In case you haven't heard, Big XII EXPANDAPALOOZA is in full force with the AAC looking like the top target. If you want to talk about that, you are in the wrong place. I am tired of it and ready to talk about the upcoming season instead.
Where better to start that talk than the AAC non-conference schedule?
Ranked as arguably the best G5 conference in the nation, the AAC also plays one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. For every trip to Michigan, South Carolina, Penn State, and Ohio State, the AAC has been able to schedule home games versus elite PG programs.
Home matchups versus the Big 12, ACC, and Big 10 highlight this this year's best non-conference home games for AAC programs.
Let's take a look.
Oklahoma at Houston (Sept. 3, 11:00 AM CST, ABC):
A future matchup in the Big 12 if the governor of Texas has his say, these teams have played on two earlier occasions. In 1981, the Sooners defeated Houston in the Sun Bowl and then demolished the Cougars in 2004 by a 63-13 margin.
Not only is this is the first time the two programs will face off in Houston, it is a nationally televised game between two top 10 programs. The Cougars have won each of their last four games versus P5 programs heading into this game and could set the stage for a playoff run with a win here.
**It should be noted that the game will be played at NRG Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans.**
Florida State at South Florida (Sept. 24, TBD):
A rematch of a 34-14 loss to the Seminoles last fall, South Florida is primed for an upset. The Bulls have faced off versus the ACC power three times in school history, the very first meeting (2009) resulting in a 17-7 win.
South Florida is projected to win the AAC East Division while Florida State should battle Clemson for the ACC Atlantic Division. A win over Florida State would give the Bulls 22 wins over current the current ACC lineup,
Louisville at Houston (Nov. 17, 7:00 PM CST, ESPN):
A rematch of one of the wildest games last fall and the coming out party for quarterback Greg Ward Jr., Houston defeated the Cardinals 34-31. The all-time matchup that dates back to 1950, is currently tied at 8-8 with Louisville winning three of the last four.
This is a matchup of conference heavyweights as Houston is the overwhelming favorite to win the AAC this fall and Louisville is a dark horse pick to win the ACC. Expect a shootout in this game.
Northern Illinois at South Florida (Sept. 10, 6:00 PM CST, CBSSN):
The first G5 versus G5 matchup on the list, this is the fourth time NIU and USF have faced off. The Huskies won a 20-17 slugfest in 2001, but South Florida dominated the last two meetings (2002 and 2009 season) by a combined 64-9. NIU has won the last six MAC West Division Championships, while South Florida is the hip pick to win the AAC East.
BYU at Cincinnati (Nov. 4, TBD):
An interesting matchup between two programs most often mentioned as top Big 12 targets, the Cougars and Bearcats met for the first time last fall. BYU took a 38-24 decision in route to their 11th straight bowl appearance. Cincinnati has been nearly as impressive with ten bowl berths in the last 11 seasons.
North Carolina State at East Carolina (Sept. 10, 11:00 AM CST, ESPNU):
You have to give credit to the Pirates as they continually nail down at least one home game versus an ACC program every year. This year's game isn't as sexy as the 35-28 home win over Virginia Tech last season, NC State has a 28-game history dating back to 1970 with ECU.
Virginia at UConn (Sept. 17, 12:30 PM CST, ESPN3):
The Huskies are one of the rare teams to get Virginia to travel for a G5 matchup. This will be the first time that has happened since a 2009 trip to Southern Miss. It is the second of three games in the series to be played at Rentschler Field with the teams tied 1-1. Both teams want to make a national statement in this game.
San Jose State at Tulsa (Sept. 3, 6:00 PM CST, CBSSN):
While so many other games on the list have significant national exposure, this game is just an old fashioned fun game between two G5 programs. Both teams were surprise bowl participants last season, scoring points in very different ways. SJSU ran the ball 531 times last fall while Tulsa sported the #11 passing game in the nation last fall. If both teams don't score at least 35, I will be very disappointed.
Maryland at Central Florida (Sept. 17, 6:00 PM CST, CBSSN):
To say that the 2015 season was a disaster for UCF is a massive understatement. At no point did they look like the team that was the two-time defending AAC champs. Maryland went 3-9 record and saw the Randy Edsall era come to a close. Both programs have new coaches and quite a bit to prove this fall.
TCU at SMU (Sept. 23, 7:00 PM CST, ESPN):
The SMU-TCU game is a historic matchup that has been played 95 times, dating back to 1915. SMU looked ripe for an upset last fall before TCU pulled away in the final minutes for a comfortable victory. This is another measuring stick game as SMU looks to start a winning streak after losing 14 of the last 16 matchups with the Horned Frogs.