College football’s version of haves and have nots lies in the distinction of Power 5 and Group of 5. The former includes the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, and Big 12. The latter includes the Mountain West, MAC, Sun Belt, Conference USA, and American.
The budgets and resources are different, as is the postseason setup: Each of the power leagues have automatic New Year’s Six bids, while the entire Group of 5 fights for one.
The American isn’t content being lumped in that group.
The league’s teams are all wearing that decal:
The American wants you to believe its teams are just as worthy of respect as the Power 5 is, and there’s merit to it.
Adjusting for opponent, the American has three teams in the S&P+ top 50 as of Oct. 29. Tulsa sits at No. 57, ranked ahead of Arkansas and Mississippi State. Seven American teams rank ahead of Georgia.
The American formed from the remnants of the Big East, which was an automatic-qualifier power conference in the old BCS system.
But this week, we took a look at each division from every conference and ranked them by average S&P+ ranking. We found that the Mountain West Mountain division is actually the best Group of 5 division this year — just a touch worse than the SEC East. But both American divisions were higher than the Mountain West East division.
Houston dispatched the Big 12’s Oklahoma in Week 1, though, and although the Cougars may not be having the season they hoped for, it’s clear that the conference can compete with anyone.
UH and Boise won the first two editions of the Playoff era’s mid-major-friendly bowls.
Now that the conference is whole, it has the peace of mind of not being poached and the depth to match up with any league.
During the latest round of Big 12 expansion talks, it seemed apparent that the conference was going to annex as many as two teams from the American, and Houston seemed the most attractive suitor. Thanks to that fiasco, the conference held back on rolling out this marketing campaign.
Commissioner Mike Aresco had this to say to CBS:
"Obviously, this was a colossal distraction for a long time and, now that it appears over, we have a real opportunity to pursue our goal to be viewed as a Power Six conference," Aresco said Tuesday. "Our schools have probably never been better known nationally, ironically, because of this process. When a Power Five conference looks to expand, they look at our conference."