Ladies and gentlemen, the season is essentially upon us. So, you know what that means. IT’S TIME FOR PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS!!!!!!!! There aren’t any surprises at the top of the AAC, but the middle is packed with potential to move up and down. The bottom is who you would expect too. So basically, it’s the same as last year. So here it is, the 2019 Preseason AAC Power Rankings.
1. UCF Knights
Until you beat the best, you can’t be the best. UCF runs the AAC until further notice. That may very well change as the season progresses, but the Knights enter the year as the top team in the conference. We will see how good Brandon Wimbush can be in this offense, but he has the potential to keep the offense running at a high level.
Memphis gets the second spot because they have a ton of talent returning from a team that made it to the conference championship. The Tigers are the favorite to overthrow UCF (if that happens), but they won’t get a shot at the Knights in the regular season. The offense relies on the development of Brady White, but has another monster running back in Patrick Taylor Jr. The Tigers defense returns a lot, but must show improvement to win the West division.
Desmond Ridder and Michael Warren II are back on offense, and that should be enough to keep things going well. The defense will be solid again this year. Games against UCLA and Ohio State will be tough, but we’ve seen how competitive this team can be against superior competition. Cincinnati enters the year as the top threat to UCF to win the East division.
We all know about D’Eriq King and the offense, but it’s the defense that will determine how high this team soars. Dana Holgorsen’s staff brought in talent at key positions on defense, and it should be a much better group this year. It’s a long shot, but Houston’s schedule is College Football Playoff worthy. They just have to get past Oklahoma, Washington State, and North Texas in non-conference play. Winnable games, but an undefeated season is a tall order.
We’ve heard it all offseason: buy into the Green Wave stock now before it gets too high. Tulane has all of the tools to compete for the West title, and it’s not just one side of the ball. Justin McMillan runs an offense loaded with playmakers, and Patrick Johnson leads a defense that should be stout.
6. USF Bulls
Charlie Strong’s back was against the wall, but he made changes. He brought in Kerwin Bell to run an offense that struggled mightily at times (especially without their starting quarterback). Blake Barnett showed signs of greatness last year, but he also showed inconsistencies more often. If Bell truly was the answer to the offensive woes, watch out for the Bulls.
7. SMU Mustangs
Sonny Dykes is now settled in, and his team’s ready to make a run. The skill players on offense are some of the best in the conference, and it comes down to the quarterback. Shane Buchele should win the job, but will be tested. Dykes also needs the defense to step their game up for a division title to happen.
8. Temple Owls
It seems like the Owls overachieved the last couple years, and it might finally catch up to them. Rod Carey comes in as the new Temple coach, and he has plenty to address before his first game, starting with the quarterback. Anthony Russo appeared to lock up the starting quarterback spot, but didn’t play great. A new running back must be found to replace Ryquell Armstead. Delvon Randall and Rock Ya-Win leave from the secondary to the NFL. Temple could make a run again and surprise us all, but there’s plenty to do before then.
9. ECU Pirates
ECU’s ceiling appears to be a bowl game this year. New head coach Mike Houston inherits a program desperate for success after the last few years of losing. His quarterback, Holton Ahlers, is full of potential, but needs some guidance. His defense was better last year, but still needs work. Houston brings a culture of winning from James Madison to the Pirates, but it might be a while before the new culture settles in with his new program.
Phillip Montgomery’s in win-now mode. He must in order to keep his job. The two biggest things he must fix? A quarterback and his defense. Baylor transfer Zach Smith battles with sophomore Seth Boomer for the starting quarterback job. Boomer played most of the season last year, but was wildly inconsistent. Tulsa’s defense also wasn’t the best, and needs some help. It feels like he needs a bowl game in order to keep his job. That’s a tough goal to achieve after winning only five games the last two years combined.
11. Navy Midshipmen
It sucks putting them this low, but this team has a ton of questions. Malcolm Perry is moving back to quarterback again, but will it work this time? Navy doesn’t return many starters on either side of the ball, but maybe that’s what they need to reset. Ken Niumatalolo’s been successful at Navy up until this point, so we trust he can turn this ship around.
12. The $17 million payers
How will we write about UConn in a positive way without David Pindell? We’re not sure, and we’re open for suggestions. We’ll try to refrain from saying too many negative things now, because the season hasn’t started yet.