NCAA Previews

2018 American Athletic Conference East College Football Preview

Knights May Vanquish this Division

Our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview sees the University of Central Florida Knights as the dominant team in this division. At the same time, we envision the Temple Owls and University of South Florida Bulls as being competitive. In the end, all three teams should get bowl bids. As far as the rest of the division is concerned, the Cincinnati Bearcats, East Carolina Pirates, and Connecticut Huskies will all struggle to post winning marks. For a complete picture of this conference please see our 2018 AAC West college football betting preview.

2018 AAC East College Football Betting Preview

Of the six clubs in the AAC East, the UCF Knights come into this season as the most complete team. This club is solid on both sides of the ball. On the other hand, the Owls of Temple and Bulls of USF come into this season with fine defenses, and, while the Temple offense is a bit better than that of the Bulls, they don’t get the same marks as UCF’s. Cincinnati has some decent defensive elements, but they will have a tough time scoring. Finally, our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview concludes that East Carolina and Connecticut will battle for the fifth and sixth spots. In the end, we think the Pirates will finish one better than the Huskies. Here’s our entire 2018 AAC East college football betting preview.

1. UCF Knights

Offense

The University of Central Florida Knights had a killer season last year, as they went 13-0 overall, beat Memphis 62-55 for the conference title, and then beat Auburn 34-27 in the Peach Bowl. Currently, they are ranked sixth in the nation. That’s a long way from their 2016 season where they were 6-7 and an even longer way from their 2015 mark of 0-12. UCF head coach Scott Frost was scooped up by Nebraska for 2018, and in comes new helmsman Josh Heupel. Heupel has been an assistant or coordinator in the college ranks since 2004, but this is his first head coaching gig. His most recent job was offensive coordinator and QB coach for Missouri. The fast-paced Knight offense scored 48.2 PPG (1st AAC, 1st Nationally).

Six players return on offense, including QB McKenzie Milton (67.1 COMP%, 37 TDs, 9 INTs). Our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview notes that Milton has some fine points. First, he is a solid playmaker, and second, he can score through the air and on the ground. Plus, we found that the O-line is tough and resilient. Naturally, that will aid the running and passing games. In addition, the wideouts and running backs are ready to go.

Defense & Special Teams

The Knights also had a fine defense last year, as they held opponents to 25.3 PPG (3rd AAC, 52nd Nationally). The weakest unit on this side of the ball is the line, but they are in no way weak. They’ve got some quality players. The top units are the LBs and secondary. Safeties Kyle Gibson and Tre Neal are top-notch defenders and pick artists. ILB Pat Jasinski led the team last season with 107 tackles and 7.5 TFL. He’s the lynchpin of this D.

Run back specialist Mike Hughes, who broke it for three for TDs last season, is gone. There are some guys who should be able to step up. Placekicking and punting are both in great shape. Once you’ve finished our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview, you may want to read more about this team by accessing our top-25 preview of the UCF Knights.

2. Temple Owls

Offense

After two 10-4 seasons, the Temple Owls slid back a bit, as they ended the year at 7-6. That included a 28-3 win against FIU in the Gasparilla Bowl. Our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview projects this team, which finished third in the AAC East in 2017, to be moving up a notch. The Owls return some key players, especially on defense. We also find that they have a fairly friendly schedule, which should help them. Senior Frank Nutile (61.3 COMP%, 12 TDs, 7 INTs) will start at QB. Nutile took over the spot mid-season and went 4-2, including the bowl win.

Although the top two receivers have moved on, junior wideout Isaiah Wright (46 REC, 14.5 YPC, 4 TDs) is ready to go. Wright is a versatile athlete who has big-play potential. Consequently, he could be a major fact in Temple’s success this season. The top two running backs, both seniors, are also on-hand. David Hood and Ryquell Armstead both gained over 600 yards, with each scoring five rushing TDs. Hood averaged 4.9 YPA, while Armstead averaged 3.9 YPA. On their part, the O-line struggled last season, but they have five guys back with starting experience and possess decent depth. The Owls averaged 25.1 PPG in 2017. In devising our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview, we’ve determined that they will up that average.

Defense & Special Teams

On the line, Sharif Finch and Jacob Martin are gone. They combined last year for 16.5 sacks, 10 TFL, and eight QBHs. But there’s still experience and talent upfront. Sophomore DE Quincy Roche (31 TKLs, 7 SCKs, 4.5 TFL) had a stellar first year. He’s an important part of a talented and deep group. The linebacking unit sees all three starters, each a junior, return. MLB Shaun Bradley led the team in tackles with 85 and TFL with nine. SLB Sam Franklin notched four sacks, 5.5 TFL, and six PBU. WLB Chapelle Russel was good for 70 tackles and three tackles for a loss. In the secondary, senior safety Delvon Randall nailed 80 tackles while grabbing four picks and manufacturing 5.5 TFL. He’s the anchor in the secondary.

