Temple-Navy and the Need for a Northeast AAC Rivalry
The AAC's only northeast rivalry is buried in a random Saturday in October, but it deserves so much more attention from a sprawling league.
This weekend, Navy and Temple begin their last-ditch effort at bowl eligibility as the two 2-5 teams clash in Annapolis. This is the third year in a row that the two schools will play, the longest streak since the Midshipmen joined the AAC.
Saturday's meeting borders irrelevance, even in the AAC landscape, and while most of that is due to both schools' struggles, part of it is due to the game's placement on the schedule. Last year's meeting was on Thanksgiving weekend and the only matchup with a regional appeal on the American slate that weekend. This year it is stowed in the middle of the season away from rivalry weekend.
Even though Temple and Navy have only 16 meetings in a series that started in 1988, the series is essential to the American. Temple is one of the only links to the American Big East heritage and the only original Big East football member in the American. Their series with Navy represents the only tie the conference has to their original Northeast roots. Furthermore, the schools met in the 2016 AAC Title Game, so it has some big-game pedigree.
Once the conference expands to 14 and replaces Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston, the conference will have few series with history or even regional appeal. Furthermore, most of these rivalries exist among the Texas members of the conference. The only thing that will resemble a rivalry in the Eastern half of the conference will be East Carolina-Charlotte, but Charlotte's football program is less than a decade old.
Even if Navy-Temple does not take centerstage as a rivalry in the American it can be part of a "Rivalry Week" the conference has lacked on Thanksgiving weekend. Here's what that could look like.
This year's Temple-Navy game is just a "middle of the road" conference game, but it has the potential to be so much more. The conference's preeminent Eastern rivalry needs a position of prominence, especially when it takes the conference back to its roots.