Written By: Colby Dant (@TheColbyD) also check out:
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The American Athletic Football Conference (AAC)
The AAC had a great season last year especially against the big boys. Together as a conference they had wins over Florida State, Louisville, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech, Penn State, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Kansas, Pittsburgh & Vanderbilt. Now, if only they can do that again. Houston is a potential playoff team if they can get by Oklahoma week 1. Temple & Memphis appear to reloading and Uconn & South Florida are on the rise. Teams like Cincinnati & Navy are ready to make a play for the title and don’t forget about the new coaches at Central Florida, East Carolina, Memphis & Tulane. Yes, it’s an exciting time for the American Athletic conference (I fucking hate saying “Athletic” yeah we get it you have athlete’s)
1. Houston Cougars
Houston really hit the jackpot when head coach Tom Herman elected to stay and sign a contract extension. Last year they probably would of went undefeated if Greg Ward didn’t miss the Uconn game in which the huskies pulled off the upset. This year Ward is back at QB and he’s one of the most exciting players in college football. Out of conference the Cougars get Oklahoma at NRG Stadium in Houston week 1. If they win that they’ll really have a great chance to make this season special. The other non conference games are vs Lamar, @Texas State, and a late season trap game at home vs Louisville. They could go 4-0 in those. I have the Cougs upsetting Oklahoma so I’m picking that. In conference they start conference play on a thursday night primetime game @Cincinnati that will be a dangerous test for the Cougs. The other road conference games are @Navy (upset alert), @SMU, & @Memphis. They’ll be favored in all of those but its possible they get upset in all except for the SMU game. At home they Cougars get Uconn, Tulsa, UCF & Tulane. They should win all those. So the real test for Cougars is beating Oklahoma and handling their business on the road before the late season matchup with Louisville. Don’t forget about the American Conference Championship game too. If they do all that the Cougs will be in the playoffs or a new years six bowl.
The Midshipmen lost a ton last season but it doesn’t matter Ken Niumatalolo is that good. They pretty much go bowling every year and I don’t expect that to change. The out of conference schedule is vs Fordham, @Air Force, vs Notre Dame (in Jacksonville), vs Army (in Baltimore). They should at least go 2-2 in that stretch and recently they’ve had Air Forces number. In conference play they have road games @Tulane, @East Carolina, @South Florida, & @SMU. I’m thinking 2-2 but they could also beat any of those teams. At home Navy gets Uconn, Houston, Memphis & Tulsa that’s a pretty tough home slate of games i think they get 2 of those if not three. At the end of the day I’m thinking 7-5 for the year.
Former Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell takes over for Justin Fuente who revitalized the Memphis program. This could be a sleeper team to watch out for. Norvell brought in Tennessee transfer Riley Ferguson at quarterback and maybe just maybe things will remain on course in Memphis. Schedule wise the out of conference layout looks like this. vs 1AA SE Missouri State, vs Kansas, vs Bowling Green, @Ole Miss. They should be 3-1 in those four games. Which would be great to start leading up to conference play. The away games in conference are @Tulane, @Navy, @SMU, & @Cincinnati. If they get past Navy early the Tigers might be able to make a run at the title. Home conference games include vs Temple, vs Tulsa, vs South Florida & vs Houston. Thats where things get tricky. I have them going 2-2 at home in conference play and if they don’t watch out they could lose all four of those. Regardless I think Norvell takes the Tigers bowling yet again.
Head coach Philip Montgomery really over achieved last year by taking the Golden Hurricane to a bowl game. The still ended the season with a losing record but hey its a good start. The offense really played well and if the defense can step up this Tulsa team could surprise a lot of folks. This year I think a winning record is certainly do-able. Schedule wise the Golden Hurricane get these out of conference games vs San Jose State, @Ohio State, vs North Carolina A&T, @Fresno State. The Hurricane should go 3-1 out of conference. In conference the road games are @Houston, @Memphis, @Navy & @Central Florida! Ouch they probably won’t be favored in any of them and I expect them to lose them all but if they can just steal one they can really help their bowl season hopes. At home in conference they get SMU, Tulane, East Carolina & Cincinnati. I’m thinking 2-2 but they might be able to upset ECU or Cincinnati. All in all I see the Golden Hurricane going 6-6 and going bowling with a chance for a winning season.
