The Coogs are sitting pretty at 6-1 on the season. Houston hosts the biggest mid-season AAC game in history this weekend against USF. But trouble is brewing: the weakness AAC West could hold the Coogs back.
So far, the Cougars have played the 123rd best schedule (126 according to the S+P rankings). That’s very close to being the worst in the country. The reason?
UH opponents have been awful this year: past opponents are just 15-36 this season. 5 of our 7 opponents to date have 2 wins or less and all 6 teams UH has beaten have 5 losses or more. You knew Rice would be bad and TSU would be near the bottom of FCS. But Memphis? Navy? Arizona? Most people didn’t see that coming.
The AAC West has been particularly brutal. Sagarin says the West is rated behind these other G5 divisions: the AAC East, the MWC Mountain, and the MAC West. The AAC West is pretty close to the Sun Belt East. It’s hard to tout #P6 when one half of your conference is this historically bad.
But when a division is 2/3 small private schools and a service academy this is the kind of thing you’re going to have to expect some years.
Here’s how the AAC West stacks up in popular ranking systems overall with without UH propping them up. It’s ugly:
ESPN’s FPI predicts the rest of the division to combine for a 23-37 record (over 7 losses per team). When you take out Memphis, FPI predicts the 4 small schools in the West to go 16-32 – or an average of a 4-8 record. That’s awful.
The other 5 teams in the division already combine for 24 losses (12-24) and are 1-16 on the road. UH’s 3 road wins are 75% of the division’s total (the one other road win happened this weekend, SMU over Tulane, and was in the division).
Of the 18 divisions in FBS, only the Sun Belt West (14) has less wins than the AAC West (18). But the Sun Belt divisions are just 5 teams – not six (or 7) teams like the other 16 divisions. We pretty much play in the worst division in FBS.
S+P projects UH to win out, including a very close game at Memphis, and finish 11-1 heading into the AAC title game. Can you imagine a 12-0 UCF and an 11-1 UH playing for the right to go to the NY6?
But if the West doesn’t get better, UH could conceivably win that game, go 12-1, win a conference title and still not qualify for the NY6 due to the weak schedule. Sure, it would be hard to keep UH out in that scenario but with 8 other G5 teams with a 6-1 record or better, there’s a good chance for chaos.
Over the next 3 weeks, UH needs AAC West teams to step up. Teams from the West have 11 chances left to win games out of the division:
USF @ Houston
Cincinnati @ SMU
Notre Dame/Navy (San Diego)
Memphis @ ECU
Navy @ Cincinnati
Tulane @ USF
UConn @ Tulsa
Temple @ Houston
ECU @ Tulane
Navy @ UCF
SMU @ UConn
The AAC has elevated itself above most of the other G5 leagues but this year’s West performance has been severely lacking. For UH to be a serious NY6 contender, we need to do our job, run the table, and hope that the rest of the division picks up the slack.
Cover Photo By Mario Puente
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