American Athletic (formerly Big East) Football Predictions – 2013 Season


It may be just a shadow of the league it once was (and will soon lose both Louisville and Rutgers as well), but technically the new American Athletic Conference is still a BCS league: the winner will get an automatic spot in a BCS game. This year it will be a battle of the old members, as none of the new teams look up to the challenge of tackling the top teams in the conference. Read on for our 2013 AAC predictions.

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  • 1. Louisville 11-1 (7-1): Fresh off a surprising Sugar Bowl win over Florida, Louisville is widely considered the obvious conference favorite in 2013. Star QB Teddy Bridgewater tore apart defenses all season and he will return a ton of weapons this season, including a two-headed running attack and WR DeVante Parker. The defense also returns mostly intact, led by tackle-machine LB Preston Brown. Behind the steady arm of Bridgewater and what should be an improved defense, the Cardinals will only need to fend off Rutgers and Cincinnati – which they should do – to take the AAC and lock up a BCS bid. In fact, we think it’s more likely that Louisville runs the table than it is that they win less than 10 games.
  • 2. Cincinnati 10-2 (6-2): QB Brendon Kay took over for the struggling Munchie Legaux last season and never looked back, leading the Bearcats to a 4-1 finish. Kay should put up another solid season behind the conference’s best offensive line, led by potential All-American LT Eric Lefeld. Look for a big year from RB Ralph David Abernathy as the Bearcats look for someone to fill the production lost with departed George Winn. The defense is led by what could be one of the best LB groups in the country. MLB Greg Blair will be at the top of the nation in tackles, OLB Nick Temple has a chance for all-conference honors, and former FSU LB Jeff Luc is a former high school All-American that could elevate the group to elite status. Cincy should roll through the early part of the schedule, with the conference race coming down to their final three games: @ Rutgers, @ Houston and a home date with Louisville on senior day. If the Bearcats take care of business the rest of the way, they could send the seniors out with a win that clinches a BCS game.
  • 3. Rutgers 8-4 (5-3): Rutgers may be a team that can beat out Louisville for the conference crown, but they could also find themselves flirting with a .500 record. WR Brandon Coleman leads a deep, talented group, and the defense should be fine despite losing several key players. Much will depend on two positions on offense: QB and RB. QB Gary Nova played outstanding the first half of last season, and then followed it up with a disastrous second half. At RB, Jawan Jamison bolted early for the NFL draft, leaving the running game in the hands of former highly-touted recruit Savon Huggins. If Jamison and Huggins hit their stride and perform like they are capable, and the defense is able to hold up with the new starters, Rutgers will make a run at the conference crown. Otherwise, just making a bowl game should be the goal.
  • 4. UCF 7-5 (5-3): The offense is in good hands with QB Blake Bortles, a deep group of receivers, and RB Storm Johnson, who ran for over 500 yards in a reserve role last season and should surpass 1,000 yards in 2013. The defense was a top-25 unit a year ago and returns two tackle machines in MLB Terrance Plummer and safety Clayton Geathers. However, the Knights need to break in multiple new starts at each level of the defense while simultaneously adjusting to a new league. UCF should find themselves in another bowl, but don’t expect them to mix it up with the top three teams for the league title.
  • 5. Houston 7-5 (4-4): The Cougar offense has a chance to be the best in the conference, complete with a deep and skilled group of receivers, an experienced line, and a potential all-conference RB in Charles Sims. If QB David Piland can cut back on the turnovers and get his completion percentage up over 60% (57% last fall), the Houston offense will continue to put up big yards, big points, and big plays. An improved Piland will all but ensure a bowl game in 2013. As is usually the case, the Cougar defense was the weak point in 2012. LB Derrick Mathews is the star of the defense (126 tackles and 6 sacks), but he is small and might not hold up at the point of attack in the bigger, more athletic AAC. The secondary also has some playmakers, but expect the defensive unit to keep Houston from challenging with the top teams in the league.
  • 6. Connecticut 6-6 (4-4): QB Chandler Whitmer needs to cut down on the turnovers and do a better job of distributing to the offensive playmakers. Whitmer, along with an offensive line that struggled, are the main reasons the Huskies were near the bottom of the nation in offense a year ago. The lone bright spot is RB Lyle McCombs, a former freshman All-American who provides a reliable running threat. LB Yawin Smallwood is a legitimate star on defense, but his job will be tougher this year without a trio of UConn defenders now in the NFL. Expect the defense to take a step back from last season, but it should still be good enough to keep the Huskies in game while the offense tries to figure out how to put up more points.

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  • 7. South Florida 5-7 (3-5): There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Bulls right now. BJ Daniels, who has been the face of the offense for the last four years, and a host of other starters are gone from an offense that mustered less than 21 points per game. USF is also welcoming new coach Willie Taggart from WKU. The defense has talent but struggled more than expected in key moments last season. All of those components and the lack of a clear-cut star on either side of the ball make it tough to predict where the Bulls will fall in 2013, but we think a bowl game is a respectable goal.
  • 8. SMU 4-8 (3-5): SMU is a new addition to the AAC, and it may be a rough year for the Mustangs. QB Garrett Gilbert is the bright spot on offense; his stat line from 2012 is not impressive, but Gilbert quietly improved throughout the year and could break out a bit in 2013. There isn’t much for proven talent around him, so Gilbert will need to carry the team at times. The defense got carved up by opposing quarterbacks last season and will be transitioning into a tougher league this fall. The secondary returns several starters, but the front 7 will be breaking in plenty of new faces. A brutal non-conference schedule (Texas Tech, @ Texas A&M, and @ TCU) will make it tough to establish any early momentum, and the back-end of the conference slate is filled with tough games, which will make it tough for SMU to really string together some wins.
  • 9. Memphis 4-8 (2-6): Memphis was a disaster through nine games last fall, then the Tigers put it together and rattled off three straight wins to finish the season. However, now Memphis is moving into a new league and surpassing last season’s win total (four) will be a tall order. QB Jacob Karam was solid last season and will be pushed by freshman Paxton Lynch, and RB Brandon Hayes should provide a decent threat on the ground. The defense made big strides last season but will need to adjust to better offenses as Memphis moves from Conference USA into the AAC. A bowl game should be the goal, but we don’t see the Tigers reaching that mark this year.
  • 10. Temple 3-9 (1-7): 2012 was a rough first year in the Big East for the Owls, and 2013 may not be much better. The quarterback position is filled with question marks, the two leading rushers are gone, and the line may not even match last year’s unit. The defense was bad in 2012, and as a result several young players got plenty of playing time and should improve this season, including LB Tyler Matakevich, who racked up over 100 tackles as a freshman. Still, don’t expect Temple to slow down the league’s top offenses. The Owls also face one of the toughest schedules in the conference and Temple fans could be waiting quite awhile for their team to pick up its first conference win this fall.
  • Let’s hear your predictions in the comments!

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