The American Athletic Conference figures to be just as competitive this season as it was last season. Cincinnati and UCF really played well in 2013.
But UCF will be without their star QB, Blake Bortles, who headed to the NFL after last season. Can UCF survive without their leader? What about Cincinnati? Are they the team to win the American Athletic Conference?
— Pee Dee (@theECUmascot) August 13, 2014
2014 American Athletic Conference Preview
Cincinnati Bearcats – The man coaching Cincinnati, Tommy Tubberville, knows exactly how to put together a winning team. He scored a national championship with Auburn. Tubberville knows defense, which should make the Bearcats the team to beat in 2014 because the offense is loaded.
Connecticut Huskies – The Huskies have a new coach, Bob Diaco, who was Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator. On offense, they’ll put up some points, but the team probably isn’t going to win the American Athletic Conference.
East Carolina Pirates – The Pirates were 10 and 3 last season, but they only return 11 total starters from that team. At least one of the starters is QB Shane Carden who completes over 70% of his passes.
Houston Cougars – The quarterback, John O’Korn, is now a sophomore. Unless he takes a step back, he’ll have the Cougars in most games. The defense forced 43 turnovers last season. This is a tough squad.
Memphis Tigers – The Tigers return 8 on defense meaning that Memphis should but much better in 2014.
Southern Methodist – Expect this team led by experienced coach June Jones to put together a winning season. A title may not be possible, though.
South Florida – Sure, South Florida went 2 and 10 in 2013, but the squad returns 16 total starters and the recruiting class by most accounts is considered the best in the conference. Improvement is expected and should happen.
Temple – Temple will be competitive because their QB, P.J. Walker, ranked third in passing efficiency behind Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles in 2013. Both Bridgewater and Bortles are in the NFL.
Tulane – The Green Wave returns 14 starters. That could make them a contender in the American Athletic Conference. The key will be how they handle a schedule where they play 7 teams that played in bowl games last season.
Tulsa – With 19 returning starters from 2013, the Golden Hurricane could be one of the surprise teams in the American Athletic Conference.
UCF – George O’Leary’s squad returns 9 starters on defense. That makes them as good as any team in the conference even though they don’t have Bortles under center.
American Athletic Conference Winner
UCF, Houston and Cincinnati figure to battle it out for the conference title. Tulsa, Temple, East Carolina and South Florida could all surprise but when it comes to winning the championship, it should be a battle between Cincinnati and UCF.
The winner will be determined by how well Cincinnati’s defense plays. We write that because we know that UCF, with so many returning starters on defense, will be exceptionally tough on Cincinnati’s offense.
If Cincinnati’s defense can play as well as UCF’s, then UCF’s offense, which will be worse than last season because of Bortles moving to the NFL, could underperform, putting the championship trophy into the hands of the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Pick: Cincinnati Bearcats.