Can you hear that? It’s the sound of 10 million bedframes creaking and sports fans yawning as middle America emerges from its summer-long athletic hibernation. To paraphrase the Starks of Winterfell, “college football is coming.” You won’t hear a lot of talk about the American Athletic Conference on the big-name sports stations and that’s just not right, we’ve been knocking on the door of the Power Five for some time now. Never fear, ESPN’s chief print media rival, The Collegian, is here to give you the scoop. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming season in the AAC.
We Still Don’t Have a QB
When I was a freshman, there was a game during orientation where we had to find other freshmen who shared the same birth month as ours. After the stampede was over and the dust had settled, I found myself shaking hands with a guy who had the very same birthday as me: Chad President. He told me he was a quarterback and I’m not afraid to admit, I got unreasonably excited about being born on the same day as the future starting QB. Now we’re both juniors, the great Dane Evans has graduated, and I find out the guy isn’t even a lock for the job? Come on Coach Montgomery, I had a dream here! With the season opener less than a week away, President finds himself locked in a QB battle with Luke Skipper, a redshirt freshman out of Forney, Texas. Both are shifty and athletic scramblers, though it shouldn’t be a huge problem for the team that neither is a traditional pocket passer like Evans; you may remember that Montgomery found a great deal of success with an obscure mobile quarterback named Robert Griffin III back at Baylor. My guess is that President ends up running away with this thing. Though his arm doesn’t rate as highly as Skipper’s, he comes with a much higher pedigree (he was a former 4-star recruit) and has the advantage of having spent more time with the team and coaching staff. Plus, you know, he’s got the same birthday as the sports editor. That’s called good karma folks.
Keep An Eye On…
If, like me, you prefer the fuller beards and rounder stomachs of the NFL, one of the best parts of college football becomes scouring for prospects that you think will be huge at the next level. It’s a special thing to be able to say you watched guys like Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning tear up the gridiron on Saturdays before seeing their illustrious pro careers unfold on Sundays. The biggest name that should come out of the AAC this year is Quinton Flowers, UCF’s senior field general who happens to not only be one ofthe top players in the conference, but in the entire country. Flowers is a dynamic mobile quarterback reminiscent of Russell Wilson and Marcus Mariota who ran for 1500+(!!) yards last season and combined for 42 touchdowns in the air and ground. He’s a bit undersized but don’t be surprised if Flowers makes his way pretty far up the big board next April. Other individual standouts: TU’s very own De’Angelo Brewer, a consensus pre-season All-Conference pick who should take over the lead back role in an offense that rushed for over 3300 yards last season; Anthony Miller, Memphis’s stud wideout who put up a 95-1434-14 line in 2016; and Ed Oliver, Houston’s sophomore DE who might just be the second coming of Ndamukong Suh.
Reserve the Couch
Obviously every game that Tulsa plays deserves your absolute attention. We’re probably the most exciting team in the entire history of the sport. With that said, there are a few matchups in the conference you should probably pay particular attention to.
Tulsa at Oklahoma State, Aug 31: Two high-powered offenses against mediocre defenses. Prepare for an absolute slugfest, this thing is going over 100 combined points easily.
Temple at USF, Sept 21: The winner of this early matchup could establish themselves as the class of the conference going forward.
Houston at Tulsa, Oct 14: Remember when Tulsa was the Oil Capital of the World and not Houston? Pepperidge Farms remembers. Beyond that city v. city animosity that I’m probably making up, this game at Chapman Stadium with pit one of the best offensive lines in the country against one of the top front sevens.
Memphis vs. Tulsa, Nov 3: A third Tulsa game you say? Fight me, we’re a Tulsa paper. This could decide the winner of the AAC’s Western conference and also happens to take place on the birthday of a certain QB and sports editor. It’s like a sports movie! A bad one but still.
Army vs. Navy, Dec 9: One of the best rivalries in sports and yet somehow perpetually underrated, Army-Navy might be the only game in American sports that captures the rabid intensity of European football.
A team from the AAC crashing the New Year’s Six bowls would be a massive development for the conference, and this year USF looks like a legitimate chance to make it. They are the most talented team in the conference and also have one of the easiest schedules, taking on all of their toughest opponents — Temple, Houston, Tulsa, Cincinnati — at home. A 12-1 finish is not unlikely. Besides South Florida, Memphis, Temple, Houston, Navy, and Tulsa all look like safe bets to make Bowl games.