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2021 AAC Football Schedule Announcement and Predictions

Everyone’s chasing Cincinnati, but there are plenty of contenders.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 19 AAC Championship - Tulsa at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Schedule releases make the upcoming season appear as if it will start soon, even if it’s still months away. The AAC joined the party by releasing its schedule for the 2021 season, and there’s a ton of excitement for many teams. Today we take a look at each teams schedule and make some predictions about each teams record for the upcoming season.

UCF

Ceiling: 11-1 Floor: 7-5 Prediction: 9-3

Gus Malzahn starts his first year in Orlando with the potential to keep the ball rolling for the Knights. Games against Boise State at home and Louisville on the road give them a chacne to make some noise, but also present tough challenges. UCF avoids Tulsa this year (that’s a weird thing to write), but has to travel to Cincinnati and SMU. The Knights will be favored in nearly every game, and it will be interesting to see how the fare.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Cincinnati v Georgia
The Bearcats are the defending champs, and could go undefeated again in 2021.
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Cincinnati

Ceiling: 12-0 Floor: 9-3 Prediction: 10-2

The defending champs retained head coach Luke Fickell and a number of key talent on both sides of the ball, which is good with the schedule presented. Road games against Indiana and Notre Dame are HUGE for both the Bearcats and the conference, but will test them. They also get UCF and SMU at home. An undefeated season is definitely in play once again, but it won’t be as easy as it was last year.

ECU

Ceiling: 7-5 Floor: 2-10 Prediction: 6-6

It’s been an underwhelming career for Holton Ahlers, but he can go out with a bang in 2021. Can the Pirates surprise us in some of these games? Sure, but we have to see it first. The trio of Appalachian State, South Carolina, and Marshall is brutal way to start. Two of those are winnable, but it feels like the Pirates would be 1-2 at best coming out of them, and 2-2 heading into conference play.

Houston

Ceiling: 9-3 Floor: 6-6 Prediction: 7-5

Before Cougars fans get on me, I’m keeping my expectations low. Optimistically, a 4-0 start is in play before they get Tulsa and Tulane on the road. Houston also avoids UCF and Cincinnati, which is huge. They also get USF, Temple, and UConn at the end of their schedule. Home games to SMU and Memphis also present challenges which will show us how far Houston has come under Holgorsen or how far they still need to go.

Memphis

Ceiling: 9-3 Floor: 5-7 Prediction: 6-6

Ryan Silverfield did well in the latest recruiting cycle, and there’s still plenty of talent to keep the Tigers success going. However, they took a step back last season, and it’s a trend that I don’t see stopping in 2021. The first game should be a win, but the next three nonconference games against Arkansas State, Mississippi State, and UTSA will be interesting. Memphis won’t have to face Cincinnati, but they get UCF and SMU in the back half of their season.

Navy

Ceiling: 7-5 Floor: 2-10 Prediction: 4-8

This pains me to write, but I hope I’m wrong with my prediction. Navy stumbled out of the gate last year, and never really recovered after that. The Midshipmen start the season with Marshall and Air Force at home, and then enter a gauntlet of teams that will be favored against them. Houston, UCF, SMU, Memphis, Cincinnati, Tulsa, and Notre Dame make up the meat of the schedule, and it’s tough to find wins in that stretch.

USF

Ceiling: 5-7 Floor: 2-10 Prediction: 4-8

Jeff Scott still has a ton of work to do, but we should see some improvement from the Bulls this year. An 0-2 start seem inevitable with NC State and Florida leading the way, and they don’t really catch a break outside of Florida A&M in Week 3. USF’s final four games feature home games against Houston and Cincinnati before finishing on the road with Tulane and UCF.

SMU v Texas State
Dykes and the Mustangs have championship potential.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

SMU

Ceiling: 11-1 Floor: 7-5 Prediction: 9-3

SMU is the most volatile team in the conference this year. They have the talent to win it all, especially on offense, but can they play enough defense to win a title? A 7-0 start is more likely than not, but we saw in 2019 what that kind of start can turn into, and the 2021 schedule doesn’t do them many favors at the end. Tulane, Houston, Memphis, UCF, Cincinnati, and Tulsa all await to end the Mustangs season.

Temple

Ceiling: 4-8 Floor: 1-11 Prediction: 3-9

How is Temple going to find three wins? I don’t know. Akron and Wagner figure to be wins, and then they just have to find a way to beat USF, ECU or Navy. If either of the first two “wins” actually turn out to be losses, this gets ugly quick.

Tulane

Ceiling: 7-5 Floor: 4-8 Prediction: 6-6

Oklahoma comes to Yulman for one of the most exciting games the program has seen at home, but it’s a for sure loss. Same with the trip to Ole Miss. Maybe this is the year that Tulane stuns everyone and competes for a conference title, but it’s tough when you get SMU, Cincinnati, UCF, and Tulsa all in a four week span.

Tulsa

Ceiling: 9-3 Floor: 7-5 Prediction: 8-4

Zach Smith’s replacement will be the biggest factor in the 2021 Tulsa season. The defense gets nearly everyone back, and will keep Tulsa in games this season, but it comes down to what the new quarterback can do. Before Smith, Philip Montgomery’s job was at stake and not going the right way. Now he finds himself in familiar territory. They don’t get UCF, but they face Cincinnati and SMU on the road in the month of November. Nonconference games feature Oklahoma State and Ohio State, which could set the tone for the entire season.