At long last football season is here. In fact, for the American Athletic Conference, it will kick off tonight with a conference bout at 8pm.
Below you will find my choice for the three best games in the conference this weekend and an educated guess at the winner. When I say "best" I am using a proprietary formula weighing significance, swag factor and entertainment value so no complaints, OKAY!!
Penn State vs. UCF in Ireland should be on this list, but I can't in good faith recommend waking up in time for the 8:30am kick-off to watch an AAC contender dismantle a B1G opponent. That should be a pretty cool one though.
3. Tulane at Tulsa, Thursday, August 27th, 8pm ET, CBS Sports
This is the first conference game of the season so the winner will be able to claim conference supremacy until at least UConn at USF on September 19th. Both Tulane and Tulsa are new to the conference, either would be very pleased to start the season with an AAC win against a familiar foe.
It will also be important for both of these teams to demonstrate that AAC Football is not an inferior product. Fans and well-wishers of the conference should hope for a polished performance from both teams. There may not be many watching on CBS Sports, but if you're starved for college football get in front of a TV Thursday night and put this one on.
Last year Tulane won at home 14-7. I think Tulane has improved since then and Tulsa took a step back. I'll take the experienced Tulane team on the road.
Pick: Tulane 20-14
Vegas Line: Tulsa -6.5
2. BYU at Connecticut, Friday, August 29th, 7pm ET, ESPN
BYU is a Top-40 team, but they have struggled in years past with early-season East Coast trips and are missing a few key players at running back and wide receiver. Their defense is impressive and quarterback Taysom Hill is a two-way force in their fast-paced offense.
This game is unique because it features the only head-coaching debut in the conference, that of UConn's Bob Diaco. Diaco is best known for being the defensive coordinator on Notre Dame's 2012 national runner-up-- a campaign which earned him the 2012 Broyles Award for best assistant coach in the country.
I think ultimately BYU will prevail, but this game could be closer than people think. Hey, if its good enough for the World-Wide Leader on a Friday night, it should be good enough for you too.
Vegas Line: BYU -16.5
Pick: BYU, 27-14
Game of the Week: SMU at Baylor, Sunday August 31st, 7:30 ET, Fox Sports 1
I'm picking this as the game of the week because the loser could score 70 points and it wouldn't surprise me one bit. What happens when an immovable force takes turns on the field with another immovable force? That's what we'll see on Saturday night as SMU takes their high-flying act to sky-high flying Baylor.
No. 10 Baylor knows the AAC all too well, having lost to their BCS representative in the Fiesta Bowl last year. The Bears were ranked sixth in the country going into that game and have had the bitter taste of losing as 17-point favorites on national television all off-season. I doubt they look past SMU.
The Bears return Heisman candidate Bryce Petty and an explosive offense that has been gashing opposing defenses since Art Briles took over in 2010. Last year they won the school's first Big 12 title since 1994. The school is proudly opening the brand-spanking-new McLane Stadium with this in-state matchup.
SMU is like a Baylor-lite-- they live and die by their ability to outgun teams in shootouts. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, they die more often that they live. Look for Baylor to win this one comfortably and stifle SMU's attack with an improved defense.
Vegas Line: Baylor -33
Pick: Baylor, 59-38