Why is the American Athletic Conference So Bad Right Now?

Nearly 41,000 people showed to watch the Cincinnati Bearcats barely hold off Miami (OH) 31-24 on September 19th. Halfway through the season, the Bearcats have the country's worst defense.

Nearly 41,000 people showed to watch the Cincinnati Bearcats barely hold off Miami (OH) 31-24 on September 19th. Halfway through the season, the Bearcats have the country’s worst defense.

OK, so the American Athletic Conference this year has been really, really bad.

I don’t want to sound any alarms. I’m trying to keep my cool. But the outlook has not been good at the midway point so far in the 2014 season. In a year when it doesn’t have the spotlight of heisman candidate quarterbacks and BCS tie-in, this could really set the wrong tone going forward in the playoff era.

Want to count up the wins against teams from the B1G, ACC, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12? There’s bound to be countless, right?

The number is 3. Three wins against teams deemed as top-tier competition. One of those came against Vanderbilt by Temple, the other two were ECU dismantling UNC and beating Virginia Tech.

The loss total? 17. That’d be a 3-17 season record so far against “power five” competition.

Wanna know how they’re faring in games against more equally-suited opponents (non-power five)? 14-10. The American Athletic Conference has posted a 14-10 record against non-major conference teams, including against FCS opponents. Hardly coming out swinging in the conference’s sophomore year.

So how did it come to this?

There’s no debating the American doesn’t have the resources as some of the major conferences, but the teams should yield a better result than what they’ve shown. We can roughly categorize the conference’s teams by those who are underperforming based on recent history, and those who over overperforming.

That breakdown goes something like this:

Overperforming teams: ECU, Memphis, Temple

Underperforming: Cincinnati, UConn, USF, Tulane, Tulsa, Houston, SMU

Par for the course: UCF

Unscientific, of course. But the number of teams having “down” years is really tipping the scale this year. Tulane went bowling last year, Tulsa has been a giant letdown, SMU is historically bad, Cincinnati has the statistically worst defense in the country, USF’s rebuilding is still a ways away, Houston is puzzling on all accounts and UConn hasn’t quite re-discovered the 2007-2010 magic yet.

I feel bad for Mike Aresco; his tireless campaign stumps for this conference falling on deaf ears after this season’ sub-par performances. But things could get better. Not that they could get much worse.