You ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking you have hours to sleep only to realize your alarm is about to go off in two minutes? That’s what the end of college football feels like. Yeah, spring football is fun and all, but it’s nothing like the actual season. To ignore our sadness, we look forward to the next season. So, with that being said, here’s out latest installment of “Way Too Early” Power Rankings. You’ll like them if your team is ranked high enough, and you’ll hate them if your team’s too low.
Consecutive 11-win seasons surprised many around the AAC, but it appears that the Bearcats are here to stay. Cincinnati came close to winning a conference championship, but couldn’t overcome a great Memphis Tigers team. Desmond Ridder returns for his third year as the leader of the offense, but must find new targets as two of the top three are gone. Just like the last two years, Cincinnati’s defense returns a ton of talent and should be one of the best in the country again.
2. Memphis Tigers
Memphis returns a bunch of talent on both sides of the ball, but some key pieces are gone on top of a new coaching staff entering the picture. Damonte Coxie announced he’d return for his senior season, and the receivers are stacked once again. Patrick Taylor’s career is over, but we saw Kenneth Gainwell can handle the workload along with a couple backups like Kylan Watkins. Replacements for Bryce Huff, Austin Hall and Chris Claybrooks are needed on defense, a group that was decent but not great this year.
3. UCF Knights
Even with a suspect (at times) offensive line, the Knights were still an explosive offense. Freshman Dillon Gabriel took over the starting job, and kept the offense humming. He’s back, and McKenzie Milton returns to the picture as well. There are so many questions surrounding Milton’s health and abilities on the field after his scary injury, so his status will be TBD until further notice. Tre Nixon and Marlon Williams give the Knights threats on the outside, and the backfield’s loaded again. Early exits figure to be the only concern on defense, and UCF could have another loaded secondary in 2020.
4. Temple Owls
All three linebackers must be replaced on defense, and the Owls took a big hit when AAC Defensive Player of the Year Quincy Roche announced he’d transfer. They’re still in good hands though with six other starters returning. Anthony Russo and Todd Centeio figure to share time at quarterback again next year, and both benefit from having Branden Mack and Jadan Blue back at receiver. Temple’s another team that surprised us this year, but now must replace key pieces on both sides of the ball.
D’Eriq King and Keith Corbin return to the offense afters sitting out most of 2019, and Dana Holgorsen also brings in a number of big-time transfers. Former Alabama linebacker and five star recruit Eyabi Anoma draws the most attention, and Cougars fans will have high expectations for him on a defense that needs more playmakers. Houston’s offense also benefits from tackle Jarrid Williams receiving a sixth year of eligibility. With all of the potential talent on both sides of the ball, don’t sleep on the Cougars in 2020. Yes, there are concerns, but the ceiling has been raised already.
The emergence of a quarterback is once again required for the Midshipmen next season. Malcolm Perry’s career comes to an end, and a new leader must emerge. Fullback Jamale Carothers gave fans a ton to be excited about next year, however, and helps the winner of the quarterback battle get into the groove of the season. Only a few other players are gone on both sides of the ball, leaving Navy in good hands for 2020.
7. SMU Mustangs
Shane Buechele and Reggie Roberson both return for the Mustangs offense, and that’s enough to keep the run going in 2020. The losses of Xavier Jones, Ke’Mon Freeman, and James Proche hurt, but Sonny Dykes will find a way to keep the offense explosive. Patrick Nelson and Rodney Clemons, two leaders on the defense, are gone, leaving the door open for others to step up in their absence. Once again, the offense will shoulder most of the responsibility early in the season while the defense figures things out.
Phillip Montgomery enters a crossroad in his sixth year with the school. A bowl game becomes a must for this team and their coach after three consecutive losing seasons. With the talent returning, that’s more than feasible. If all goes according to plan, Tulsa needs to replace just two players on offense. Zach Smith brought balance to the quarterback position we haven’t seen since Dane Evans ran the show. He’s joined in the backfield by Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor II, who return 4,190 career yards and 45 career touchdowns worth of experience. The Golden Hurricane defense must sort things out, but the offense could be fun to watch next season.
The Green Wave will rebuild offensively in 2020. Seemingly every top playmaker and their backup will be gone next season, so new faces will run the show. Tulane’s defense won’t see as much turnover, and should be solid once again. After a disappointing year given preseason expectations, being an underdog might be just where Willie Fritz wants his team.
10. ECU Pirates
A young, blooming quarterback in Holton Ahlers continues to show improvement as a passer, and freshman C.J. Johnson emerged as a dangerous threat at receiver. If the Pirates can find a rushing attack, the offense can be one of the best in the conference. The defense loses three of its top four defensive linemen, but everywhere else is fairly set. Mike Houston still has work to do with this team, but there’s potential for a run in 2020.
11. USF Bulls
Now that UConn’s gone, someone has to be last. USF can be a good team, and they have the talent to prove it, but they’re hurting for some consistency right now. New head coach Jeff Scott should inject some life into the program, but how much remains the question. Right now, there are more questions than answers, but Scott should turn it around. Jordan McCloud’s an interesting player to watch, and showed some flashes in 2019.