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AAC East Stock Exchange

With an influx of new coaches in the East division, it’s tough to project which schools are on the rise.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Temple Owls

Joey Broback: SELL - Matt Rhule is gone. Phillip Walker is gone. Jahad Thomas is gone. You get it, key pieces are no longer here. Ventell Bryant and Ryquell Armstead are back offensively, but I think it’s going to be a while before the Owls get back on track. It would be smart to sell this bear market stock until the new regime can get things figured out.

Joe Serpico: PUSH - The Owls are undergoing a major overhaul as Joey noted above. New Head Coach Geoff Collins has to find his quarterback, but still has pieces from the previous regime to continue winning at North Broad. If Collins can find the next QB at Temple, they should still be in the hunt for conference titles.

Cyrus Smith: PUSH - It’s amazing to see how far the Temple football program has come from when they were playing in the Big East. After two successful hires in Al Golden and Matt Rhule, it’s now up to Geoff Collins to try and sustain the momentum. Defense-first guys rarely workout as head coaches so I’m skeptical, but I don’t see Temple falling off the cliff in the future either. They’ve recruited the tri-state area wonderfully and I see that trend continuing with Collins. Now if they can just get an on-campus stadium.

Darrelle Thompson: PUSH - Temple has become a two sport college and while their immediate success under Golden and Rhule helped pave the way for the future, I’m not sold on Geoff Collins. Yes, he had Florida finish in the top 12 in total defense in 2015 and 2016, but will those same results translate in an offense-heavy conference? Recruiting locally should be another key factor as Rutgers is a dumpster fire and grabbing kids from New Jersey should be easy.

South Florida Bulls

NCAA Football: South Florida at Memphis
With Quinton Flowers back USF is the clear favorite to win the AAC East.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

JB: BUY - 16 Starters return, including star quarterback Quinton Flowers. While Marlon Mack and Rodney Adams’ replacements need to emerge, the Bulls figure to have a month to figure that out. I’m not sold that they will be a lock to represent the Group of 5 in the playoff or a New Year’s bowl, but there isn’t a reason why they shouldn’t win the East with ease. Being in a state with plenty of talent doesn’t hurt their future either.

JS: BUY - Quinton Flowers could be in the Heisman discussion and Charlie Strong will take this program to a new level. The Bulls are the favorite to win the division heading into this season and years to come.

CS: BUY - Charlie Strong made his name recruiting the Sunshine State as Florida’s defensive coordinator before finding success as Louisville's head coach. With a stacked roster for 2017 and Strong’s resume as a recruiting ace, I see USF being the team to beat in the AAC East division for the foreseeable future.

DT: BUY- I had Quinton Flowers pegged as my breakout player of the AAC last year, and he could have a 40 total touchdown season en route to the Heisman. Charlie Strong got a raw deal in Texas, but it worries me that the Texas defense was terrible under Strong. The big thing for USF is that he is well known in Florida and can get a bunch of impact guys without leaving the state.

UCF Knights

JB: BUY - Buy low. Sell high. Well the Knights give you a pretty low stock to buy, but they are on the way up. Scott Frost turned a zero-win team into a bowl game participant in one year. Investing in his team would be a smart choice for this year, as well as the future.

JS: BUY - The Knights might not contend for the division this season, but they are a program on the rise after Scott Frost led them to a 6-6 record in his first season at the helm.

CS: BUY - It’s obvious that Frost has adapted well to recruiting in the Sunshine State and given that UCF is often seen as a sleeping giant due to location, great facilities and a growing fan base you have to buy their stock. However, I’m not as bullish on their immediate rise in the AAC as others.

DT: BUY- Scott Frost is lining up the athletes to make UCF a major player in the AAC. It won’t happen overnight, but in two seasons we could be looking at a perennial nine-win program.

