CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: American Athletic Preview
The 2017 CFN American Athletic Preview with the top players, teams that will surprise and disappoint, and shoes to fill.
2017 American Athletic Preview
Ken Niumatalolo has been the Navy head coach since 2007. SMU’s Chad Morris and Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery are going into their third seasons with their respective teams. Everyone else? All nine other coaches are either new, or going into their second seasons.
Conference USA has eight head coaches who’ve been around for more than three seasons, the MAC and Mountain West each have six going into their third season or more, and the Sun Belt has eight. At the immediate moment, the stability just isn’t there up top in the AAC, but that might not be a bad thing.
It’s hard to recruit when the prospects know the head coach will probably be gone within five years. That’s sort of the case in every conference and at most schools, but the American Athletic Conference teams – other than Navy – aren’t destination dream gigs.
Of course Tom Herman would rather be at Texas than Houston, and Willie Taggart jumped to Oregon after success at UCF, and Matt Rhule took over the Baylor mess after taking home an AAC title at Temple. But on the plus side of all the losses and all the instability is this new crop of coaches.
It’s not a bad thing when a slew of guys have something to prove.
You don’t think Charlie Strong would love to come up with a fantastic run at USF to show Texas that it screwed up? Maybe Luke Fickell would like to come up with something special at Cincinnati, proving that his one dud of a season as the pre-Urban Ohio State head man was an aberration.
From Geoff Collins at Temple, to Randy Edsall’s return to UConn, to Major Applewhite’s shot at Houston and the second seasons for Willie Fritz at Tulane and Scott Frost at UCF, motivation isn’t a problem.
There’s a ton of coaching talent with the upside to put it firmly at the head of the Group of Five class. Now, the AAC has turned into a nice mid-level spot for coaches to land. Expect it to show right away.
American Athletic Team That Will Surprise
Cincinnati was good enough to have been in the AAC title hunt last year, and it fizzled. Now with new head coach Luke Fickell and a renewed energy, the Bearcats should be feisty enough and tough enough to be players in the East Division hunt.
South Florida will be East’s star, and defending AAC champ Temple will still be strong and UCF will be solid, but expect things to change. After scoring just 26 points total over a late four game stretch, and with an underwhelming performance from the defense. the 4-8 record of last year could flip around.
American Athletic Team That Will Disappoint
It’s hard to think a team that went 3-9 could disappoint, but even head coach Randy Edsall returning. Connecticut isn’t going to be appreciably better and the AAC East is looking nasty. Where are the wins?
South Florida, Memphis and Tulsa all have to come to Storrs, but those aren’t likely wins. Going to Temple, UCF, SMU and Cincinnati won’t help, and non-conference dates against Virginia, Boston College and Missouri are trouble.
American Athletic Game Of The Year
Nov. 4 Houston at South Florida
It should’ve been the American Athletic championship game last year, and it could and should be the showdown this time. It’ll be a showdown of the two new star coaches, with the pressure on both Charlie Strong and Major Applewhite to come up with special seasons up until this point. It’ll be a measuring stick game to see who’s doing the better job.
5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
Five players who have been a bit under the radar on a national level, but should rise up and be among the season’s best players.
1. LB Shaquem Griffin, Sr. UCF
2. S Garrett Davis, Jr. Houston
3. LB Auggie Sanchez, Sr. USF
4. DT Cortez Broughton, Jr. Cincinnati
5. LB D..J. Palmer, Sr. Navy
5 American Athletic Coaches On The Hot Seat
Five American Athletic coaches who’d better win this season. Being on a hot seat doesn’t necessarily mean a coach is about to fired – especially for the new head coaches on the list – but the pressure is on to produce up to expectations and beyond.
1. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina
2. Major Applewhite, Houston
3. Charlie Strong, USF
4. Chad Morris, SMU
5. Willie Fritz, Tulane
5 Non-Conference Games That American Athletic Opponents Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
These are the games that could define the American Athletic Conference with some big non-conference wins. The Power Five opponents had better be prepared.
1. Illinois at South Florida, Sept. 15
2. UCLA at Memphis, Sept. 16
3. Texas Tech at Houston, Sept. 23
4. Georgia Tech at UCF, Sept. 16
5. Houston at Arizona, Sept. 9
5 Best Pro Prospects
1. DT Ed Oliver, Soph. Houston
2. WR Courtland Sutton, Jr. SMU
3. CB Jamar Summers, Sr. Connecticut
4. QB Riley Ferguson, Sr. Memphis
5. DE Jamiyus Pittman, Sr. UCF
5 Biggest Shoes To Fill
1. Temple Sharif Finch for DE Haason Reddick
2. East Carolina WR Jimmy Williams for Say Jones
3. Tulsa QB Luke Skipper for Dane Evans
4. USF RB D’Ernest Johnson for Marlon Mack
5. Houston LB Matthew Adams for Steven Taylor