AAC Season Preview and Picks

Folks, it’s August and FOOTBALL IS ALMOST BACK! 

I don’t know about you guys but I have been itching for football season to start. July is just about the worst sports month of the year, and if it wasn’t for the world cup I don’t know how I would have gotten by. Now that we have schools reporting to camp and the season is less than a month away, lets dive right in to the American Athletic Conference.

 

Image result for ucf national champions

People love to show no respect to the AAC. The conference may be a step below the Power 5 schools talent-wise, but it is equally entertaining football. You can make the argument that the UCF vs USF game was the most entertaining regular season game last year. Awesome environment. Shootout.  Rivalry. You name it.

 

EAST DIVISION

UCF is the class of this division. Josh Heupel inherits a ton of talent from Scott Frost. An offense that ranked 2nd in all of college football last year, and a defense returning six starters. Look for QB Mckenzie Milton to put up video game like numbers this year. One of my favorite numbers regarding this UCF team is that they are bringing back 5 offensive linemen with a combined 79 starts between them. The defense lost some star power in CB Mike Hughes and LB Shaquem Griffin, but they return 6 starters. I look for this offense to be able to put up enough points that the defense won’t be a glaring concern. This team is poised for double digit victories again in 2018. UCF will win the AAC East.

USF should be UCF’s biggest threat in the East. USF won 10 games in 2017 and Charlie Strong brings a new look athletic team in to 2018. Strong is still unsure of who the starting QB will be heading into camp and a battle will ensue all of August between junior Brett Kean and sophomore Chris Oladokun. On defense, the front seven will have a lot of new faces, however on the back end of the defense, everywhere you look there are seniors. Coach Strong will rely heavily on that unit. Look for some growing pains from USF and lower win total than last year.

Temple will look to throw its name in the ring and be a competitor in this division. They won 7 games in 2017. It was a tale of two seasons for the Owls. In the first 5 games they averaged 16.2 ppg and 4.3 yards per play. The final 8 games they averaged 30.2 ppg and 6.2 yards per play. The Owls were injury plagued especially upfront they had only one guy start all 13 games and had a total of 10 linemen start at least 1 game. I look for Temple to ride this wave into the this season and win 7 to 8 games.

AAC EAST BASEMENT

These bottom three teams Cincy, ECU, and UConn (Go Huskies!) do not show much promise of being competitive this year. Cincy looks the best of these three teams bringing back their top QB Hayden Moore, RB Gerrid Doaks, and WR Khalil Lewis. Luke Fickell will have them flying around, but they are no match for the top three teams in this division. ECU and UConn…. meh. They’ll both be lucky to win 4 games.

Sidenote: Being a CT resident I will be attending a number of UConn games this Fall. I don’t know if that is something I should be saying publicly.

WEST DIVISION

Image result for memphis tigers touchdown

There is a lot to love about Memphis this year. First off Mike Norvell is arguably the best HC in the group of five, sup Lane. He brings back almost everyone, other than QB Riley Ferguson and WR Anthony Miller. The offense was fun to watch averaging 49 ppg, and most of the production is coming back. Look for RB Patrick Taylor and WR/RB Tony Pollard to both have 1200 plus rushing/receiving yards. The offensive line brings back 5 guys with a total of 111 starts, love to see that with a new QB. The defense simply needs to be “ok” and sit back and watch the offense. Memphis gets UCF and Houston at home this year, which is a huge opportunity for them. Memphis will win the AAC West.

Houston, led by big Ed Oliver looks to dethrone Memphis in the West. If you don’t know D’Eriq King, you will get to know him this year. He is the Cougs’ leading returnign passer, rusher, and receiver…..what. This team will be exciting to watch, even if you strictly watch Ed Oliver on the inside every play you will be in for a treat.

Navy with its triple option led by Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo is always a threat to stump an undisciplined team. Navy had 2 QB’s rush for 1,000 yards last year who both are coming back. However they only had 1,005 yards passing on 41% completion. They will need to be more effective through the air if they want to improve from last year. However, no matter what we will all be watching for the Army-Navy game and the uniform fire.

AAC WEST BASEMENT

SMU, Tulane and Tulsa. SMU will be looking to turn around with new Head Coach Sonny Dykes, I think there will be some growing pains, lucky for them they get to play UConn, Tulsa and Tulane to grow through it. Tulsa and Tulane… meh.

 

PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Memphis to win the AAC.

ECU under 3.5 wins.

 

Cheers.

PJ Edwards @pjedwards84 @thebenchbuzz

 

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