The American Athletic Conference (AAC) released the fall football schedule for 2021. The AAC has 11 teams (U-Conn left the league after the 2019 season) and as a result of U-Conn departure, the AAC does not play in divisions.
Each of the 11 teams will will play 8 conference games, 4 @ home, 4 on the road, & take on 4 Non-Conference (NC) opponents to round out their 12 game schedule!
AAC is widely regarded as the best of the Group of 5 (G5) Conferences (C-USA, MAC, MWC, & SBC) and its champion has represented the Group of 5 Leagues in the New Year’s Six Bowl Series the past four (4) years.
In this game, the highest ranked group of 5 team takes on a Power 5 program that did not make the College Football Playoff (CFP). But did qualify for a high profile bowl game. This series began in 2014 with the evolution from the BCS to the CFP for the Power 5 members & 1 G5 team.
The G5 teams have been very competitive in these bowl games. In 2014, #20 Boise State (MWC) beat #10 Arizona 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl, in 2015, #18 Houston (AAC) beat #9 Florida State, 38-24, in the Peach Bowl & in 2016, the P5 rep, #8 Wisconsin, finally beat the G5 invite, #15 Western Michigan (MAC), 24-16 in the Cotton Bowl!
From 2017 through 2020, the G5 representative has come from the AAC; 2017, #12 UCF (Central Florida) beat #7 Auburn, 34-27, in the Peach ; in 2018, #11 LSU beat #8 UCF, 40-32, in the Fiesta Bowl, In 2019, #10 Penn State beat #17 Memphis, 53-39 in the Cotton Bowl; & last year, 2020, #9 UGA (Georgia ) survived #8 Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl, 24-21 (UGA scoring a FG & safety in the closing seconds of the game).
The AAC has played in 5 of the 7 games and has compiled a 2-3 record in these high profile games. All five (5) of the games have been competitive, with only 2 being decided by more than one score (Houston win over FSU, 38-24 & PSU outscoring Memphis, 53-39)!
In the 2021 season, the AAC will play 44 NC games. The break down of who they will play & where is always interesting. In ’21, the AAC will play seventeen (17) P5 teams with, surprisingly, Five (5) of the games in AAC stadiums and one (1) game at a neutral site (Houston vs Texas Tech @ NRG Stadium). It is rare to see more that 2 or 3 of these games played outside of the P5 arenas.
AAC will line it up against 10 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponents. Navy is the only American team that will not play an FCS opponent in 2021.
These programs (FCS) may only award up to 63 scholarships, yet are allowed to offer fewer, if they make that economic or academic determination.
While, the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), which include both the Power 5 & the Group of 5, must award 85 scholarships to maintain the FBS standing. It should be noted, that the terms P5 & G5 are not NCAA descriptors; in fact, the NCAA would only use FBS & FCS to describe its Division One membership.
Finally, for FBS programs to become bowl eligible, they must win 6 games. An FBS team may count one FCS win towards that total (6), a second FCS win would not count towards the 6 win total and this fact, explains why you rarely see an FBS program schedule 2 FCS programs in the same year.
The remaining 17 NC games (ACC vs P5 17 games & vs FCS 10 games = 27 of the 44 allowed) will be played against G5 Conferences & Independents to reach the total of 44.
Here is the G5 breakdown, 7 games vs C-USA, 3 vs Sun Belt (SBC), 2 vs the MAC, 2 vs the MWC, & 3 games against IND’s!
Remember, or if new, we color code the schedule for your convivence, Red is conference, Yellow is P5, Green is G5, & Blue is FCS.
Independents are counted differently, ND & BYU are counted as P5 programs, while the other 5 independents are considered to be part of the Group of 5.
As a result, Yellow, ND & BYU, while Green is used for NM State, Liberty, Army, U-Conn & U-Mass.