The 2019 American Athletic Preview with the Game of the Year, Players of the Year, top pro prospects, big-time players who deserve a bigger spotlight, and more.
UCF being so good over the last two seasons has been great for the American Athletic Conference.
It has kept a spotlight on the league, it has provided a focus of national attention, and it’s games have been fun enough to be must-see college football TV.
But now it might be time for others to rise up and challenge for the throne.
UCF was in big, big trouble last season against Temple. It was in bigger trouble in both games against Memphis, and it got pushed a wee bit by a few other teams, but when it turned it on … game over.
This year’s team needs Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush to step up at quarterback, but the rest of the pieces are there to make another big splash. For the AAC as a whole, though, the hope has to be for the standard bearer to take care of business against Stanford and Pitt raise the overall league profile, and then have all roads lead to an epic conference championship game.
Dana Holgorsen leaving West Virginia for Houston was massive. The Cougars have a Power Five head coach to go along with Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, USF’s Charlie Strong, and Mike Norvell of Memphis to give the league the high-level coaching the other Group of Fivers are missing. They’re all at that proverbial next step job before rising up into something even bigger – maybe.
The Cougars are going to be deadly. The Tigers are going to be dangerous again. The Bearcats are going to be solid, and the Bulls – if they can get past last year’s collapse right away – will be players in the race.
Temple is once again going to be a factor – landing Rod Carey for Northern Illinois was a nice get. Navy is about to bounce back after dud of a 2017, and Tulane is quietly putting together something nice under Willie Fritz.
SMU has the triggerman in Texas transfer Shane Buechele to run the Sonny Dykes offense. Mike Houston was a fantastic coaching hire to restore the glory at East Carolina, and even the struggling teams – UConn and Tulsa – have plenty of experience.
And in the end, UCF just might be UCF again.
American Athletic Team That Will Surprise
Ken Niumatalolo is too good a head coach and Navy is too good a program to let this slide continue. The defense that was so miserable throughout last season will be better, mainly because the offense should be back to being more like the Navy O. The more the attack can dominate and own the time of possession, the better the D will be – that’s about to happen.
Navy lost four games by a touchdown or less, and this year it has just enough winnable games to go from a three-win clunker to bowl eligible – assuming Malcolm Perry and the Midshipmen offense really are back to form.
– Navy Team Preview
American Athletic Team That Will Disappoint
Luke Fickell’s team will still be great – it’ll be better in a few ways than last season’s 11-2 squad – but there are just enough nasty games to keep from repeating the 2017 success.
Last year’s team was great, but Ohio was the only team it beat that finished with more than seven wins. UCLA will be stronger this season – the Bruins come to UC. The Bearcats have to go to Ohio State, Marshall, Houston, USF and Memphis, and have to host UCF and Temple. This will be more like a 7-5ish season than 11-2.
– Cincinnati Team Preview