In the most recent preseason poll, the only AAC team to make an appearance are the Bulls of South Florida. USF came in at #19 on the list of 25 while fellow AAC teams Tulsa and Houston received votes but not enough to formally make the list. So below we make the case for some obvious and some not-so-obvious choices to crack the top 25 at some point this season.
The offense of Tulsa is flat-out explosive and the Golden Hurricanes have recently turned their program around with their first winning season under coach Philip Montgomery. Tulane does have an ongoing quarterback battle between sophomore Chad President and redshirt freshman Luke Skipper. You can expect senior running back D’Angelo Brewer (below) to once again eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark and be a staple of the Tulane offense. Especially behind returning offensive line standouts Chandler Miller and Evan Plagg, Brewer will be basically running downhill all season.
On the defensive side of the ball for the Golden Hurricanes will have defensive end Jesse Brubaker to anchor them. At the end of the day Tulsa is an offensively minded team and their success will live and die with their offense but do not be surprised if their defense outplays their expectations.
The Cougars looked extremely sharp at times last season and even put themselves in the College Football Playoff conversation only to lose tough games to Navy, SMU and Memphis causing them to fall back into irrelevance, for the 2016 season that is. Looking to 2017, Houston promoted offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to the position of head coach and remain favorites to contend for the AAC crown.
The loss of quarterback Greg Ward, Jr will take a toll on the offense but running backs Duke Catalon and Dillion Birden will look to lead the Cougar offense. Birden and Catalon will be running behind the same veteran offensive line from last season and with wide receiver star Linell Bonner (above) to open up the offense, Coach Applewhite will not have a lack of weapons at his disposal.
The story of the Cougar defense is still the same as it was in 2016, Houston boasts a sound rushing defense but a lackluster passing defense. Their passing defense does have hope however with receiver turned cornerback Isaiah Johnson who will be raw but talented nonetheless. It is almost a lock that Houston climbs into the top 25 but if there is a way for them to miss out all season it starts with their defense.
If one thing is certain it is that this season’s Memphis Tigers will be a fun team to watch offensively. Quarterback Riley Ferguson is one of the best arms in the conference and with perhaps the conference’s best wide receiver Anthony Miller (below), the passing game of the Tigers will be second to none. Make no mistake, Memphis will live and die this season through Ferguson and Miller.
The Memphis defense on the other hand has a LONG way to come. The Tigers do have linebacker Genard Avery who will be their leader and most likely leading tackler but they do not have much else. This season for the Tigers will be a test on whether or not their offense can keep up with their lack of defense and if they win that test they might find themselves ranked and atop the AAC.
The American Conference is a sneaky strong conference in the FBS and if some dark horse teams like Navy or Central Florida get hot, there is a chance that six teams in the top 25 could be from the AAC. And if that is the case, it would be tough to argue against adding the AAC to the “Power Six”.
Cover Photo via Football Scoop
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