The Mustangs are a real interesting team to me. Head coach Chad Morris certainly had an effect on the offense after leaving Clemson. This year they not only have more talent but they have another year of experience in Morris’s systems. Matt Davis is a pretty good quarterback so maybe they can surprise some people. The defense will have to step up if that’s the case last year they were terrible. Schedule wise the Mustangs play out of conference games @North Texas, @Baylor, vs Liberty, vs TCU. They should go 2-2 in those games (watch out for the Liberty game though). In conference the Stangs road games are @Temple, @Tulsa, @Tulane & ECU. I think they might be able to beat Tulane but that’s not a gimme but let’s say they go 1-3 in those. That means all they will need is three home wins to potentially go bowling. The home games are vs Houston, Memphis, South Florida & Navy. Ouch! I think they’ll lose all of them but SMU is on the way up trust me.
Willie Fritz is the new head coach in New Orleans after doing great things at Georgia Southern. The triple option is coming people. If you’re a green wave fan get ready to see three to five passes per game haha. Fritz can coach though and this team is one of the teams I’m going to have an eye out for this year, just to see how long it takes for the players to buy into his system. I predicted them last in division because it’s a very different system than what they are used to but if they buy in early the Green Wave might be able to finish much higher in division. Schedule wise the out of conference games are @Wake Forest, vs Southern, vs Louisiana Lafayette, & @Umass. I’m thinking 2-2 those game but hell they might be able to win all four. In conference the Green wave have away games at Central Florida, Tulsa, Houston & Uconn. I think they lose all four but maybe they can steal one. At home they have conference games against Navy, Memphis, SMU & Temple. I think they lose all of those but maybe they can steal one against SMU. It’s probably going to be a tough year but trust me this was a great hire for Tulane.
Yeah I said it. I know everyone is high on Cincinnati or South Florida or maybe even Uconn but Temple has the favorable schedule and that stuff matters. One of the biggest off season stories was the fact Temple retained their coach Matt Rhule. He’s one of the best you’ve probably never heard of and thus is why I have the Owls playing Houston in the AAC Championship game. Sure they lost a lot but QB PJ Walker & RB Jahad Thomas are back and ready to go. Schedule wise the Owls get out of conference games vs Army, vs 1AA Stony Brook, @Penn State, vs Charlotte. The Owls should be 3-1 in those games and I still think they might be able to pull of the upset @Penn State. The conference road games are the reason why I like the owls. Their road games are @Memphis, @Central Florida, @Uconn & @Tulane. I think they can go 3-1 on the road or maybe even 4-0. At home is where the Owls will be tested with home games against SMU, South Florida, Cincinnati & East Carolina. They must handle the home field and win those games if they want to play for a championship. When it’s all said and done I think they the owls go 9-3 and win the American East.
2. South Florida
After a 1-3 start last year everyone expected Willie Taggart to be fire but then all of sudden everything clicked and Taggart and the Bulls ran off seven straight wins. Taggart instantly became one of the hot coaches and almost landed a gig as the head coach of South Carolina. For Bull fans thankfully that didn’t happen because now South Florida is a contender. The out of conference schedule is challenging but I like that. They have games vs Towson, vs Northern Illinois (don’t sleep on that game), @Syracuse and vs Florida State. I think the Bulls can go 3-1 in those games but they really need to not overlook Northern Illinois because Syracuse is also talented enough to beat you so if things go downhill they could enter October 1-3. The conference away games are basically why I don’t have the Bulls winning the division, they have road games @Cincinnati, @Temple, @Memphis, & @SMU. I think they go 3-1 in those games but lose @Temple. At home the Bulls have conference games against East Carolina, Uconn, Navy & Central Florida they must take care of the home field if they want any chance of playing for a conference title. All in all i see the Bulls going 9-3 but losing the tiebreaker to the Owls.