Cincinnati Bearcats

JB: PUSH - Cincinnati will improve in its first season under new head coach Luke Fickell, but anything above last year’s 4-8 finish is an improvement. Hayden Moore couldn’t pull away in the quarterback competition last year, and trips to Michigan and Navy in Weeks 2 and 4 could unravel him quickly. Holding off on the Bearcats stock would be smart for now, but the future could have people buying in to Fickell.

JS: PUSH - As Joey pointed out, trips to Ann Arbor and Annapolis make the early part of the schedule daunting, but they should get more than one win in the conference this season. They need to find a running game as they were the only team in the conference to average under 100 yards (91.9) per game.

CS: PUSH - Cincinnati is a tough job to peg. Being in a pro market certainly has it’s disadvantages as fan interest can dip quickly but the fertile recruiting area should keep the Bearcats from floundering. New energy was exactly what the program needed although I wasn’t a huge fan of Luck Fickell getting the job.

DT: SELL - This sell isn’t just because I’m a former bitter Buckeyes fan who had to endure a 6-7 season under Fickell’s watch. I think there are too many emerging players in the division for him to recruit well enough to succeed. It would surprise me to see Cincy get a six-win season in any of the next three years.

East Carolina Pirates

JB: SELL - Who is the quarterback going to throw the ball to now that Zay Jones is gone, as Jones accounted for 44% of the Pirates catches last season. With how much buying I’ll be doing in the West, selling on some teams is necessary. I like Scottie Montgomery and what he did this off-season, but this program needs to turn things around before I buy into them.

JS: SELL - The Pirates are losing their best player on offense and have the worst defense in the conference. They also have a brutal schedule as they host USF and Temple before traveling to Orlando to take on UCF in consecutive weeks.

CS: SELL - I thought ECU gave Ruffin McNeal a raw deal and seeing Scottie Montgomery struggle in his first season wasn’t a great sign. But the main reason I’m selling is that I don’t see how ECU can become a factor in this division. The Florida schools have a higher ceiling and Temple and Cincinnati have had more recent success. This is still a great program with a passionate fan base, great facilities and an awesome history of success on the field, but I still don’t know what their identity is in the AAC and we’re now entering year four. Since joining the AAC they’ve seen their win totals drop from eight, to five, to three.

DT: SELL - ECU has struggled the last few seasons, and I’m not sold on Scottie Montgomery. For a coach known for his offensive play-calling the offense didn’t exactly set the world on fire. If the team struggles again this year like they did last year in which the Pirates lost by at least 14 points seven times, he could find himself on the hot seat in 2018.

Connecticut Huskies

Cincinnati v Connecticut
Randy Edsall has won at UConn before but the landscape is different in his second stint in East Hartford.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

JB: SELL - Unless Geno Auriemma is walking out of the tunnel Week 1, this won’t change. Randy Edsall Part 1 ended with a beat down against Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. Part 2 could begin with an embarrassment against the reigning FCS champ, James Madison. It’s safe to say, UConn is (still) a few year’s away from success.

JS: BUY - We will classify this as a long-term investment. Randy Edsall had success in his first go-around at UConn, but could not work the same magic at Maryland. He is back, and while it might take some time to get things going, he proved he can win games in East Hartford.

CS: PUSH - Randy Edsall was in over his head at Maryland but this UConn gig fits his blue-collar style of play. He’s had success before and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes UConn a bowl team quickly. He’s not a bad coach and considering the youth and transition this league is going through he’ll be able to out-coach a few of his peers. With that said, this job doesn’t have a high ceiling and in a division that has USF and UCF on the rise and Temple already entrenched near the top of the league, I can’t see UConn making the amount of waves they did when they were in the Big East.

DT: PUSH - I was shocked to see Randy Edsall leave UConn the first time around, and having personally talked to him about recruiting in the Big East, he looks for hard nosed, gritty players. He can get UConn to six or seven wins a year once he has a few recruiting classes under his belt, but will that be good enough for UConn’s fan base?