Tuesday, August 6, 2013

2013 American Athletic Conference Preview

2013 Predicted Standings

American Athletic Conference
1.  Louisville Cardinals (7-1, 11-1)
2.  Cincinnati Bearcats (6-2, 10-2)
3.  UCF Golden Knights (6-2, 8-4)
4.  Rutgers Scarlett Knights (5-3, 7-5)
5.  Houston Cougars (4-4, 6-6)
6.  South Florida Bulls (3-5, 5-7)
7.  Connecticut Huskies (3-5, 4-8)
8.  SMU Mustangs (3-5, 4-8)
9.  Memphis Tigers (2-6, 4-8)
10. Temple Owls (1-7, 4-8)

New Name, Same Unamazing Reputation - As we head into the final season of the BCS, the league formerly known as the Big East gets one last go-round as the ugly step-child before stepping out of the major conference mix.  The makeover continues this year, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse moving to the ACC and the American Athletic Conference welcoming in UCF, Houston, SMU and Memphis.  Next season Louisville and Rutgers are out and Villanova, East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane are in, with Navy joining in football for 2015.  While all of this movement has hurt the conference, the Big East was never a great football powerhouse.  The conference is looking a lot like a version of Conference USA (10 of the future members were at one time a part of C-USA), but at least the conference did not go the way of the WAC.

Louisville's Undefeated Quest - When the Cardinals upset Florida in the Sugar Bowl, attention immediately turned to what this team could do with Teddy Bridgewater back in 2013.  Louisville is experienced across the board and appears to be the class of the AAC.  Couple that with a non-conference schedule void of any serious threats and the undefeated talk gets serious.  There is a legitimate chance the Cardinals are sitting at 12-0 in early December.  The toughest road game is the finale at Cincinnati, which would have extra meaning and incentive if an undefeated regular season was on the line.  Even more interesting might be what the BCS does with a 12-0 Louisville team if there are no other undefeated teams in the country?  Obviously a 1-loss SEC team is going to be ahead of Louisville, but would they have a chance against a 1-loss Ohio State, Oklahoma State or Texas?  My guess is not.  I am also not sold that there isn't a slip-up along the line, so the point would be moot at 11-1.

UCF number 1 - The Golden Knights are a team to keep an eye on in their first season in the former Big East.  The transition from Conference-USA should not be too drastic, especially since Tulsa, who beat them twice last year for their only conference losses is a year behind in joining.  With an experienced quarterback in Blake Bortles, the key will be replacing 7 defensive starters.  If the defense comes together, this becomes a dangerous team for front-runners Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers. 

Quick Hits:
  • Rutgers floundered down the stretch in 2012 after a great start.  Will there be any carry-over effect into 2013?  I think their inability to score will be the biggest carry-over that holds them back this season.
  • Cincinnati's defense will be the best in the AAC, mark it down.  All five starters also return on the offensive line, so it is up to a group of inconsistent or new skill position players to take this team to the next level.
  • The key to Houston's season is also with their offense.  When the Cougars have been good in recent and even distant memory, it has always been based on prolific offenses.  I can't remember the last time Houston's dominating defense was the story.  In 2012, the offense took a step back and went through coordinator changes and turnover issues.
Best Non-Conference Schedule:  SMU.  The Mustangs play FCS Montana State sandwiched between games against Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU.

Worst Non-Conference Schedule:  Louisville.  Ohio and Kentucky are decent opponents, but neither is on the Cardinals level.  FIU is one of the worst FBS teams and Eastern Kentucky is the FCS opponent.

Thank You AAC Schedule:  SMU.  They are the one team that does not have to face Louisville.

Curse You AAC Schedule:  Rutgers.  The Scarlett Knights miss out on Memphis and have to travel to both Louisville and UCF.

Best Player:  Teddy Bridgewater.  There is still improvement to be made in his game and if he takes that next step, watch out.

Best Newcomer:  Traylon Shead.  Shead will replace Zach Line at RB for the Mustangs.  The former Texas recruit comes from the JC ranks and should take off immediately.

Weekly Games to Watch
Aug 29 - Rutgers at Fresno State...This will be a great measuring stick for the Scarlett Knights.

Sept 7- Cincinnati at Illinois...The Bearcats open with Purdue and could be going for a Big 10 sweep to start the season.

Sept 14 - UCF at Penn State...Don't dismiss this one in the Nittany Lions favor.  UCF has the ingredients to pull the upset.

Sept 21 - Michigan at Connecticut...The Huskies get a chance to host one of the big names in College Football.

Sept 28 - South Carolina at UCF...The Golden Knights non-conference schedule is second only to SMU as they host Jadeveon Clowney and the Ol' Ball Coach.

Oct 5 - Rutgers at SMU...Will the Mustangs have anything left after their brutal non-conference schedule?

Oct 10 - Rutgers at Louisville...Will the Scarlett Knights have anything left playing on the road for the second time in 5 days?

Oct 18 - UCF at Louisville...One of the top contenders visits Louisville for a Friday Night Showcase.  Can Blake Bortles out duel Teddy Bridgewater?

Oct 26 - Houston at Rutgers...The offensive-minded Cougars travel to Piscataway to face the defensive-minded Scarlett Knights in a clash of styles.

Oct 30 - Cincinnati at Memphis...Nothing better on a Wednesday night than watching two rivals from the old Conference-USA go at it.

Nov 8 - Louisville at Connecticut...The Huskies look to upset the Cardinals for the second year in a row after last season's perplexing OT thriller.

Nov 16 - Cincinnati at Rutgers...Any hopes the Bearcats have of stealing the conference title requires a tough win at Rutgers.

Nov 23 - Cincinnati at Houston...If the Cougars regain their offensive swagger, this game could mean a lot more than first glance.

Nov 29 - South Florida at UCF...A new conference rivalry for the state of Florida.

Dec 5 - Louisville at Cincinnati...Will this game be for the Conference Title?  Will Louisville be going for an undefeated regular season? 

Bowl Line-Up
BCS Orange Bowl:  Louisville Cardinals
Russell Athletic Bowl:  Cincinnati Bearcats
Belk Bowl:  UCF Golden Knights
Pinstripe Bowl:  Rutgers Scarlett Knights
Beef O'Brady's Bowl:  Houston Cougars

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