College Football Preview: American Athletic Conference
|Blake Bortles, UCF|
QB Teddy Bridgewater, LouisvilleRB Savon Huggins, Rutgers
RB Lyle McCombs, UConn
WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
OL Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers
OL Torrian Wilson, UCF
OL Eric Lefeld, Cincinnati
OL Jimmy Bennett, UConn
OL Abraham Garcia, Louisville
DE Aaron Lynch, South Florida
DT Tim Williams, UConn
DT Darius Hamilton, Rutgers
DE Jamil Merrell, Rutgers
LB Jeff Luc, Cincinnati
LB Yawin Smallwood, UConn
LB George Durant, Louisville
CB Kenneth Acker, SMU
CB Taylor Mack, UConn
S Hakeem Smith, Louisville
S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
1. Louisville Cardinals National Rank: 7th
The Cardinals return one of the nation's elite quarterbacks in Teddy Bridgewater who threw for 3,718 yards last year. The offense should score their fair share of points but the return of a ton of impact defenders like senior George Durant and safeties Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor. With an easy schedule and a weak conference the Cardinals could go undefeated.
2. Rutgers Scarlet Knights National Rank: Unranked
Rutgers won 9 games last season but will lose a lot of key contributors from last year's dominant defense including linebacker Khaseem Greene. Junior quarterback Gary Nova returns along with explosive back Savon Huggins and receiver Brandon Coleman. If Nova improves this offense could be very dangerous on the Scarlet Knights could sneak up on people.
3. Cincinnati Bearcats National Rank: Unranked
The Bearcats have won 10 or more games four of the past five seasons and talent returns from last season's 10-3 squad. Senior quarterback Brendon Kay returns along with a talented offensive line. New coach Tommy Tuberville is an offensive mind but this defense could be strong too with the addition of Jeff Luc and the return of Devon Drane.
4. UCF Knights National Rank: Unranked
In their last year in the C-USA the Knights won the East Division and won 10 games. Junior quarterback Blake Bortles put up 3,059 yards last year and leads a talented offense. Junior back Storm Johnson and receiver J.J. Worton should help UCF contend even in a tougher conference.
5. UConn Huskies National Rank: Unranked
The pressure is on for Paul Pasqualoni who has had two talented teams but two 5-7 teams. The Huskies should be much improved this year with the return of junior QB Chandler Whitmer and talented back Lyle McCombs. UConn also returns a defense that should keep them in most games led by junior linebacker Yawin Smallwood.
6. SMU Mustangs National Rank: Unranked
The Mustangs are on a roll, making seven straight bowl games including a 43-10 win last year against Fresno State. Talented end Margus Hunt is off to the NFL but this offense has loads of talent with the return of Texas transfer Garrett Gilbert and junior back Rishaad Wimbley.
7. Temple Owls National Rank: Unranked
Temple's first season in the Big East was average as the Owls went 4-7 and the conference should become easier as it shifts to the American Athletic. Montel Harris and Matt Brown are both gone but senior quarterback Chris Coyer returns to lead a strong offense.
8. Houston Cougars National Rank: Unranked
The Cougars still have the offensive talent to put up a lot of points but it will become more difficult in an improved conference. Junior quarterback David Piland returns along with sophomore Deontay Greenberry to form a formidable combo but the loss of Charles Sims, who transferred to West Virginia, is huge.
9. South Florida Bulls National Rank: Unranked
New coach Willie Taggart hopes to improve a Bulls team coming off their worst year in school history, after going 3-9. South Florida will be without QB B.J. Daniels for the first time since 2008 but senior Bobby Eveld is ready to jump in.
10. Memphis Tigers National Rank: Unranked
The Tigers went 2-22 in Conference USA from 2009 to 2011 and the American Athletic Conference is definitely a step up. Senior quarterback Jacob Karam returns along with a deep threat in junior Joe Craig, a speedster.