Special teams are in great shape as return man Isaiah Wright comes back after putting up fine numbers and running two back for scores. PK Aaron Boumerhi, a junior, was 28-30 on extra points and 15-23 on field goals, including a 52-yard effort. However, a bit more consistency will help here. Freshman Conner Bowler takes over the punting role.

3. USF Bulls

Offense

The South Florida Bulls finished second in the East last season, going 10-2. That record included a 38-34 win against Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl. We find that this team is dealing with some massive losses, that includes star QB Quinton Flowers. In three seasons, Flowers accumulated a total of 11,618 yards in the air and on the ground and passed or rushed for 112 TDs. Plus, the team’s second and third most successful rushers from last season and top pass catcher are gone. The Bulls averaged 38.3 PPG (3rd AAC, 10th Nationally) in 2017. They were eighth in the nation in rushing yards and sixth in total yards.

Arizona State transfer Blake Barnett could get the QB spot, or perhaps it will be junior Brett Kean, who has seen limited action. Running back will likely be split between sophomore Elijah Mack and Florida transfer Jordan Cronkrite. The receiving group is solid while the O-line is fairly sound.

Defense & Special Teams

The Bulls had a fine defense last year, as they were first in the AAC in points allowed at 23.5 PPG. We see this club as having a top defense once again. DE Greg Reeves (51 TKLs, 4 SCKs, 10 TFL), a junior, is a premium stopper. He had seven QBHs in 2017. Senior CB Mazzi Wilkins (32 TKLs, 9 PBU, 3 INTs) is talented and skilled and the cornerstone of the secondary. MLB Nico Sawtelle is the top returning tackler with 54.

On special teams, the Bulls were especially inept at ensuring their kickers could get the job done, as they had seven kicks blocked. Consequently, this out their defense in jeopardy. That issue must be addressed. Australian punter Trent Schneider, a junior college transfer, will punt, while senior Jake Vivonetto could get the placekicking job. Tyler McCants will run back kicks. After reading our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview, you can get more information on this team by accessing our top-25 preview of the USF Bulls.

4. Cincinnati Bearcats

Offense

The Bearcats of Cincinnati continued their post 2015 slump last season, as they recorded four wins and eight losses, which was the identical record they had in 2016. Our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview show that they may achieve the same or a similar result this year. The offense averaged 20.9 PPG (12th AAC, 111th Nationally), and their rush attack was dismal, averaging 135.3 YPG (11th AAC, 100th Nationally). The O-line may show some improvement over last year, but not enough to make a major difference.

Senior QB Hayden Moore (56.4 COMP%, 20 TDs, 9 INTs) could be supplanted by true freshman Ben Bryant. Top receiver Kahlil Lewis (61 REC, 11.1 YPC, 7 TDs), a senior, and junior Thomas Geddis (29 REC, 13.3 YPC, 3 TDs) will be primary targets. The Bearcat rush attack was weak last year, and, according to ur 2018 AAC East college football betting preview, faces some major challenges in 2018. Sophomore RB Gerrid Doaks (513 YDs, 5.9 YPA, 2 TDs), who missed the last few games last year due to injury, showed solid potential in his freshman season.

Defense & Special Teams

Last season’s lethargic offense was not helped by a defense that gave up 31.8 PPG (7th AAC, 93rd Nationally) and 428.5 YPG (6th AAC, 95th Nationally). The best unit on this side of the ball is the line. Three starting seniors return and a fourth senior joins the front four. DT Marquise Copeland (63 TKLs, 4.5 SCKs, 3.5 TFL) is the anchor of this group. In the other tackle spot, Cortez Broughton led the team in QBHs with five. Junior Perry Young (101 TKLs, 9 TFL, 3 PBU) is solid at WLB. The deep backs include Tyrell Gilbert, a senior who will move from safety to corner back. At the same tine, the secondary, according to the research for our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview, is the thinnest of the defense.

Special teams include punter Jeff Smith, a sophomore who put up sound numbers in his freshman year as he nailed 21 punts within the 20-yard line and averaged 42.0 YPP. The placekicking spot is up for grabs, as is punt returner. Kickoffs will be handled by Michael Warren who averaged 23.1 YPR.

