The AAC is the reorganized Big East minus the basketball schools. The conference members are all over the place, and there will be new members next season, but for now this is a 10 team football conference, with a tie in to the BCS – thankfully all of that ends next season when the first college playoff begins. Anyway on to the predictions.
Louisville – should be the clear winner of this conference. They have the best team coming off of last years 11-2 season, and Teddy Bridgewater is the preseason selection for all conference QB. The Cardinals start the season at 9 in both polls, and with Charlie Strong at the helm, this team could put together a solid run for an outside shot at the National Championship.
Cincinnati – the Bearcats have a new coach in Tommy Tuberville; the school has never had a coach with the high profile experience of Tuberville. Last season the Bearcats lost in OT at Louisville – this time the game is hosted in Cincy in early December, and that game could be for all of the conference marbles.
Rutgers – the Scarlet Knights are bound for the Big 10 after this season. The team struggled down the final stretch last season losing its last three games. A lot of the other teams that are staying in the AAC will no doubt be gunning for the Knights, a third place finish is probably the best that Rutgers can hope for.
Central Florida – the Knights from Central Florida have made some noise in CUSA the last few seasons – losing the title game to Tulsa last year. The George O’Leary squad needs to try to put together another solid season. This team has a lot of potential, I do not like them here at fourth, but I do not see them beating Louisville or Cincinnati.
South Florida – the Bulls have a new coach in Willie Taggert, who is coming over from Western Kentucky. The Bulls lose a lot of talent from last seasons team, a second week tilt at Michigan State could have a huge say in how the season goes for Taggert. One thing is for sure they will have to improve on last years takeaway total to have any success, since they finished at -19 in turnovers.
Connecticut – the Huskies have to put the ball in the endzone. Easily said, difficult to do, but since only two teams last season scored fewer touchdowns, frankly the only place to go is up. The Huskies went to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010, since then matching 5-7 seasons have been the result. This squad needs to right the ship or the coaching staff will be talking to realtors.
Houston – the Cougars are the dark horse here in my mind. The offense last season was very good, averaging almost 480 yards per game and a little over 32 points per game for a team that went 5-7, but the defense surrendered 36 points and 483 yards per game. If the defense gels and the offense stays the course this team could make some noise.
SMU – the Mustangs have reached four consecutive bowl games. With the non conference schedule this season they practically have to win out in conference to keep that streak alive, as they play Texas Tech, TCU, and Texas A&M. June Jones has a solid QB in Garrett Gilbert, but he needs help at receiver for this offense to take flight. I do not see a great season coming for the ‘stangs.
Memphis – the Tigers will struggle once again this season. They have been improving, but in this league, even though they have gotten better, so has everyone else. The team has relied on juco’s and transfers lately to fill needs and it is difficult to maintain consistency with quick turnover. Another down season is probably in the cards.
Temple – the Owls will not win the AAC this season, but they have the right guy in Matt Rhule on the sidelines. Rhule will need to get a couple of solid recruiting classes under him before they can contend, but he was the best choice to take this job. He will be given time to get the Owls to competitiveness.