Could Conference Realignment Block SMU From An Attractive AAC Bowl?

SMU is 10-2 and deserves one of the American's premier bowl spots in the Fenway or Military Bowls. However, their move to the ACC could scare bowl officials.

SMU is 10-2 heading into the AAC Championship Game
Source: SMU Athletics

SMU has put together one of the best seasons in the Group of Five. The Mustangs 10-2 record is impressive but also relatively deceptive. SMU’s two losses came to TCU and 10-2 Oklahoma. The Mustangs only trailed by three into the 4th quarter against the Sooners before falling 28-11.

Despite this excellent resume, the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings left the Mustangs out of the top 25. 12-0 Liberty is ranked at #25, just two spots below Tulane. SMU needs a few outcomes to go their way to receive a New Year's Six bid. Along with beating Tulane, the Mustangs may need 10-3 New Mexico State to beat Liberty and 10-2 Miami (OH) to beat 11-1 Toledo.

Hence, it looks likely that the Mustangs are outside of a berth in the New Year's Six. Naturally, one would look at the American Athletic Conference's bowl lineup and assume the Mustangs are destined to play a bowl against a Power Five opponent.

One problem emerges with this situation. The AAC’s two most prominent New Year’s Six tie-ins pit the conference against the ACC. The AAC faces an ACC school in the Military and Fenway Bowls. These bowls serve as showcases for a conference that has long championed the “America Pow6r” slogan as the sixth Power conference.

Next year, SMU will join the ACC. The combination of these games being repeats of future matchups and the long distances from Dallas to Annapolis, Maryland and Boston combine to make the Mustangs unattractive for these bowls despite their record.

Asking Mustang fans to travel across the country on three weeks' notice is a tall task, especially when they will see matchups against their Bowl opponent for the foreseeable future.

This situation is reminiscent of last year’s 68 Ventures Bowl in Mobile. Southern Miss received their first invitation to the bowl since 2006 in their first year as a Sun Belt member. Yet, a matchup against recent Conference USA conference mate, Rice, spoiled the novelty. Southern Miss is less than 100 miles from Mobile. However, the repetitive matchup against a Conference USA foe of 17 years may have led to the low 20,513 attendance figure. This was nearly half of the turnout of Southern Miss’ last appearance in the 68 Ventures Bowl.

Conference realignment’s effects are countless. The impacts reach bowl season as they spoil the novelty of intersectional matchups. In an ideal world, SMU would cap a season in a rare bowl matchup against an ACC team. However, the college football landscape is far from ideal at the moment, and SMU fans are at risk of seeing a repetitive matchup in the years to come.