5. East Carolina Pirates

Offense

Since 2013, the East Carolina Pirates have been on a downward trend. That year, they were 10-3. Then they began their plummet, and the last two seasons they have gone 3-9. In creating our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview, we’ve determined that Pirates will once again struggle to post more than three wins. Whoever starts at quarterback, and it will probably the strong-armed sophomore Reid Herring, chances are they will alternate with someone else. Freshman Holton Ahlers looks like the other QB. WR Trevon Brown (60 REC, 17.8 YPC, 7 TDs) possesses big-play potential. The O-line should play better than they did last season, but that’s only if they can stay healthy. A healthy line could help junior RB Hussein Howe’s (419 YDs, 4.4 YPA, 3 TDs) efforts.

Defense & Special Teams

It’s tough to win games when your defense is allowing 45.0 PPG (12th AAC, 130th Nationally). David Blackwell, a former ECU player, comes to the team after serving as Jacksonville State’s co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach the last four years. His job is to improve the worst defense in college football. He proved at his former job that he knows how to stop the pass and stuff the run. Our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview does acknowledge that Blackwell has some talent to work with. One of the most promising players is talented junior NT Alex Turner (17 TKLs, 1 SCK, 0.5 TFL), who will start for the first time. Sophomore LB Aaron Ramseur (57 TKLs, 2.5 TFL, 2 INTs) has a nose for the ball and will be the lynchpin for this group.

The secondary has less experience that one would like. They struggled mightily last season. Junior PK Jake Verity will also take on the punting duties this season. He was inconsistent on field goals from 30-plus yards. Trevon Brown returns to bring back kickoffs. The punt return game was dismal last season.

6. Connecticut Huskies

Offense

Last season, the Huskies were 11th in the AAC and 103rd in the nation in scoring, as they averaged 23.6 PPG. Senior David Pindell (52.8 COMP%, 4 TDs, 6 INTs) gets the start after tossing 159 passes last season. He did run for three touchdowns, averaging 4.0 YPA while accumulating 289 rushing yards. WR Hergy Mayala (43 REC, 14.3 YPC, 7 TDs) is back as the top receiver and four more players return with 30 or more catches. Our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview analysts find that sophomore running backs Kevin Mensah (561 YDs, 4.5 YPA, 4 TDs) and Nate Hopkins (343 YDs, 3.7 YPA, 7 TDs) are the two best weapons on this offense. In doing our research for this 2018 AAC East college football betting preview, we found that the line will be improved but not enough to create a major advantage for the Huskies.

Defense & Special Teams

Our 2018 AAC East college football betting preview projects that the Huskies will once again struggle on defense. In 2017, they allowed an average of 37.9 PPG (11th AAC, 122nd Nationally). They were 130th in passing yards allowed. Connecticut does return their two starting corners from last season, sophomore Tyler Coyle (67 TKLs, 5 PBU, 2 INTs) and junior Marshe’ Terry (60 TKLs, 3 PBU, 1 INT), but this is still the most problematic group on this side of the ball. The linebacking unit and defensive line are both comprised of new starters with little experience.

Last season, junior PK Michael Tarbutt (27-29 XP, 12-18 FG) hit both field goal tries from 50-plus, including 53-yard attempt. He struggled between the 30 and 49 yard lines. Sophomore punter Brett Graham had a decent frosh season as he placed 20 punts within the 20-yard line. He needs to get more distance on his punts. Quayvon Skanes and Kyle Bus were solid on kick returns.

2018 AAC East Preview

Bowl Projections

Frisco Bowl: UCF vs Old Dominion
Boca Raton Bowl: USF vs Florida Atlantic
Cure Bowl: Temple vs Georgia Southern

2018 AAC East College Football Betting Preview

Projected Best Bets

Sep 1: Elon @ USF – Consider Bulls. That is if favored by no more than 14 points.
Sep 8: Buffalo @ Temple – Temple wins at home. We’re going with the Owls by 12 points.
Sep 15: Rhode Island @ Connecticut – Bet Huskies at -3.0.
Oct 6: East Carolina @ Temple – We take Temple. Wager on the Owls at -12 or fewer.
Oct 6: SMU @ UCF – We like the home team by 10 points.
Oct 13: Temple @ Navy – Take Temple at -7 or fewer. Navy is tough.
Oct 20: UCF @ East Carolina – Knights by 12.
Nov 10: Navy @ UCF – The Knights win by approximately 12.
Nov 17: Connecticut @ East Carolina – This will be a close game.Take Pirates at -3.0.
Nov 23: East Carolina @ Cincinnati – We like the Bearcats by a TD.

Connect to our college football betting preview conference hub for information on all FBS programs. Use our 2018 AAC East College Football Betting Preview to get the edge you need to make smart bets. For a complete picture of this conference, please see our 2018 AAC West college football betting preview.

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pmroczka

Paul has been writing about sports betting and sports for more than a decade, offering picks on the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA, as well as on college sports and European football. He's written thousands of season and post-season previews, innumerable articles on sports betting strategies, and various books on sports and sports betting.

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