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Where are the Rivalries? Dropping the AAC's Divisions and Finding Some

Let's break up those pesky divisions and start building some rivalries, something the American Athletic Conference sorely lacks.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The higher ups here at SB Nation took it upon themselves to offer some advice to college football conferences: get rid of divisions. However, in there examination, they ignored the American Athletic Conference, the current home of the Cincinnati Bearcats (until the Big 12 invite comes rolling in).

Even if its not the first time the AAC has been or will be overlooked, this whole get rid of divisions idea makes a lot of sense for the league, just as it does for the big boys in the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-12 and, of course, the large dozen.

As it is currently composed, the AAC has two divisions: the West and the East. Navy, a current West member and the last piece of the division puzzle for the league, is located in Maryland. That's not exactly west, is it? So just throw those divisions out and let all 12 schools in the league mingle in one semi-OK football stew.

From there, assuming each team will still play eight league games, we have to make some hard decisions. If we continue to follow the model our colleagues at SB Nation HQ put forth, we need to pick some permanent opponents to maintain rivalries or, in the case of the AAC, create some new ones.

We'll give each team three permanent opponents and then play four of the eight remaining one year and the other four the next. That would ensure that you play every team at least once every two years. It also would help build at least one or two actual rivalries, an area the AAC is lagging far behind the power five conferences in. If we're really building this league to last, and not just serve as a way station for squads before they jump to the power five, we need to get more people (especially outside of the conference) to care. Rivalries are a great way to defeat apathy and breed interest. Now let's hand out those permanent opponents.

Cincinnati - UConn, Memphis and Houston

Although it has no pure rival in football like it does in basketball, UC has history with UConn from its Big East days, and Memphis is the closest thing to a geographic rival the conference has offered the Bearcats since Louisville left.

UConn - Cincinnati, Temple and UCF

KEEP THE CIVIL CONFLICT ALIVE! Also, UConn and Temple have played in some rather heated scraps in the recent past.

East Carolina - Temple, Houston and Memphis

For two years running, East Carolina has been dumped by Temple, with 2014's upset much more surprising (and devastating) for the Pirates. That looks like it could morph into a must-see matchup annually.

Houston - Cincinnati, East Carolina and SMU

The big dog in the yard right now, Houston obviously makes sense as a regional rival with SMU (even if the competitive aspect of the rivalry won't be all that heated right away).

Memphis - Navy, East Carolina and Cincinnati

For what its worth, ECU and Memphis are No. 96 and No. 97, respectively, in Elo Fan Ratings on sports-reference.com. The Tigers have also played the Pirates 21 times, making them their 10th-most frequent opponent. Surprisingly, Memphis has never beaten UCF (0-9).

Navy - Memphis, Temple and USF

Navy has a foothold in Temple's homeland, as it has played its most heated rival, Army, in Philadelphia 86 times, including numerous tilts at the Owls' actual home stadium (Lincoln Financial Field). What's a word that means battle and rhymes with the Link? There's your rivalry name.

SMU - Houston, Tulsa and Tulane

As already touched on, Houston and SMU make for perfect bedfellows in terms of geography.

Temple - Navy, UConn and East Carolina

If you think Temple has forgotten about the time a replay overturned what would have been an improbable comeback against UConn, you would be wrong.

Of the 10 all-time games between the Owls and Huskies, four have been decided by seven points or fewer. Check the rivalry boxes off, Susan. Regional? Yup. Competitive? Has been. Contentious? Probably.

Tulane - SMU, Tulsa and UCF

Although Tulane has played Memphis more than any other AAC opponent, an 11-20 record against the Tigers doesn't make it a storied rivalry per se. Instead, SMU (13-9 all-time) makes for an intriguing rivalry partner, as does Tulsa, which entered the league right with the Green Wave.

Tulsa - Tulane, SMU and USF

The average margin of victory in the previous games between SMU and Tulsa is less than a point. The two meetings in AAC play have not been so close, but a more even history gives something to shoot for.

UCF - USF, UConn and Tulane

You've got the illustrious Civil Conflict and a Sunshine State showdown (we'll call it the baby brother of Florida/Florida State and Florida State/Miami) all rolled into a schedule each year.

USF - UCF, Tulsa and Navy

USF doesn't even like UCF's pitches to join other conferences, let alone its football program.

***

Well there you have it, divisions gone and rivalries formed all in one fell swoop. Sure, the potential rivalries we've crafted aren't the Red River Showdown or the Iron Bowl, but they could capture a fraction of that magic, which would be a big boon for the AAC as a whole.

(Of course none of this will matter when Cincinnati burns every AAC bridge it has and joins the Big 12).