The AAC has set itself up to be considered on the same tier as some power five conferences. They had their first playoff birth and are hungry for more. We also take a look at the cowardly independents who are afraid to play a conference championship game. Let’s get right into it.
Catch up on the CFB Preview Series here:
Part One: Heisman Preview
Part Two: Overall CFB Landscape
Part Three: Sun Belt & C-USA Conference Previews
Part Four: MAC & Mountain West Conference Previews
The AAC is becoming a very fun conference. Cincinnatti shocked the world last season by making the CFP as a G5 team. This season the Bearcats, Houston, and UCF all have a chance at winning this conference and if they are perfect, could make the playoff. The precedent has now been set which means if one of these teams goes on a run it could be even more exciting than normal. My thoughts:
Win Total Over
Tulane o6 wins(+100)- I really like this Tulane team. I think that 6 wins is the floor for this team. They have a really exciting QB/RB duo in Michael Pratt and Tyjae Spears to go along with four out of five starters returning on the OL. Tulane had five close losses last year and a ton of experience which sets them up for a ton of positive regression. They have a very favorable out-of-conference schedule that should make them 3-1 to start the season. They get USF which should be a win and then home games against ECU, Memphis, and SMU. I like this team to win all six of those games and to have a chance to steal one against a better team.
Houston to win 10+ games (+115)- Houston has a really favorable schedule. They avoid both Cincy and UCF then get Tulane and Tulsa both at home. Their toughest conference games will be on the road against Memphis and SMU and I back them to win both of those games. Out of conference, the Cougs play UTSA, Texas Tech, Kansas, and Rice- I like them to go 3-1 in those games, and then that gives them the chance to lose one conference game in that favorable schedule and still win 10 games.
Win Total Under
Tulsa u6 wins (-130)- This one correlates with the Tulane play. I think Tulane will end up going 7-5 and Tulsa will end up going 5-7 because Tulane will beat them head to head. Tulsa’s defense was elite under DC Joe Gillespie who is one of the best coordinators in the nation. However, Gillespie has moved on to TCU and I think that will make a big difference for Tulsa. I can only find four sure-fire wins on their schedule as some of their weaker AAC opponents (Temple, Navy, Memphis) they have to face on the road. This team wins six games at the most.
To Win the Conference
Houston (+250)- This goes against everything I believe in. This is a team that has several metrics to indicate they would go down this year but once in a while, you have to throw out the metrics and go with your gut. I think Dana is a great coach and Doug Belk is a top-tier defensive coordinator. This Houston defense has been great under Belk and now Clayton Tune is finally ready to lead this offense. I am backing the Cougs to take advantage of Cincy’s regression and to beat UCF in the conference championship game.
UCF, Houston, or Cincy could all sneak in as the precedent was set last year. If the AAC champion goes undefeated then they have a chance at a playoff spot. However, no one is worth a real sprinkle in my opinion as it’s a long shot to make it in the first place and none of them could beat Bama or Ohio State.
The island of misfit teams. My thoughts:
None- I find independent win totals are a lot harder to handicap since they aren’t playing a regular conference schedule. As far as the teams go- NMSU, UConn, and UMass are all awful but not as awful as they have been in the past and could pull one upset somewhere (especially NMSU). Liberty and Army are both meh and could be a bit better or worse than their win total but I don’t see any real edge. Finally, Notre Dame and BYU, who both have their win total set at 8.5. I think this ND team is inexperienced and has a tough schedule but that makes this 8.5 number pretty fair. BYU on the other hand is a really experienced team that I definitely will be betting on throughout the season but I don’t like their win total. They play a brutal schedule and I’d rather bet them the weeks I like than rely on a season-long result.
Tyler Buchner 100/1- Buchner is a relative unknown but if you are the quarterback at Notre Dame then you always have a chance to compete for a Heisman. I don’t think it’s worth a shot but the kid could be good in the next couple of years.
Notre Dame 45/1- I won’t be betting the Irish and I don’t think they have a real shot at making the playoff. This is a 7-9 win team in my book and they would need to have one loss at the worst to make the playoffs.
That’s it for this preview folks! I am skipping Saturday because nobody wants to read blogs on a Saturday. I’ll be dropping the ACC preview Sunday afternoon and then covering the rest of the Power Five all of next week. If you’re enjoying these previews please send them to a friend and throw them a like or RT on Twitter! Cheers!