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AAC Mailbag: Power 6 Edition

We talk first-year coaches, AAC’s marketing plan and why we shouldn’t give Flowers the AAC POY just yet.

Postal Service Employees Work Through The Holiday Busy Period Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Chris Craig - In your opinion, do you think the AAC's strategic plan to become a "Power 6" conference will actually work, or is this just a marketing ploy that college sports fans will forget about after a few weeks. It seems like that marketing plan has great goals, but I'm not sure it will change the public's perception of them being a G5 conference.

UDD: This won’t be going away. The AAC has been trying to push this concept for a while now, and it only makes sense with the Group of 5 conferences trying to close the gap between them and the Power 5. Public perception is pretty negative at this point, but if Big Baller Brand can sell a knockoff shoe for a kid who hasn’t played a minute in the NBA for nearly $500, the AAC becoming a Power conference seems pretty feasible.

NCAA Football: South Florida-Charlie Strong Press Conference
Strong may have a star at quarterback, but everyone is expecting a playoff run, and that could add too much pressure.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

@JaredUTSA - Which new coaches in the AAC do you see having the best and worst first seasons, relative to expectations?

UDD: Charlie Strong has extremely high expectations placed upon him with the return of Quinton Flowers. It will be tough for the Bulls to duplicate their 11 win season in 2016, and with the departures of Marlon Mack and Rodney Adams, Flowers may struggle unless new weapons emerge. Just to be different, Luke Fickell will have the best season as a first year coach. Cincinnati gets brushed aside due to their struggles, but the Bearcats are due for a bounce back season.

@Sports4Heretics - If the AAC is serious about being a power conf., why add Tulane? And if "academics" is your answer, why add Tulsa?

UDD: Well they are already part of the conference, so no one’s really getting added. It wouldn’t be a good look for the conference to ditch these schools simply based off of one aspect. Some schools excel where others struggle, but that doesn’t necessarily make them useless to a conference. Becoming a Power conference should benefit the AAC as a whole, and provide more opportunities for their student-athletes.

@JakePendergist - If American got their way & became "P6" could that further make a Belt/CUSA merger a reality?

UDD: If you ask our fellow writers from these conferences, you will be hard pressed to find someone in favor of this idea. Frankly, I don’t know if a merger would make the two conferences more competitive. The only thing that makes some sense would be to realign the conferences based on location, but even that won’t happen. If anything, AAC becoming “P6” would force the Mountain West to consider becoming a seventh power conference.

@mx_lng - With twitter's new sports network in the works, do you think AAC looks at this to enhance profile? What other avenues possible?

UDD: With the AAC currently pursuing an opportunity of becoming a sixth power conference, it would seem they would pursue the same avenues that the Power 5 teams pursue. Over the past few years we’ve seen them have games on Friday and Thursday on ESPN. Games on ESPN and other bigger networks appears to be the direction they want to go. They want to be treated like the bigger conferences, so I doubt we see them go in the same direction as C-USA for now.

@SirrLance - Who has the best stadium in the AAC?

UDD: If you pick between Houston, Tulsa, Navy, and Cincinnati, you should be good. Regardless of who you pick, every other fan base will be upset. The Liberty Bowl (Memphis) may be the most unique in shape, so we will pick them for argument’s sake.

@SirrLance - What is the best defensive personnel grouping for AAC? There r so many styles of offense, Navy & Tulane's option, Temple's power, UCF spread

UDD: Being that the evolution of spread offenses has caused defensive coordinators to implement nickel based packages I’d say the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses are almost a rarity. I’ve never been a fan of the 3-3-5 defense as it lacks too much size up front as option-based teams like Tulane and Navy would feast. I’ll say the 4-2-5 as it gives you a nice complimentary of speed for the spread offenses and size for the run-heavy teams in the AAC.

@SirrLance - If you ranked them from 1-12 what are the best road destinations in the AAC?

UDD: Looking for a win? See ECU, Tulane, and UConn. Want to keep things interesting? Visit SMU, Cincinnati, and UCF. Looking for a lot of stress on your Saturday? Take on Temple, South Florida, Navy, Tulsa, Memphis, or Houston. Biggest takeaway? The AAC is going to be tough to navigate this year regardless of your path.

NCAA Football: Houston at Texas State
Khalil Williams will contribute to an experienced group of starters
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

@SirrLance - Which AAC teams have the best corners/safeties?

UDD: It remains difficult to keep teams in this conference off the scoreboard, but there are a few groups who should have good seasons in 2017. Temple is always known for their defense, and should always have a solid group and will bring back safety Delvon Randall. Houston has some valuable experience returning with Jeremy Winchester, Garrett Davis, and Khalil Williams. UCF lost Seattle Seahawks draft pick Shaquill Griffin, but has plenty of talent to replace him. Rashard Causey, Tre Neal, Nevelle Clark, and former four star recruit Kyle Gibson all have experience that could make them one of the top groups in the conference.

@ramincol - Do you see any conference challenging the AAC as the best conference below the P5?

UDD: Conference USA has made nice hires but they’ve still got a long way to go. I’ll say the Mountain West Conference. Boise State is still solid and as Houston saw in the Las Vegas Bowl, San Diego State is extremely tough. The bottom of the league is still bad (Fresno State, San Jose State, Nevada) but the middle of the conference is in good shape right now and if a few schools can take the next step this year (UNLV, Colorado State, New Mexico) we could see as many as four schools from the MWC ranked in the Top 25.

@JoeSerp - Could any QB challenge Flowers for AAC POY?

UDD: Yes, don’t give Flowers the award just yet, as he has plenty of problems to solve before the season begins. Flowers doesn’t have to endure the AAC West this year, and plays a somewhat favorable schedule, but there is still a ton of talent that could challenge him. The list of people include: Memphis QB Riley Ferguson, Memphis WR Anthony Miller, Houston DT Ed Oliver, Houston QB Kyle Allen, Tulsa RB D’Angelo Brewer, SMU QB Ben Hicks, SMU WR Courtland Sutton, and whoever may play quarterback for Navy (just ask Will Worth).