Just four months ago, the AAC was lumped as just another Group of 5 football conference trying to make its way in a Power 5 world. Then the AAC won some big games, with Temple beating Penn State and Memphis beating Mississippi, finished 4-3 against a P5 conference (the ACC) and separated itself from the pack. Now it can enhance its image by winning these five bowl games.
- Miami Beach: USF vs. Western Kentucky
The big storyline in this game (2:30 p.m., EDT, Dec. 21, ESPN), is Willie Taggart’s old recruits, the ones who play for 11-2 WKU, going up against his newer 8-4 South Florida recruits. Despite the game being played in South Florida, the Hilltoppers are slight favorites and a lot of that has to do with the motivation on one side against an less-motivated group on the other. Plus, WKU’s Jeff Brohm probably is a better game day coach than Taggart.
- Birmingham: Memphis vs. Auburn
The fact that the 9-3 Memphis Tigers are a slight underdog against the 6-6 Auburn Tigers is a product of this being a home game for Auburn. In reality, Memphis is a team that beat Mississippi by 13 points and should have no problem handling an overvalued Auburn team that has an edge in SEC name recognition and little else. The game is Dec. 30th on ESPN at noon.
- Hawaii: Cincinnati vs. San Diego St.
The Bearcats have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Gunner Kiel, who has played significantly better in the second half of the season since coming off a concussion. The 7-5 Bearcats’ most impressive showing was a 33-30 loss at champion Houston. SDSU, which is 10-3, is a slight underdog in this game (Dec. 24, 8 p.m., ESPN).
- Military Bowl: Pitt vs. Navy
In what is a home game for 9-2 Navy, played at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, this game serves as a showcase for someone who should have won the Heisman Award, Navy Midshipmen quarterback Keenan Reynolds, against a successful Power 5 team in 8-4 Pitt. This is probably too tough a spot for the four-point underdog Panthers.
- Peach Bowl: Houston vs. Florida State
The one takeaway from Houston’s 24-13 win over Temple in the title game was two takeaways, an interception and a fumble, which were really the difference between Temple being there and Houston taking the spot. The fact that the Owls had to play a perfect game to beat the Cougars probably bodes well for the touchdown underdog in the Dec. 31 game (noon, ESPN). The AAC can make its ultimate statement winning this game.