It’s that time of year again. As we near Thanksgiving, the college football season is working its way toward the postseason. It’s time to start projecting how the bowl season is going to shake out. Obviously, this continues to be a moving target, but that’s half the fun.
This is the fourth year of the new bowl contract cycle, which has many of the lower-end ESPN-owned games as part of a pool, where the match-ups can vary within a select group of conferences. This can throw a potential wrinkle into predicting where teams might go because ESPN can and has juggled teams around before.
Here are the bowl games tied to the American Athletic Conference either directly or via a pool:
New Year’s Six Bowl
Duluth Trading Cure Bowl - December 16 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MAC, SBC, Army)
Wasabi Fenway Bowl - December 17 - AAC vs AAC/Notre Dame
New Mexico Bowl - December 17 - AAC/CUSA vs MWC
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl - December 17 - G5 pool (AAC, MAC, C-USA, MWC, SBC)
Myrtle Beach Bowl - December 19 - G5 Pool (AAC, MAC, SBC)
RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl - December 20 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MAC, SBC, Army)
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - December 22 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, Army)
Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl - December 23 - Pool (AAC, ACC, SEC)
Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl - December 23 - AAC vs Army (BYU or other)
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl - December 27 - Pool (AAC, ACC, Big XII)
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl - December 27 - AAC vs SEC
Military Bowl - December 28 - AAC vs ACC
The American is likely to have seven teams bowl eligible by the end of the season. Six are eligible so far with Memphis being one win away. Here is a look at each school and our predictions:
With the win at Tulane, UCF is firmly in the driver’s seat for the New Year Six. They need to win out to get there, which is entirely possible. After Washington’s big upset over Oregon, they have worked their way into the NY6 discussion. Sorry Knights fans, but it is not likely that Alabama will end up playing here.
Eric: Bowl - Cotton Bowl - UCF Knights vs Penn State Nittany Lions
The last time the Cotton Bowl hosted the G5 Champ, it was Penn State vs Memphis. I expect a similar result if Penn State wins out and chalk plays out with playoff teams.
After last year, anything short of the NY6 is a disappointment. The Military Bowl is one of the AAC exclusives and it would make sense to have one of the big three(UCF, Cincinnati, Tulane) who doesn’t win the conference end up here. Cincinnati is closer, so they’ll stay north.
Eric: Military Bowl - Cincinnati Bearcats vs North Carolina State Wolfpack
The Military Bowl will likely be the bowl game where the runner-up in AAC ends up. It is also a bowl game with the best chance to play a P5 team for the AAC.
The Fenway Bowl is an AAC exclusive, so ECU going would make sense more so than some of the southern schools. Louisville is fighting with Syracuse and some others for the bottom of the ACC bowl slots.
Eric: Fenway Bowl - East Carolina Pirates vs. Syracuse Orange
ECU gets Fenway as AAC as it works from a geography standpoint if the Military is not an option.
Andrew: First Responder Bowl - Houston Cougars vs. Syracuse Orange
Houston gets to stay in the state of Texas after a disappointing year of high expectations. Syracuse is stuck in a logjam of ACC bowl-eligible teams. Someone is going to get the short end of the stick and bumped out of the rotation and at the moment, it could be them.
Eric: Frisco Bowl - Houston Cougars vs. Air Force Falcons
I agree Houston stays in Texas but plays in a lesser Bowl.
Memphis needs one more win to be bowl eligible. They play one-win FCS North Alabama this weekend and should win. UConn is one of the feel-good stories of the year. After becoming bowl eligible, they join the at-large pool of teams and should be able to land a spot in an early-season game.
Eric: Birmingham Bowl - Memphis Tigers vs BYU Cougars
I don’t think the SEC gets a team here so Memphis ends up here vs BYU or a Sun Belt team to help sell tickets.
This has been a disappointing year for SMU under new head coach Rhett Lashlee. They showed flashes of greatness, but could not consistently put things together. At least they’re bowl eligible and should stay in the south. South Alabama has had a good season and is close to home.
Eric: Armed Forces Bowl - SMU Mustangs vs Kansas Jayhawks
I think SMU gets the better of two non NY6 Bowl games and a Big 12 opponent.
Is the Independence Bowl closer to New Orleans? Yes. Is the Birmingham Bowl a higher profile game? Yes. Nuff said. The Green Wave is one of the top three in the American and still in the hunt for a conference championship game appearance. It’s likely that South Carolina will finish 6-6 on the season and be relegated to Birmingham. Miami could end up here too.
Eric: Independence Bowl - Tulane Green Wave vs Louisiana Ragin Cajuns
I think Tulane ends up here as part of negotiations among bowl games and conferences. This matchup helps with ticket sales.