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Breaking Down The AAC Contenders

We know that the Bearcats now find themselves in a five way tie at the top of the AAC standings heading into week 9 of the season. The stumble and fall of East Carolina and the emergence of several contenders has brought us to this point, a point where any one of five schools could win the AAC this season.

Scott Halleran

what a cluster, I mean look at this.

Five teams sitting at 5-3 overall and five teams sitting at 5-1 in the conference. The obvious question, who has the easiest path to the championship. Lets look at the paths ahead for each of the five teams.

East Carolina

  • Closing Stretch: at Cincinnati, vs Tulane, at Tulsa, vs UCF
  • Combined Record: 13-19
  • Average F/+ Ranking: 86
  • Highest Ranked Remaining Opponent ( F/+): Central Florida (55th)

Central Florida

  • Closing Stretch: vs Tulsa, vs SMU, at South Florida, at East Carolina
  • Combined Record: 10-22
  • Average F/+ Ranking: 103.5
  • Highest Ranked Remaining Opponent (F/+): East Carolina (59th)

Cincinnati

  • Closing Stretch: vs East Carolina, at UConn, at Temple, vs Houston
  • Combined Record: 18-14
  • Average F/+ Ranking: 74.8
  • Highest Ranked Remaining Opponent (F/+): East Carolina (59th)

Houston

  • Closing Stretch: vs Tulane, vs Tulsa, at SMU, at Cincinnati
  • Combined Record: 8-23
  • Average F/+ Ranking: 104.3
  • Highest Ranked Remaining Opponent (F/+): Cincinnati (69th)

Memphis

  • Closing Stretch: at Temple, at Tulane, vs South Florida, vs Connecticut
  • Combined Record; 12-21
  • Average F/+ Ranking: 96
  • Highest Ranked Remaining Opponent: Temple (77th)

The most surprising thing about this exercise to me? That the Bearcats have by far the hardest road of any of the remaining contenders; they are the only team who's remaining opponents combine for a winning record, they are the only team that has to play three of the five teams currently sitting at #1 on the AAC's conference chart. If the Bearcats actually go on to complete one of the more dramatic in season turnarounds in recent memory and win the AAC they will have earned it. As much as I would love to see that happen I don't think it will.

If you want to play the percentages in this race the favor goes to the teams whose schedules seem least likely to result in a catastrophic slip up. That's a polite way of saying watch for teams that get to play, SMU, Tulsa, South Florida and Tulane, preferably at home, but bad teams tend to be bad wherever they are playing. With that in mind Houston would be my pick here because I am reasonably certain that they will get to December 6th without losing again. I don't know if they can beat UC in that finale, but they seem to be the only team that is a (relatively) safe bet to remain in contention until the end.

Keep an eye out for Temple though. The Owls have the biggest win of any team in the AAC (over ECU), and they get Memphis and Cincinnati in Philly and close with the Green Wave of Tulane.