Today, we conclude with our previews of the Group of 5 conferences and throw in the four independents to boot. The American Athletic Conference produced the Group of 5 at-large representative to the New Year’s 6 Bowls last year. Houston represented the little brothers well last year, when the Cougars bested Florida State in the Peach Bowl last year.
Houston should be right in the thick of the AAC and NY6 Bowl race this year, but we believe that another league member is talented enough to take this year’s automatic NY6 Bowl bid, and if they can pull off one upset, maybe even challenge for the #4 seed in the playoffs.
Coach Willie Taggart has his South Florida team ready to make a run toward an undefeated season this year. The Bulls must pull off the upset against Florida State, but USF gets to host the Seminoles in that game a week after FSU must face Louisville on the road.
USF returns an exceptional dual threat quarterback in Quinton Flowers. Flowers topped 1,000 yards rushing (not counting QB sacks, or if NFL statistic rules were used) last year, while averaging more than 8 yards per passing attempt. Seven of his top eight targets from last year return to give the Bulls an improved passing attack. That should allow multi-talented running back Marlon Mack to see less eight-man defensive fronts and give him a chance to improve on his 1,381 rushing yards from a year ago.
Defensively, USF 10 of their top dozen tacklers from a year ago, including potential All-American Deatrick Nichols as a cover cornerback. USF should trim about 5 points and 30-50 total yards off what the defense allowed last year, and that should give the Bulls a fighting chance to conquer that one great matador in their path to a perfect season.
Houston is still the class of the West Division. The Cougars came within an upset loss against Connecticut in November last year of possibly getting into the Playoff picture. Second year head coach Tom Herman proved to be a talented protege of his mentor Urban Meyer, as he guided the Cougars to a 13-1 season. Only a few questions on the defensive side keep us from making UH our clear-cut favorite for the NY6 Bowl, but they only trail USF by a tiny margin as the season begins. What hurts the Cougars is an opening game against Oklahoma at NRG Stadium, and we cannot see the Cougars’ defense being ready to stop the Sooners’ offense. Starting 0-1, Houston will be behind the eight-ball all season. Road games against Cincinnati, Navy, and Memphis may be more than UH can handle, so the Cougars could be a two-loss team heading into the AAC Championship Game.
Here is how the Media picked this year’s AAC race.
|American Athletic Conference–East Division|
|American Athletic Conference–West Division|
And, here are how our PiRates rate the teams to begin the 2016 season.
|American Athletic Conference|
The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.
Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.
|American Athletic Conference Projected Standings|
|South Florida||8-0||12-1 *||Cotton–NY6|
|* South Florida to win AAC Title and automatic NY 6 Bowl Bid|
Coming Later Today–A look at the four independents.