The American Athletic Conference (ACC) includes a dozen teams in two divisions, the East and West. Of those 12 teams in the AAC, usually four to eight end up in the national spotlight playing in postseason bowl games. Our 2017 AAC CFB Preview finds that as they were last season, the University of South Florida (USF) Bulls look to be the top contender. This East Division offensive powerhouse will see solid competition from the University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights and the Temple Owls.
The West Division will offer a few competitive teams, including last season’s top team, the Navy Midshipmen. But don’t hand the division title to Navy, as the Memphis Tigers, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, and Houston Cougars all have the potential to be competitive. When it comes down to the AAC title, the East Division has the edge. Here’s a quick analysis of each team.
ACC East Division- Finish
Yes, our 2017 American Athletic Conference preview is predicting that USF will finish first. But this will be a tight race, as UCF looks to be a tough opponent. Also, don’t count out those Temple Owls.
1. USF Bulls
This team has a great offense led by dual-threat and Heisman Trophy candidate Quinton Flowers. Defense has been lacking, but LB Auggie Sanchez is back to offer massive contributions, while new coach Charlie Strong should reconfigure and improve D. The running game will miss Marlon Mack who went to the NFL early. This is the best team amongst the six contenders in the AAC.
2. UCF Knights
The O-line is improved and second-year coach Scott Frost will further refine the team’s attack mode. Frost heavily recruited and did well on that front with state talent. The defense helped make this team bowl-worthy once again last season, but the secondary is down six seniors. That may hurt. Still, we expect them to battle in every game.
3. Temple Owls
The Owls are in transition as they welcome former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins as their new head coach. Collins inherits a team that traditionally puts top defenses on the field. Last season the Owls topped the AAC and were 11th nationally in points allowed (18.4 PPG). They were third in the nation versus the pass. The big challenge will be replacing four-year starting quarterback Phillip Walker.
4. Cincinnati Bearcats
Quarterback is an issue, as starter Hayden Moore is pick-prone. New head coach Luke Fickell has brought in an entirely new coaching staff and is ready to turn things around. Kevin Mouhon at DE is an awesome run-stopper.
5. Connecticut Huskies
The no-huddle offense of Randy Edsell will be installed, replacing the sluggish attacks of former coach Bob Diaco. DB Jamar Summers is an interception machine. He’ll try to keep offenses honest. This team is rebuilding.
6. East Carolina Pirates
East Carolina loses their starting QB and RB, as well as premium WR Zay Jones. Wideout Jimmy Williams, who averaged 18.2 YPC, was granted another year of eligibility and is back. Coach Scottie Montgomery has put together a very good O-line and that should help this team be a bit more competitive.
ACC West Division- Finish
This division could go a few ways, but we’re picking Navy to take it down. The fact is Memphis looks pretty good and Houston is a major dark horse in the race for the division crown. Tulsa, if they can figure out QB, will be in the hunt.
1. Navy Midshipmen
Navy has been very competitive under Ken Niumatalolo who has been with the Midshipmen for 20 years with 10 of those years as head coach. What keeps this team in the mix is its triple-option attack, which knocks opponent defenses off-balance. Zach Abey will be the main signal caller after having made two starts last season.
2. Memphis Tigers
Although the defense sees just one starter return to their secondary, the Tigers have a lot going for them. That includes a seasoned offense led by QB Riley Ferguson and featuring WR Anthony Miller. Head coach Mike Norvell, who is back for his second season, has quickly established himself as a rising star.
3. Houston Cougars
The Cougars have a new coach, Major Applewhite, and a suspect running game. Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen will replace former starter Greg Ward at QB. He brings a strong arm and that will help the offense. DT tackle Ed Oliver earned Freshman All-American honors last year. Can he replicate or even better last season’s efforts? The LB unit is depleted.
4. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Where will Tulsa finish? The answer is somewhere between second and fourth. We are going with fourth. Last season, the Golden Hurricane put a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers, and two 1,000-yard rushers on the field. From that impressive group, the only one to return is RB De’Angelo Brewer. QB is a major question mark for this team.
5. SMU Mustangs
Third-year coach Chad Morris may eek out a winning record this season. Courtland Sutton, the team’s top receiver, decided to come back for one more year. He’s part of a sound group of receivers. Who the Mustang QB will be is still undecided. SMU allowed opponents 36.2 PPG last season. That was the worst points allowed average in the AAC.
6. Tulane Green Wave
Tulane lost quarterback Tanner Lee to Nebraska where he will start. The Green Wave secondary is the best unit on this team. Coach Willie Fritz, in his second year, has a reputation for turning teams around. Don’t expect that to happen in 2017.
2017 AAC CFB Preview
- USF: Peach Bowl
- Navy: Military Bowl
- UCF: St. Petersburg Bowl
- Tulsa: Birmingham Bowl
- Temple: Boca Raton Bowl
- Memphis: Hawaii Bowl
- East Carolina: Cure Bowl
- Houston: Miami Beach Bowl
2017 AAC CFB Preview
Projected Best Bets
Our 2017 AAC CFB Preview Best Bets are projections. A lot can change during the course of a season so be sure to perform due diligence prior to making any bets. At this point in time, the 10 games listed below offer great potential.
- Sep 2: UCF @Florida International- UCF by no more than -24
- Sep 8: USF @Connecticut- USF by no more than -14
- Sep 16: Cincinnati @ Miami (Ohio)- Cincinnati by no more than -3.0
- Oct 14: Temple @Connecticut- Temple by no more than -10
- Oct 19: Memphis @Houston- Memphis by no more than -10
- Oct 21 USF @Tulane- USF at no more than -16
- Nov 3 Memphis @Tulsa- Memphis by no more than -10
- Nov 10 Connecticut at Boston College- Boston College by no more than -24
- Nov 11 SMU Navy @ SMU- Navy by no more than -30
- Nov 24 USF @UCF- UCF at +7 or better