stars

The Golden Hurricane went on a nice run as members of Conference USA, which included two conference championships and five bowl wins. That has not been the case since joining the American. They won 10 games in 2016, which was a shocker to many, but otherwise have just 13 wins in the first five years in the AAC.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Auburn v Central Florida Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

UCF Knights

NCAA 14: 3 Stars | New NCAA: 5 Stars

This is the obvious biggest riser in the would-be game as they have made themselves a household name with a 25-1 record the last two campaigns. The Knights were coming off 10-4 and 12-1 seasons with a Fiesta Bowl win leading up to the 2014 game. Yes, there is an 0-12 mark in between all this success, but with two wins in three appearances at a New Year’s Six bowl game, you cannot deny they are one of the premier programs in the nation. When seeing that Boise State was a five-star team in the previous game, UCF absolutely deserves the same mark.

UConn Huskies

NCAA 14: 2 Stars | New NCAA: 1 Star

They are the worst defensive team in college football history and sport a record of 18-55 since joining the American. They also haven’t had a winning season since 2010. Need I say more?

USF Bulls

NCAA 14: 3 Stars | New NCAA: 4 Stars

I went back-and-forth between three and four stars for a bit. It’s tough to discredit what the Bulls have done in recent years. While it remains to be seen how much of that was because of the play of Quinton Flowers, they are considered a cut above most G5 teams. If you’re a program in the discussion of being one of the favorites to leave the conference if realignment does happen, it means you’re wanted and deserving of a prestige higher than most of the AAC.

Check back with us in a couple days as we put together our All-AAC team you never had the opportunity to play with since NCAA Football 14 was cancelled. Can you tell we are a little bit excited for a potential new game?