This by far and away is the easiest conference in the country to pick the preseason favorite to win! Alabama in the SEC is a solid pick but it’s not a pure runaway pick like this newly created conference. Now that the Big East is no longer a college football conference we find ourselves with a mash-up cast of characters that spreads from New Jersey to Florida to Texas to Ohio. The conference which will see another makeover next year will have some good football but no great Rivalry’s. With that being said, here is my predicted order of finish of the Top 5 for the new American Athletic Conference!
1. Louisville Cardinals 12-0
Louisville is faced with a very interesting conundrum, is the season a failure if they don’t go undefeated? The answer to this question is YES! Look, after coming off of an 11 win season last year, one that ended in a smackdown of a national power in Florida at the Sugar Bowl, Coach Charlie Strong is ready to show us his best Urban Meyer at Utah impersonation, go undefeated, play in another major bowl (not the national title, even if they go undefeated) and see if he can pass up a major football power like USC knocking on your door. Led by an experience QB, Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals have 7 home games and then only travel to Kentucky, Temple, South Florida, Connecticut, and finishing with their toughest road game, Cincinnati. Like we’ve seen before, the last game could be the trap game that keeps them out of back to back BCS Bowl appearances. With that being said, the Cardinals will finish undefeated, and end up an another BCS game.
2. Cincinnati Bearcats 11-1
Normally, I hate picking first year coaches or first year QB led teams to go one game away from a perfect season but Cincinnati might be the perfect storm this year. With Tommy Tuberville coming from a successful stint at Texas Tech to Nippert Stadium, this team could easily run the table setting up a clash of “surprise” to the national media unbeatens, when the meet up with Louisville on Dec. 5th. Cincinnati has a couple of B1G hurddles early on with Purdue and Illinois (both programs are down) then they will have a tough road match up with USF and Rutgers, if they pass those tests look for QB Brendon Kay and the Bearcats to be ready to play in a better bowl then last year. The Oddsmakers have them at over 9.5 wins for a +120, I’ll take it.
3. University of Central Florida Knights 9-3
The Knights are ready to make the move after a successful end to their stay at Conference USA with the possibility of being the dark horse in the new AAC. The have the coach, George O’Leary going into his 11th year at UCF, they return solid starters on offense led by QB Blake Bortles who threw for over 3,000 yards last season, and they return enough experience on defense to be dangerous. The only problem, schedule. The Knights have early games against Penn State and South Carolina, they then have to travel to Louisville before the schedule opens up with 4 of 6 home games. I’m looking at a team that will sit 3-3 to go 6-0 at the end of the season with a chance for back to back double digit wins in a bowl ending appearance.
4. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 8-4
For a brief moment in time last year, Rutgers where the talk of the town. They had one loss, a new coach, and looked like maybe just maybe they could make a BCS game, then a loss to Pitt and Louisville ended it all. This year it’s a tough call for the Scarlet Knights, my heart wants to say that they will compete for a title but with Central Florida coming in and with tough road games to Fresno State and Louisville I’m calling for a close but no cigar this year for Rutgers
5. University of Houston Cougars 7-5
This might be the toughest pick of this top 5, oh wait, yes it is the toughest pick, the reason…no one knows which Houston team is going to show up this year. Is it the explosive double digit win team or is it the pathetic team that showed up last year, I’m going with something in the middle. Houston has enough talent returning on offense to score with most of their schedule, the question is how many points will it’s defense give up? They will try to answer that question in bringing in a new D.C in Dave Gibbs, Gibbs is coming in from the NFL and will install a 3-4 defense. The schedule plays into Houston’s favor setting up some early victories but then takes a nasty turn with BYU, Rutgers, South Florida, UCF, Louisville, and Cincinnati. Let’s see which Houston shows up!