Odds & Picks To Win The AAC

Are The Houston Cougars a smart bet?

Odds & Picks To Win The AAC

Can USF Fulfill Conference Title Odds as Prohibitive Favorites?

After getting the boot in Texas, New South Florida head coach Charlie Strong is getting a fresh start at the University of South Florida in 2017. Strong inherits a team that is ready to win after posting a stellar 11-2 mark in 2016 under former head coach Willie Taggart who left for the apparently greener pastures of Oregon.

Can Strong lead the Bulls to the American Athletic Conference title as prohibitive favorites or will South Florida be overtaken for the conference crown by one of their big-time bowl game rivals? Let’s find out now.

2017 Odds & Picks To Win The AAC Title

The Odds-On Favorite To Win The ACC: USF Bulls +160

The Bulls return a combined 16 starters from last year’s team including star, dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers (24 TD passes, 1,530 rushing yards). South Florida ranked a stellar 11th in total offense nationally last season and an even more impressive fourth in scoring as they put up a staggering 43.8 points per game. The Bulls have a ton of talent at the wide receiver position but will have to find a new starter to replace the gifted Marlon Mack who bolted for the NFL.

Defensively, USF was so generous that they basically had to outscore their opponents last season if they wanted to win games. The Bulls closed out the 2016 campaign ranked an uninspiring 120th in total defense and 92nd in points allowed (31.6 ppg). The good news is that seven players return for Charlie Strong on defense and this is a unit that can only get better.

The Smart Pick To Win The AAC: Houston Cougars +450

I know the Cougars lost widely-respected head coach Tom Herman to Texas following his successful run at Houston, but there’s still plenty of talent for new head coach Major Applewhite to work with and there won’t be a big learning curve seeing as how Applewhite has been the team’s offensive coordinator the past two seasons.

While the Cougars lost two-year, dual-threat starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr, they look like they’re in really good shape with a former five-star recruit and Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen taking over as the starter. If you didn’t know, Allen was the No. 1 high school quarterback in the country just three years ago.

The Cougars are hoping for a better season out of running back Duke Catalon after his injury-plagued 2016 season limited him to just 528 yards. Allen will have an elite wideout to throw to in Linnell Bonner and another steady pass-catcher in No, 2 wideout Steven Dunbar. Better yet, all five starters return on the offensive line for the Cougars.

Defensively, Houston was very good in finishing 13th in total defense and 30th in points allowed (23.5 ppg). The Cougars have a flat-out star in defensive tackle Ed Oliver, but they need to replace two starters at linebacker and two excellent defensive backs that are now playing in the NFL.

Houston has a manageable schedule, a possible star at quarterback, continuity at head coach and enough solid recruits from the Herman era to not only contend but to beat everyone out for the conference crown, including South Florida.

The Underdog Pick To Win: Temple Owls +1500

The Owls have been very good in recording two straight double-digit winning seasons the last two years, but they lost head coach Matt Rhule to Baylor following the 2016 season. The good news is that Temple made a smart hire by bringing in former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to lead the program in a new direction.

The bad news is that just a combined eight starters return so there will be a bunch of roster changes as well. While Collins has yet to name his new starting quarterback, the Owls do have a trio of elite receivers in Ventell Bryant, Keith Kirkwood and Adonis Jennings who combined for 123 catches, 2,017 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Defensively, Temple has a new coordinator in Taver Johnson the former defensive backs coach at Purdue. The Owls lost a bunch of players on defense, including five players who combined for 27 of their 41 total sacks a year ago, but they’ve also got their entire secondary returning so they should be fairly solid against the pass. After the best two-year run ins school history, the Owls could take a step backward in 2017 and no one would blame them. If USF or Houston falter, you can expect Temple to be the first ones in line to pick up the slack.