The AAC announced its official 2021 football schedule on Thursday, and it features plenty of opportunities for the league to prove its strength against Power Five foes. AAC teams will get five opponents that finished in the top 10 of the final AP Top 25 poll and eight games against teams that finished in the top 25.
In the first three weeks alone, the league's 11 teams will play a combined 13 games against teams from Power Five leagues. Cincinnati and Navy will also play Notre Dame in 2021 as the Fighting Irish return to independent status after playing in the ACC during the 2020 season.
The game against the Fighting Irish on Oct. 2 is the headliner for the Bearcats, who are the defending AAC champions. But Cincinnati also plays at Indiana on Sept. 18 in a game that could be big for the AAC's national reputation.
One of the AAC's other powers, UCF, will begin the Gus Malzahn era by hosting Boise State on Sept. 4 in a showdown of perennial Group of Five powers undergoing coaching transitions. The Broncos will be playing their first game under new coach Andy Avalos. The Knights also play at Louisville in the season's third week before opening conference play at Navy on Oct. 2.
The nonconference schedules assembled by Tulane and Tulsa also stand out for their difficulty. The Green Wave will play Oklahoma and Ole Miss in the season's first three weeks, while Tulsa will play Oklahoma State and Ohio State in the same time span. In total, 16 of the AAC's 44 nonconference games are against Power Five opponents or Notre Dame as the conference continues to build its reputation for solid football.