We will be revisiting the post we did back in July. In that post, it was clear the AAC had been stronger over the past few years. Looking at only this year, it’s not as clear. Using the same criteria as last year, let’s see if the Mountain West was able to close the gap on the American in the quest for being the top Group of 5 Conference in 2018.
Head to Head
The Mountain West and American don’t have many opportunities to play each other from season to season. However, one conference made the most of their opportunities during the 2018 season. The two conferences played one another three times, all during the regular season. The MWC came away 3-0, mostly at the expense of Navy. Hawaii beat them 59-41 early in the season during their hot run, and Air Force slaughtered their rival 35-7 in the middle of the year. Also, Boise State obliterated UConn 62-7 in a record-setting game during Labor Day weekend to kick off their respective seasons. This one is Mountain West all the way.
Top Teams Winning Percentage
This one is interesting. Central Florida was the best team between the two conferences, but both conferences were pretty good looking at the top three teams.
The top three teams for the American would be UCF (12-1), Cincinnati (11-2), and Houston/Temple at 8-5. Conversely, the Mountain West had three teams clear the 10-win mark. Fresno State led the way with 12-2, then Utah State 11-2, and Boise State at 10-3. The average winning percentage for the AAC teams mentioned above is .795%, while the MWC top three have a .824% winning percentage. In a year with both conferences having good seasons from good teams, the Mountain West takes it for 2018.
Record Against Power 5 Schools
This one is pretty interesting. They play about the same number of games against power 5 teams. Each conference had one game canceled; Boise State vs. Boston College in their bowl game and Central Florida vs. North Carolina early in the season. The MWC went 5-14 against P5 teams, good for a 35.71% winning percentage. Similarly, the AAC finished 8-13 against P5 teams, which comes out to a 38.09% winning percentage. While very close, three wins are three wins, and the divide is enough to say the American gets this category.
Number of bowl teams/bowl victories
Six MWC teams were scheduled to play in a bowl game. However, only 5 of them did, finishing with a record of 3-2. On the flip side, 7 American teams participated in bowl games and those games resulted in a record of 3-4 for the conference. Three wins for each looks like a wash, but one conference finished with an above .500 record, and another conference did not. Therefore, this one is going to the MWC.
This one is pretty straightforward.
UCF represented the Group of 5 in the New Year’s 6 with another undefeated season. Team Chaos almost prevailed when injuries hit the Knights, but they took care of business to earn the bid. They lost a pretty close game to LSU in the bowl game, but getting there and losing is still better than not getting there at all. AAC hands down.
It’s hard to know how exactly to decide on this category. Top team? Average of the top few teams? Average of each conference? Let’s go best two out of three in these categories, using 247 composite rankings for each one.
Boise State had a historic recruiting season, securing a top 50 class in this past recruiting cycle, finishing better than Central Florida’s 58th with room to spare.
Looking at the top three from each conference, we have UCF at 58, Memphis at 67, and SMU at 69 as the top trio in the American for an average of 64.67. Comparing that with the Mountain West, there is Boise State at 50, Colorado State at 83, and Fresno State at 84, good for an average of 72.33.
Taking the MWC 12 team average, it comes out to 95.17. Likewise, the conference average for the AAC is 88.01. This category can probably be determined other ways, but the way we did it, the American had a better year in recruiting as a whole.
The NFL draft demonstrates the star power of each conference as the top players get selected to go on to the next level. This year, the AAC had 11 players get drafted in 2019, while the MWC saw ten players selected. Though the AAC narrowly beat out the MWC, this one was close enough to be considered a wash.
In the Mountain West conference, the top coach, Mike Bobo, made $1.8 million during the 2018 season and four coaches topped $1 million annually. As a whole, the salaries of the 12 coaches come out to about $1.01 million. Heading over the American and you may not be surprised to learn there is a bit more money flowing. The top coach is Mike Norvell of Memphis, who checks in at a whopping $2.6 million. Of the ten schools reported (Temple and Navy could not be found), three coaches making over $2 million and all ten are over $1 million, coming out to a ten school average of $1.596 million.
I’m no numbers guy, but the AAC numbers are higher than the MWC ones. AAC gets the category.
TV Contract Money/Exposure
Obviously, the current AAC contract (almost $7 million per team) is FAR superior to the current MWC deal (about $1.1 million per team). It’s barely even comparable. Plus, there is this tweet explaining the revenue from bowl games.
Mountain West rated top Group of 5 conference by @CFBPlayoff computer rankings, but AAC received more @CFBPlayoff revenue since UCF earned NY6 bowl bid worth $6M. Final @CFBPlayoff Group of 5 revenue:— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 15, 2019
Sun Belt $17.2M
This one will be decided in a year when we know what the Mountain West will get in their new deal. However, they have a steep hill to climb to maintain the pace of the American. The AAC got a really sweet deal at the start of the year. This one is all American.
Another year, another time the American Athletic Conference comes out on top over Mountain West Conference with a final total of 5 to 3 (one tie). The MWC had a solid year in wins, bowl eligibility and bowl wins. However, they are still lagging behind the American in money to pay coaches, recruiting, and in perhaps the most crucial category, New Year’s Six appearances (which lead to more national exposure and more money for the conference). Keep an eye on some of these categories as the 2019 season rolls around.