With the season just under two weeks away, our American Athletic Conference staff got together and projected the AAC standings for 2015, along with a list of awards, superlatives, and predictions. Let's start with the East and West division polls.
Cincinnati is the runaway favorite here, as they were unanimously selected as the number one team in the division. Our staff was a bit wary of everyone and their mother's dark horse, Temple-- while a few voters did have them as high as second, most expected UCF to grab the number two spot in the division while the Owls fought off a rebuilding East Carolina team for third. Very few people knew what to make of the Pirates, with votes ranging from second to fifth place, but almost everyone had USF and UConn in the cellar.
Look how crowded that conference is up top. Our voters very clearly separated this division into three contenders and three also-rans, with first place votes for Navy, Memphis and Houston. Tom Herman's Cougars had the biggest voting disparity of the trio, with everyone either slotting them in first or third. Navy and Memphis were more consistent among our staff, with most people tagging them for first or second. It's gonna be a dogfight up top in the West this season.
Tulsa, SMU and Tulane also received votes in this poll, and will all likely be playing football this season.
Awards & Superlatives
Conference Champion: Cincinnati
"Cincinnati certainly has the talent to win the East. They have a tough schedule, having to go to Memphis and Houston, but they get UCF at home, which I think is the game that decides the East." - Justin Mears
Also received votes: Navy, Memphis
MVP: Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy
"He's a sleeper Heisman candidate on a perennially solid team. The more wins they accumulate, the stronger his pitch will be." - Jake Hyman
Also received votes: Gunner Kiel, QB, Cincinnati
Coach of the Year: Tom Herman, Houston
"Though I don't expect Houston to win big in 2015, I think that this team will make big strides under Tom Herman and the staff he has put together. If Houston can manage to win a share of the West, he should win Coach of the Year." - Scott Stone.
Also received votes: Justin Fuente, Memphis; Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati; Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
"With all the hype over Cincinnati (that offense!) and Temple (that defense!) in the East, and Houston and Memphis in the West (those coaches!), Navy has flown under the radar this offseason. There's no reason they won't hit the ground running in year one in the AAC, and with Houston breaking in a new system and Memphis living in uncharted territory post-breakthrough, the Midshipmen are probably the safest bet in the West." - Ryan T. Smith
Also received votes: Memphis, East Carolina
Will Disappoint: Temple
"Yes, they get basically everybody back. So if there was going to be the year it would be this one. But it won't be. Sure, I think they get to a bowl. But the Owls are not winning their division, much less the conference. I'm inclined to think that there defense last year was unusually lucky and we'll see some regression to the mean this year." - Chas Short
Also received votes: Houston, Memphis, East Carolina
"For the second straight season, the AAC will not earn the Group of Five access bowl slot-- though Cincinnati will come close." - Ryan T. Smith
"This is the year UCF's Will Stanback explodes. I predicted it last year, but the guy ended up constantly dinged up and suffering behind a poor offensive line." - Chas Short
"The AAC will have seven teams earn bowl bids and will win at least five of them." - Alex Mitchell
"Navy, in their first year in the AAC, earns the crown, and Keenan Reynolds is named Player of the Year." - Jake Hyman
"By midseason, the AAC will have two wins against SEC opponents. The Tigers will beat Ole Miss on Oct. 17 and UCF shocks South Carolina on Sept. 26." - Chris James
"Keenan Reynolds will be in New York for the Heisman Trophy announcement." - Scott Stone
"SMU ends up fourth in the West. Chad Morris will turn that program around quickly, and they will be challenging in the West within three years." - Justin Mears