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AAC West Stock Exchange

AAC West looks to be a tight division in the coming years, but which schools do we see rising to the top?

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Houston vs Florida State Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Navy Midshipmen

Joey Broback: BUY - As long as Ken Niumatalolo is around and Navy is running the triple option, I’m buying. But if he ever leaves Annapolis, I’m out. It may not be a flashy offense, but it gets the job done regardless of personnel. Oh and not flashy doesn’t mean bad. Just ask SMU what it’s like to give up 75 points to a “boring” offense.

Joe Serpico: BUY - They have a new quarterback to build around, but as long as Ken Niumatalolo is running this program, the Midshipmen will be relevant. The triple option is not sexy, but it is clearly effective as Navy averaged 37.9 points last season, which ranked 20th in the nation.

Cyrus Smith: BUY - After not being in a conference for decades Navy has adjusted quite nicely to being in the AAC. Like Joe said, as long as Ken Niumatalolo is running the program Navy will remain in the hunt for conference titles.

Darrelle Thompson: BUY - Navy has quickly made their mark in the conference, and that triple option is always a beast. Regardless of who mans the QB position, they should hit at least 1,000 yards on the ground. Like Cyrus said they will stay in contention for AAC titles as long as head man Niumatalolo is calling the shots.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

JB: BUY - This is a long-term investment. Philip Montgomery has the program going in the right direction, but good luck duplicating last year’s performance. Without a three year starter at quarterback in Dane Evans, this may be a transition year. That still shouldn’t scare you away from where Tulsa is headed in the future.

JS: BUY - Philip Montgomery’s up-tempo offense has brought instant success to Tulsa. They were the only team in the West to finish with 10 wins last season and could be better in the upcoming years.

CS: BUY - After falling off the cliff in Bill Blankenship’s last two years Tulsa is back to scoring a ton of points and winning games. Montgomery is now the hot name on the market in the AAC but whether he’s there long term or not Tulsa has an established brand and identity. With their success in recruiting Texas, the Golden Hurricane should remain in the hunt for conference titles going forward.

DT: BUY - I think Tulsa can have one of the best offenses in the nation in 2017, and with a conference not known for stifling defense, there’s no reason they can’t contend for a New Year’s Six Berth.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Memphis
Ferguson is a big reason why the Tigers’ stock is rising.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis Tigers

JB: BUY - Memphis is my dark-horse pick this year as the best Group of 5 team. With 15 returning starters, including QB Riley Ferguson and star WR Anthony Miller, the Tigers should come out with a roar. Mike Norvell has also recruited extremely well, and that bodes well for the future of this program. All I have to say is UCLA better be prepared when they come visit in Week 3.

JS: BUY - Many thought the Tigers would slide once Justin Fuente left for Virginia Tech, but there has been no drop off since Mike Norvell took over. The offense is still explosive and if Norvell can get the defense fixed, they can consistently be in the hunt for the championship game.

CS: BUY - Mike Norvell has recruited his butt off, making sure the momentum established by Justin Fuente doesn’t slow down. With the basketball program not close to the level John Calipari had it, this has the potential to be a full-fledged football school in the coming years.

DT: BUY- Cyrus is on the money that Memphis can become a football first school and Mike Norvell is recruiting all over the south.

Houston Cougars

JB: BUY - I’m optimistic about the Cougars this year and in the future. Yes, they have a new coach and need to replace some pieces, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a decline. Regardless of who was hired, replacing Tom Herman was going to be difficult to do. Many are expecting the Cougars to decline in the next few years, but I think the challenge will motivate them. Let’s not forget this team has two former five star recruits on their roster, and the talent around them is still better than many teams in the Group of 5.

JS: PUSH - Tom Herman and Greg Ward are both gone, but Major Applewhite still has plenty of talent to keep the Cougars in the hunt in the upcoming years. What remains to be seen is if he can draw the recruits to Houston like his predecessor.

CS: PUSH - I thought Major Applewhite was a pretty decent hire but there’s no denying that there is a ton of pressure on him to deliver. The long term view really depends on how they look this season. I like the pieces but the schedule is tricky with UTSA, Texas Tech and Arizona out of conference. Considering SMU, Memphis, Tulsa and Navy are continuing to get better I could easily see Houston take some steps back in the near future.

DT: SELL - The Major Applewhite hire didn’t make waves as it was a nice, if unspectacular hire, but I really think the Houston brass will be kicking themselves for not hiring Lane Kiffin. Yes he comes with baggage, but he is one of the best recruiters in the country and arguably one of the best offensive minds in college football. Tom Herman didn’t leave the cupboard bare, but I don’t think Applewhite can keep the momentum going.

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at East Carolina
Morris could have the Mustangs competing with the best, but will he be around long enough to bring SMU to the top?
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

SMU Mustangs

JB: SELL - This is why this program is a sell. Chad Morris can help SMU put up a lot of points offensively, and could have a breakthrough season. The only problem is that Morris is all but gone if that happens. Some Power 5 school will scoop him up. If that doesn’t happen, I’m not buying into a program that can’t (and hasn’t for a while) play defense. When your ranking is nearly in the triple digits in almost every category, it’s hard for anyone to buy into a program like that.

JS: SELL - This season could be huge for the future of this program. If Morris can get them to finish with a winning record, he is likely moving on to another job. If not, he could be around for a couple more years. As a fan, you obviously do not want a losing season, but that might be their best chance at stability in their program.

CS: PUSH - I like Chad Morris and what he’s doing in Dallas as the the roster is much more talented now but I just don’t know about the state of this football program. Especially if Morris leaves after a breakthrough season this year. With fan support still sub par, I feel like SMU needs a guy who wants to be there long term.

DT: PUSH - Morris has done a great job recruiting, but this feels like a stop gap situation for him. Once a bigger program calls, he’ll be gone, and where will the program go from there? I am predicting big things for the offense this year, but the defense will need to be vastly improved for them to reach a bowl.

Tulane Green Wave

JB: PUSH - I think Willie Fritz could do well, but he needs to get the offense going. It’s just his second season, so I think you should hold off before buying into this program. A bowl berth this season would show me that I need to buy in quickly. With the division they are in, it’s going to be hard for them to compete in this conference.

JS: BUY - Tulane knows they will never draw the top recruits and they made a great decision to neutralize that problem by following the service academies’ lead. In this day and age where spread offenses are taking over college football, teams are struggling to contain the triple option. They might not compete for championships, but they have found a way to be a more competitive team with their lesser talent.

CS: BUY - I’ll take some stock in Tulane. Hiring Willie Fritz was the best move this football program has made in years. Installing an option-heavy offense was the way to go for Tulane due to their academics shrinking their recruiting pool and given Fritz’s resume at his previous stop the Green Wave should be contending for bowl games very soon.

DT: Push - Tulane definitely needs stability, but school’s with strict academic guidelines always have trouble pulling in the top athletes in football. If the coaching staff lives that ABC (Always Be Crootin’) lifestyle then Tulane will make some bowl games, but if they can’t find good fits for the offense it could be a quick exit for Fritz and co.