The American Athletic Conference has a total of 12 teams split between two conferences East and West. In the East, you have UCF, USF, UConn, Cincinnati, East Carolina, and Temple. That leaves Memphis, Houston, Navy, SMU, Tulsa, and Tulane. The schedule is set up so that you will play each team from your division and then 3 others from the other division on a 4-year cycle. At the end of the regular season, the winner from the West will play the winner from the East best record will host. 2015 was the first season with the American Championship game since then Temple has been involved in both games.
First, let us preview the American Athletic Conference East Division, I am going to start from the bottom and work my way up.
- UConn– 2016 Record 3-9 over the last 6 seasons the most wins they have had was 6 in 2015. UConn does not have the team to compete with the rest of the division. I believe they will finish around 3-9 or 4-8 once again.
- Cincinnati– 2016 Record 4-8. Cincinnati is one of those teams who was supposed to be better than they were and they were better than their 4-8 record showed. The offense was bad last season they get a new Head Coach and return Hayden Moore. The defense returns 5 starters from last years unit and will look to improve.
- East Carolina– 2016 Record 3-9. The Pirates beat NC State last year but they were negative 16 on turnover ratios. Their running game will be better which will improve their defense which in turn will allow them to compete. 4th in the East is the Best it will get.
- Temple– 2016 Record 10-4. Temple who won the conference is going to take a step back on defense and their QB situation is bad. The defense will be good enough to keep them in games but the schedule is tough. Their crossover games are Navy and Houston and also ECU and USF on the road.
- USF–2016 Record 11-2. USF had a great season last year under Willie Taggert who took the Oregon coaching job. They lose Marlon Mack which will affect Quinton Flowers and the team as a whole. I can’t say hiring Charlie Strong was bad but you really can’t improve much off of 11-2. Look for USF to go 9-4 or 10-3. The game against UCF on Black Friday will determine the East Division.
- UCF-2016 Record 6-7. UCF last season struggled a lot on the offensive side of the ball because of their O-Line struggles. They have improved that from last season, in addition, McKenzie Milton will have another year under his belt. The defense will still stay the same as last year. This team will make some noise and I think the home field advantage will give them a win against USF and give them the East Division crown and possibly a home championship game.
Lastly, we will preview the American Athletic Conference West Division. The same situation, we start with last and work to the top.
- Tulane–2016 Record 3-9. Tulane got a new coach last season but even he couldn’t save them from their 3rd straight 3-9 season. They will be better this year and either finish 4-8 or 5-7. But they will be in the bottom of the West Division.
- Tulsa– 2016 Record 10-3. They finished 2nd in the West last season but uncertainty at QB will have them either 6-6 or 10 wins again. The big game will be on September 29th when Navy comes to town. They will know their fate after that game
- SMU– 2016 Record 5-7. SMU another team with question marks at QB. They also need to be better at penalties and Punt Returns. Last Season they were outscored 120-50 they need to improve on that. This is year 3 of Chad Morris Era this is the time for wins. I think they will need to compete for the West title and make a bowl in order to consider it a success.
- Navy– 2016 Record 9-5. This may be where I am wrong putting them to finish 3rd because they can very easily win the West. And they will if they can get their defense off the field on 3rd downs. If they do they have the ability to win the Conference.
- Houston–2016 Record 9-4. New head coach Major Applewhite has a tough task of taking over a program that has been on the rise. Houston lost some major pieces and I think it will end up hurting them they can finish 2nd in this division or as far as 4th in my opinion.
- Memphis– 2016 Record 8-5. This team is the best combination of experience and upside. They return everyone on the offensive side of the ball. The defense was not very good last year. If they can improve that they will be the team to beat. In my opinion, they will be favored in 9 or 10 of the games they play this year.
This leaves an American Athletic Conference title game of Memphis-UCF. The team with the better conference record will host. I think it will be Memphis and it will be a rematch of an early September game for those two where Memphis comes to UCF.