Sean's American Athletic Conference Preview (Former Big East)
By: Sean Higgs Published on: 08/23/2013
Wow. What a fantastic name! I hear America Conference and think America East with Stony Brook and Maine. But this is the new Big East. Lots of changes happening in this conference. Pitt and Syracuse are in the ACC, Rutgers leaves for the Big 10 next year. They bring in Hosuton, Memphis, SMU and Central Florida from C-USA. East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa join in 2014. Navy 2015. Let's get to it.
1. LOUISVILLE- B2B Big East Title holders, this is theirs to lose this season. QB Teddy Bridgewater is POY and Heisman hopeful. He should lead an explosive offense with his top 3 WRs back. The defense returns 9 starters. This team man-handled Florida in the Sugar Bowl last year, and HC Charlie Strong will have his team focused here.
2. CINCINNATI - New coach in town as Tommy Tuberville takes over. I usually don't like putting a new HC in a spot like this, but this conference is pretty weak. Tuberville has his entire OL returning. That is a great thing since many teams here have weak front 4s. Cincy starts the year with 8 straight games vs teams with losing records last year. This team has won or shared 4 of the last 5 Big East titles, so you know there is talent on the roster.
3. RUTGERS - I put Rutgers here because I think QB Gary Nova is ready to take a big step. The OL returns 4 starters and 7 total on offense. The defense lost 11 players drafted or signed into the NFL. The good news is that of their 7 home games, 6 teams had losing records last year.
4. CENTRAL FLORIDA - The defense is the key to their season. They lost 7 of their top 10 tacklers from last year. They do have 5 starters back on defense and 6 on offense. HC George O'Leary likes his QB. Blake Bortles had 25TDs and just 6Ints last year. He has his top 3 WRs with him. He will need them since he has 4 game stretch in mid-September playing at Penn State, home vs South Carolina and then b2b road games vs Memphis then conference favorite Louisville. An 0-4 stretch there, and you can here the motivation leaving the building.
5. HOUSTON - Cougs should improve from last years 5 wins. They have 9 starters back on offense and have 43 juniors and seniors on the roster. This team does have new OC and DC to go along with 2nd year HC Tony Levine. The early schedule is one that could see them 5-0 and a chance to go bowling if things break the right way.
6. CONNECTICUT - HC Paul Pasqualoni saw enough of his offense last year that he brought in a new OC in TJ Weist who got some offense out of his teams in Cincy. The offense is experienced with 8 starters, but just 5 on defense. If the defense holds up, these Huskies could be barking to a bowl bid.
7. SMU - After SMU, this conference really bottoms out. June Jones has 12 returning starters back. He will look to QB Garrett Gilbert to continue what was a 2nd half improvement and build on his 5-2 finish. Could be a bumpy ride early as they Mustangs take on Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU in 3 of their first 4 games. At least they don't shy away from teams!
8. SOUTH FLORIDA - Oh the Bulls. I was a big fan of these guys when they had QB Matt Grothe and BJ Daniels. Plus George Selvie and JPP on defense. But this team doesn't have those kind of players. The defense is solid, but I can't see the offense having enough firepower to compete. New HC Willie Taggart likes to run the ball. But this team has offensive players that were build around QB play. Plus, the Bulls top 2 RBs are gone from last year. Could be a long year in Tampa.
9. MEMPHIS - Like this Tigers bunch. They made great strides last year under HC Justin Fuente. He has 8 starters back on offense and defense. They get a favorable schedule also. The defense is a solid group up front.
10. TEMPLE - Man. This team is bad. They have a new HC, Matt Rhule, former OL coach with the NYG. The Owls now have their 3rd new HC in 4 years. Owls have no proven QB, RB and no experience on OL. The defense allowed over 30ppg last year.
“For me, now it's my charge and my job to get us to win a conference championship,” Rhule said. “So that's what we're doing, that's why we're here.”
Well. He can dream.