Sports, Thrill of Victory

The consensus forecast for the American Athletic Conference

East Carolina's Shane Carden

What used to mostly be the Big East is now the American Athletic Conference, and although it’s not one of the Power Five leagues, some of its teams can provide some headaches to those bigger fish, as Baylor found out when it was whipped by Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl last year.

Today, we take a closer look at the AAC, starting with a consensus ranking based on where each team was picked by the four major national magazines (Athlon’s, Lindy’s, Phil Steele’s College Preview and The Sporting News) picked each, along with the league’s preseason coaches’ poll. I’ll be doing this with all the leagues as we get ready for the 2014 college football season, and I’ll call it “the consensus forecast.” I’ll have the rest of the leagues in the coming days.

So, without further adieu, here’s the consensus forecast for the AAC, with some of my comments below that. In parenthesis, I’ll put the forecast range for each team.

East Carolina's Shane Carden

East Carolina’s Shane Carden

      1. Cincinnati (1-2)
      2. Central Florida (1-3)
      3. Houston (1-4)
      4. East Carolina (2-4)
      5. SMU (5-7)
      6. South Florida (5-9)
      7. Memphis (7-10)
      8. Connecticut (6-10)
      9. Tulane (6-10)
      10. Temple (6-11)
      11. Tulsa (6-11)

Thoughts: Three different teams got No. 1 votes; outside of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal and Mountain West Western divisions, that didn’t happen anywhere else. … Cincinnnati (24th by Lindy’s) was the league’s only team to get top-25 mention. The Bearcats finished 9-4 a season ago, and will have former 5-star recruit Gunner Kiel at quarterback (coach Tommy Tuberville hasn’t named a starter, but Kiel’s been the front-runner). … Looking for a potential sleeper? Try Memphis. The Tigers return more starters (17) and are tied with Tulsa (53) for the most returning lettermen of any team in the league. The Tigers lost four games by seven points or fewer, including losses to Louisville and Central Florida. … Speaking of Tulsa, the Golden Hurricane return 15 starters from last year’s 3-9 team. It was Tulsa’s first losing season since 2004, coming off an 11-3 season in 2012. Tulsa has won 10 or more four times in the last seven seasons. … Houston has a high-powered offense and returns the majority of its defense, but there’s no way the Cougars will duplicate last year’s plus-25 turnover margin. Still, UH should be plenty good and will have plenty of excitement since it’ll play in a new stadium. … Despite the nation’s No. 21 defensive, South Florida finished 3-9. Year 2 under coach Willie Taggart. With the top recruiting class in the conference in 2014, the Bulls could be headed in a better direction. … If UCF repeats as champ, it could be with surprise starter Pete DiNovo, a redshirt freshman, whom coach George O’Leary named as starter. Last year’s starter, Blake Bortles, is of course with the Jacksonville Jaguars. … The best player that most of you have never heard of? That’s East Carolina’s Shane Carden, who completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 318 yards per game and 33 touchdowns. A second-straight 10-win season could be possible, and while that’s a bit of an uphill battle with just four returning starters on that side of the ball, the Pirates shaved over seven points a game off the previous year’s output under defensive coordinator Rick Smith.