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The Ultimate 2017 AAC Football Preview

The 2017 AAC Football Preview.

East

1. South Florida 

After Willie Taggart left for Oregon, you probably would’ve expected USF to take a step back going into the 2017 season, but the Bulls made a home run hire. Charlie Strong, formerly the coach of Louisville and Texas signed on, and South Florida instantly became a massive favorite to make it to a New Year’s Six Bowl. The Bulls were always going to be good, they return 16 starters (18 if you count kicker and punter) and bring back dynamic quarterback Quinton Flowers. The schedule is favorable, they go from facing Florida State and NIU in the non-con to Illinois and San Jose State. USF should be favored in all 12 games.  Projected Record: 12-0 (8-0)

T2. Temple

Temple, like USF, finds themselves with a new coach after the old one left for a power five job, they didn’t make as sexy as a hire, as SEC Defensive Coordinator Geoff Collins will take over. Only ten starters return for Temple, and they are the least experienced team in the American. A much tougher schedule (They draw Nos. 2-4 from the West and play Notre Dame in non-conference) and a lack of experience makes a third straight double-digit win season unlikely, but a bowl game is still the expectation. Projected Record: 7-5 (4-4)

T2. Central Florida

In 2013, UCF finished in the top ten after a Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor. Just two years later they went 0-12, fired their coach, and brought in Scott Frost, who got them to a bowl in his very first season. The offense wasn’t great, but they return nine starters on that side of the ball, which means added experience. The schedule opens tough, with Memphis, Georgia Tech, and Maryland in weeks 2-4, but I see UCF making it to a second straight bowl, and improving their win total thanks to an improved offense. Projected Record: 7-5 (4-4)

T2. Cincinnati

Cincinnati also has a new coach, but for different reasons. After nine, nine, and seven wins in his first three seasons, Tommy Tubberville’s team fell to 4-8 in 2016, and Tubberville was forced to resign. Now, with former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell on the job, I see Cincy rebounding, but for this year, just making it back to a bowl game would be a good start. Projected Record: 6-6 (4-4)

T5. Connecticut

The winningest coach in school history, Randy Edsall, returns to UConn after a failed stint at Maryland. I went more in-depth about the decision to bring back Edsall in Part One of my Coaching Carousel breakdown, but in terms of this team, well, it’s a rebuilding job to say the least. The schedule is rough as most of their winnable games are on the road (Virginia, SMU, Cincy), don’t expect a bowl in year one. Projected Record: 2-10 (1-7)

T5. East Carolina

I said firing Ruffin McNeil was a pretty stupid decision, and what do you know, the Pirates went 3-9 in 2016, and are projected to drop lower in 2017. Out of conference they play West Virginia, Virginia Tech, BYU, and FCS Champion James Madison, and their most winnable conference game (Connecticut) is on the road. Project Record: 2-10 (1-7)

WEST

1. Memphis

Memphis has made it to three straight bowl games, averaging a 9-4 season during that span despite a coaching change from Justin Fuente to Mike Norvell. The offense is always good for the Tigers, but they return nine starters on offense, including senior QB Riley Ferguson who threw for nearly 4,000 yards and had just over a 3-1 touchdown-interception last season. The defense wasn’t great last year (#68 in the country), but they do bring back six starters. Memphis avoids USF from the East, and has Navy at home.Projected Record: 10-2 (6-2)

T2. Houston

After losing yet another head coach to a power five job, the Cougars locked in Major Applewhite for a five-year deal. Houston returns eight starters, but they lose star quarterback Greg Ward Jr. This team will probably be worse than last year’s squad, but the schedule is much easier, as non-conference games against Oklahoma and Louisville change to Arizona and Texas Tech. The Cougars also will get Memphis and Navy at home, but they will have to travel to face USF. It’s hard to project teams losing their coach and quarterback, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Houston was able to top last year’s mark of nine wins. Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3)

T2. Navy

Navy went 9-3 last year, but losses in the AAC Championship and Armed Forces Bowl brought them down to 9-5. The Midshipmen also lost their two biggest rivalry games, Air Force and Army. Coach Niumatalolo is one of the best outside of the power five, and I don’t see Navy in any danger of missing a bowl game, but with the top quarterback, running back, and receiver all gone, and just four starters returning on offense, I see the Midshipmen taking a step back in 2017. Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3)

4. Tulsa

After going 5-19 in 2013 and 14, Tulsa brought in Philip Montgomery as their head coach, and after a 6-7 year in 2015,
the Hurricanes shocked everybody and went 10-3 in 2016. It was an incredible year for Montgomery, but with their quarterback, running back, and top two pass catchers gone, and a freshman taking over at quarterback, I would expect Tulsa to take a step back to where they were in 2015. Projected Record: 6-6 (4-4)

5. Southern Methodist

SMU hasn’t made it to a bowl since their four year run from 2009-12, and head coach Chad Morris hasn’t had a great start (7-17 in two years) but the offense made strides to get better last season, and with nine returning starters on that side of the ball, and a favorable schedule that features home games against North Texas, Arkansas State, UConn, Tulane, and an FCS opponent, the Mustangs should be in good shape to end their bowl drought. Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5)

6. Tulane

Willie Fritz went 4-8 in year one, and I see him repeating that in year two. Tulane should be a much better team, returning 16 starters, but the schedule gets a lot tougher. With almost guaranteed losses vs USF, @ Oklahoma, @ Navy, and @ Memphis, the Green Wave would have to go 6-2 in their other games to make a bowl, and they just aren’t there yet. Projected Record: 4-8 (2-6)

AAC Championship: USF over Memphis

All-AAC Teams & Awards

Offense

QB: Quinton Flowers – USF
RB: D’Angelo Brewer – Tulsa
RB: Braeden West – SMU
WR: Courtland Sutton – SMU
WR: Anthony Miller – Memphis
TE: Mitchell Wilcox – USF
C: Chandler Miller – Tulsa
OL: Evan Plagg – Tulsa
OL: Tyler Bowling – Tulsa
OL: Evan Martin – Navy
OL: Gabe Kuhn – Memphis

Defense

DL: Ed Oliver – Houston
DL: Justin Lawler – SMU
DL: Deadrin Senat – USF
DL: Jamiyus Pittman – UCF
LB: Genard Avery – Memphis
LB: Shaquem Griffin – UCF
LB: Auggie Sanchez – USF
DB: Parry Nickerson – Tulane
DB: Sean Chandler – Temple
DB: Deatrick Nichols – USF
DB: Garrett Davis – Houston

Special Teams

K: Aaron Boumerhi – Temple
P: Spencer Smith – Memphis

MVP: Quinton Flowers, QB – USF
Offensive POY: Riley Ferguson, QB – Memphis
Defensive POY: Ed Oliver, DT – Houston
Newcomer of the Year: Kyle Allen, QB – Houston

247Sports Recruiting Rankings

  1. UCF
  2. Memphis
  3. Cincinnati
  4. Houston
  5. South Florida
  6. East Carolina
  7. SMU
  8. Navy
  9. Tulsa
  10. Connecticut
  11. Tulane
  12. Temple

Five Quick Questions

Team on the rise? Memphis
Team on the decline? Temple
Best new coach? Charlie Strong (USF)
Including bowls, how many nine-plus win teams? Four
Best chance for an OOC upset? UCF (over Georgia Tech)

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