The Bearcats underachieved last year and Tommy Tuberville still got an contract extension. He’s a solid coach but the pressure is adding up and this should be a big year for the Bearcats who return star QB Gunner Kiel. There’s plenty of reason to think the Bearcats can win the American east and possibly the entire conference. Schedule wise the out of conference games are vs 1AA UT Martin, @Purdue, vs Miami (OH), vs BYU. They very well could be 4-0 in those games but watch out Purdue or BYU might have what it takes. In conference they play road games @Uconn, @Temple, @Central Florida, & @Tulsa. I think 3-1 is possible but Uconn could beat the Bearcats. At home the Cats face Houston, South Florida, East Carolina & Memphis. Ouch. I highly doubt they run the table there in fact i think they go 2-2 at home and finish 3rd in division. 9-3 win season for Tuberville though.
4. East Carolina
You still can’t believe I didn’t pick Uconn? I don’t see the Huskies coming into Greenville and getting the W. ECU has a new head coach in Scottie Montgumery coming in from being the offensive coordinator at Duke. The Pirates have a talented team and Montgumery has Minnesota transfer Phillip Nelson at QB this year. The schedule is brutal though. Out of conference the Pirates get games vs Western Carolina, vs NC State, @South Carolina, @Virginia Tech. 1-3 is likely since they’ll be the underdog in every game except the W. Carolina game but ECU might be able to steal one against NC State or Virginia Tech. In conference play the Pirates have road games @South Florida, @Cincinnati, @Tulsa & @Temple. That’s pretty tough. I think the Pirates go 1-3 on the road. At home is where the Pirates will need to take care of business if they want to go bowling the home schedule is games vs Central Florida, Navy, Uconn, & SMU. The Pirates will go undefeated at home and lock up the 4th spot in East.
Believe it or not some people have Uconn winning the east and being this year’s Temple. I know they have a great defense returning but the offense really struggled last year. Out of conference the Huskies get games vs Maine, vs Virginia, vs Syracuse, @Boston College. Wow three ACC opponents. I think the Huskies go 2-2 out of conference. In conference the away games are where they lose it for me. The have away games @Navy, @Houston, @South Florida, & @East Carolina. I’m not sure they win any of those but maybe one. At home the Huskies get Cincinnati, Central Florida, Temple & Tulane. They will need to win at least 3 home games if they want to go bowling and maybe all four. I think they get three of the four and end the season 6-6 with a chance for a winning season in the bowl game.
6. Central Florida
If there’s one team in the country I can’t figure out its Central Florida. Two years ago George O’Leary had them rolling as one of the best mid majors in the country then last year they didn’t win a game. What happened? they still have a ton of talent. George O’Leary retired and now Scott Frost comes over from being the offensive coordinator at Oregon. This is where things get could get crazy. The Golden Knights have had good talent. Frost just might of walked into the perfect situation but hey this division is full of good football teams so I put the Golden Knights at last place. Regardless this is a team that could surprise a lot of folks. Schedule wise the out of conference games are vs 1AA South Carolina State, @Michigan, vs Maryland, @Florida International. 2-2 would be fine if you’re a fan but maybe just maybe they can shock the terps at home. In conference the road games are @East Carolina, @Uconn, @Houston, & @South Florida. That’s really why I’m picking them last. I think they lose all four. At home they play Tulane, Temple, Cincinnati & Tulsa. I’m thinking 2-2 in those games but like I said if there’s one team I truly don’t have a feel for it’s this team. Frost should work magic in Orlando so keep an eye out for this team.
AMERICAN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Houston over Temple as the cougars make a push for playoffs.