Welcome to our first edition of Choosing the AAC, where we pick every American Athletic Conference. The season is here, and almost everyone is getting started (USF played last week and Houston’s game was canceled due to Hurricane Harvey).
We start the year 1-0 because we were not picking San Jose State against USF last week.
Choosing AAC Records- Joe: 1-0 Joey: 1-0
Game of the Week
Temple at Notre Dame (Notre Dame -18.5, Saturday 2:30pm CT)
Notre Dame fans may be overlooking the Owls this week, but they shouldn’t be. The Irish are looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2016 campaign, but their first test is harder than expected. Temple’s defense has been one of the best in the nation (they finished third in total defense last year), and defensive minded head coach Geoff Collins should keep that tradition. Safeties Delvon Randall and Sean Chandler will be the leaders of the defensive secondary, but they will have their hands full in this game.
Not only do the Owls have to worry about Irish running back Josh Adams breaking through to the secondary, but receiver Equanimeous St. Brown is going to be playing on Sundays in the future for a reason. He has tremendous size and speed to make any catch, the Temple’s defense should make a point to find him on the field before each play. Notre Dame will be starting first year starter Brandon Wimbush and, should the Owls rattle him early, he could struggle in his first start.
Temple’s offense will rely on Ryquell Armstead running the ball, and hope that Ventell Bryant and Keith Kirkwood find passing lanes for whoever the Owls put at quarterback. With so much turnover on both sides of the ball on top of a new coaching staff, the Owls will hang tough, but not long enough.
Joe: Notre Dame 31 Temple 13
Joey: Notre Dame 28 Temple 10
The Rest of the AAC....
FIU at UCF (UCF -17, Thursday 5:30pm CT)
Scott Frost’s second year at UCF has many believing the Knights are for real, and their success appears to hinge on the development of a sophomore quarterback and a defensive secondary. McKenzie Milton has a year of leadership under his belt, and the dual threat needs to take a step in the right direction for the offense to be explosive. Defensively, all four starters in the secondary need to be replaced. If Milton can be a star, and the secondary helps the front seven, this team could be a major threat.
Joe: UCF 48 FIU 17
Joey: UCF 42 FIU 21
Austin Peay at Cincinnati (Cincinnati -49, Thursday 6:00pm CT)
After a few years of disappointment, Cincinnati fans have some excitement heading into this year. Luke Fickell has brought a fiery energy that hasn’t been around this program in a while. This is a good way for his Bearcats to start, and certain players need to improve this year. Quarterback Hayden Moore and running back Mike Boone need to show that they’re better than their 2016 production, and this game is a good way to start the season.
Joe: Cincinnati 41 Austin Peay 10
Joey: Cincinnati 35 Austin Peay 7
Tulsa at #10 Oklahoma State (Oklahoma State -18, Thursday 6:30pm CT)
Arguably could have been game of the week, but Tulsa may have less of a chance at winning than Temple does this week. Facing a potential playoff team, the Golden Hurricane need to be careful if they decide a shootout is what they want this game. Stopping Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph along with all of the talent around him might be too tall of a task for Tulsa’s defense.
Joe: Oklahoma State 51 Tulsa 28
Joey: Oklahoma State 63 Tulsa 21
Holy Cross at UConn (UConn -26, Thursday 6:30pm CT)
Rhett Lashlee has his hands full as UConn’s offensive coordinator. If he can prove that the offense isn’t as lifeless as last year, the defense will thank him. Just don’t overreact if they win big in this game.
Joe: UConn 28 Holy Cross 14
Joey: UConn 24 Holy Cross 6
UL-Monroe at Memphis (Memphis -25, Thursday 8:00pm CT)
If UL-Monroe can stop the Riley Ferguson-Anthony Miller combo, they might have a chance. They just have to deal with an experienced offensive line and a deep backfield. While Memphis’ defense needs to find a few starters, there’s no reason to doubt that this will be close.
Joe: Memphis 48 UL-Monroe 20
Joey: Memphis 54 UL-Monroe 14
Navy at FAU (Navy -10, Friday 7:00pm CT)
Lane Kiffin’s first matchup as head coach is against Navy, but at least he has the most hype of any Group of 5 team by a mile. Navy’s defense should show they are superior in this matchup, but can their offense produce enough points? The Owls have some athletes spread around their team, and they might hang on longer than expected.
Joe: Navy 31 FAU 23
Joey: Navy 24 FAU 20
Stony Brook at USF (No line, Saturday 3:00pm CT)
After sleep-walking through the first quarter against San Jose State, the Bulls should be wide awake for Stony Brook. Quinton Flowers didn’t do a ton to strengthen his already slim chances of winning the Heisman, so expect a monstrous first half.
Joe: USF 55 Stony Brook 10
Joey: USF 69 Stony Brook 17
James Madison at East Carolina (No line, Saturday 5:00pm CT)
East Carolina might be preparing harder than Alabama is for Florida State and vice versa. Ok, probably not, but they’re definitely taking this game seriously. The reigning FCS champs may have some suspensions to deal with, but they are a threat nonetheless.
Joe: James Madison 24 East Carolina 21
Joey: James Madison 28 East Carolina 27
Stephen F. Austin at SMU (No line, Saturday 6:00pm CT)
Stephen F. Austin’s only real hope is that they outscore SMU, but that might be impossible. SMU’s success offensively hinges on quarterback Ben Hicks, and the defense needs to improve it’s at least slightly competent this year. Keeping up with a Chad Morris offense is hard, and he can utilized multiple weapons this year.
Joe: SMU 41 Stephen F. Austin 17
Joey: SMU 38 Stephen F. Austin 24
Grambling at Tulane (No line, Saturday 7:00pm CT)
Tulane can play defense, but can they score on offense? Jonathan Banks is supplying plenty of excitement for Willie Fritz’s team, and he could be the X-Factor for them this season. Grambling was up 21-3 against Arizona last year before losing 31-21.
Joe: Tulane 28 Grambling 24
Joey: Tulane 27 Grambling 20