2015 American Athletic Conference Season Preview
Perhaps the American is still finding its legs as a rather hodgepodge conference comprised of cast-offs from the Conference USA and the former Big East, but if you thought the AAC was devoid of talent, you’d be mistaken.
NCAA Football Gambling Lines
The top programs in the East and West divisions of the American have skilled players and impressive depth. Perhaps the AAC loses steam in the latter half of the conference table, but that’s not unlike several major conferences, as well.
The most put together team up and down in the AAC appears to be the Cincinnati Bearcats, but there are other teams that can challenge them in 2015.
The following is a look at the top contenders to win the 2015 conference title, along with their odds.
(Odds from Bovada)
Cincinnati Bearcats +200
With the perpetually wheel-spinning Bengals in town, perhaps locals can take solace in the impressive program Tommy Tuberville has assembled in southern Ohio. Junior pivot Gunner Kiel lives up to his name; he’s the best pure passer in the AAC.
The defense must get better, however. The Bearcats surrendered over 700 yards of offense in a game last year. That’s not a video game, that actually happened. The charge must be led by DE Silverberry Mouhon and S Zach Edwards. If Tuberville can get his guys playing functional defense, Cincy is the team to beat.
Memphis Tigers +220
Tigers QB Paxton Lynch might have a bone of contention with my earlier claim about Kiel. He’s another excellent signal-caller that should guide Memphis to success this season. Lynch became only the third QB in school history to eclipse 3,000 yards passing in a season.
He’ll have some targets to throw to, as four of the top six wideouts are back as well as TE Alan Cross, an all-conference selection that might have a future at the next level as an H-back. Another under-the-radar bright spot on this team is kicker Jake Elliott, the league’s best who is remembered for nailing a 54-yarder, game-tying field goal in overtime in last year’s bowl game against BYU.
Houston Cougars +400
Unlike previous years, the Cougs will likely rely on their running game in 2015. Returning back Kenneth Farrow had 1,037 yards and 14 TDs last year and he should improve upon those numbers. The QB competition is between Greg Ward and Utah transfer Adam Schulz.
The defense’s strength is its secondary, as all four starters return including shutdown CB William Jackson, who is drawing interest from NFL scouts. Look for Steven Taylor to be a lightning rod at LB, he paced the Cougars with four sacks and 76 tackles in 2014.
Central Florida Knights +650
Offensively, the Knights will be controlled entirely through the backfield, with experienced QB Justin Holman and RB William Stanback running the show. Stanback had 697 yards and 10 TDs despite struggling with injury. Last year, UCF was one of the best defenses in the nation, though they lose seven starters.
Defensive end Thomas Niles did have 7.5 sacks, so he’ll be the crucial component of the pass rush. D-tackle Jamiyus Pittman joins him to form a confident defensive line for the Knights.
Navy Midshipmen +800
If the Naval Academy is a little deficient at some positions, compared to others in the AAC, they are all set where it matters most. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is the best at what he does in the conference. Due to Navy’s quirky read-option offense under veteran coach Ken Niumatololo, Reynolds scrambles more than he throws.
He still carried the team with 1,191 rushing yards and 29 total TDs (23 on the ground, six passing). Reynolds should give opposing defenders fits this year. On the other side of the ball, Navy returns its top playmaker in LB David Gonzales (86 tackles, three INTs in 2014).
Temple Owls +900
The hallmark of this Temple ballclub is its defense. Young coach Matt Rhule, is, for lack of a better term, kicking ass in his aim of building a hungry, ball-hawking defense. Defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis (NFL future), Praise Martin-Oguike and LB Tyler Matakevich are capable of taking over a game.
They led the conference in scoring defense a year ago, and expect more of the same from Rhule’s soldiers this time around. If the Owls can raise their offensive game to be commensurate with the defense, Temple contends for the AAC title.
Complete American Athletic Conference Odds:
- Cincinnati +200
- Memphis +220
- Houston +450
- UCF +650
- Navy +800
- Temple +900
- East Carolina +1000
- South Florida +6600
- Tulsa +10000
- SMU +20000
- Tulane +20000
- Connecticut +20000
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Check out our Updated College Football Odds.