2014 American Athletic Conference Predictions and College Football Futures Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 8/19/2014
The American Athletic Conference is an imposter. It is a hobo, formerly known as Conference USA, with a stolen tuxedo and a $50 haircut. And this hodgepodge of third-rate programs, from New England to Texas, has linked up to created a wannabe power football conference.
That is not to say that there aren't a few decent teams poking around in this wasteland. Central Florida returns a stacked defense from a Top 10, BCS-bowl winning squad. Cincinnati is perpetually underrated in the college landscape. And Houston has been an incubator program for such inventive minds as Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin.
However, the bottom tier of this league is a mockery of college football. There are backwoods schools like Tulsa and South Florida. And afterthought city colleges like Tulane and Memphis. I see a lot of fledgling programs that are simply designed to con their way into some of that Big Time College Football Money.
But hey, another league means another avenue to gamble. And there are plenty of potentially juicy situations throughout the AAC slate this season. Here is a look at my 2014 American Athletic Conference football predictions and futures odds, with the college football odds courtesy of Bovada:
The Favorite: Central Florida (-175)
UCF had a dream season in 2013. They went 13-1, won a league title, won a BCS bowl game, and saw their stud quarterback drafted in the Top 10. I suppose there is nowhere to go but down for this group, though. The Golden Knights have nine starters and 16 of the top 18 tacklers back from one of the best defenses in the country last year. George O'Leary has them playing a very physical brand of football, and the Knights will have plenty of swagger after last year's wins over Penn State, Louisville and Baylor, as well as a near-miss against South Carolina. Replacing Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson is a significant chore. But whoever wins the job under center will have last year's top three receivers to work with. Central Florida will have to adjust to being a marked team this season. And the nonconference schedule, with games against Penn State in Dublin and at Missouri, will be a tough task .
The Challenger: Cincinnati (+400)
The Bearcats have posted double-digit wins in five of the last seven years and earned nine victories or more in six of the last eight seasons. Yet they never seem to garner the respect they deserve from the national media or the betting public. The Bearcats will be a force in this league again, and the schedule is ripe for another nine-win campaign. Cincinnati has seven starters back on an offense that should top last season's 33 points per game. The key is the adaptation of the new quarterback, Notre Dame cast-off Gunner Kiel. If the kid can play then he'll be the triggerman on a multifaceted attack. Cincinnati does have six returning starters and a host of athletes on defense. But they will need the offense to lead the charge if they are going to win this league. In a scheduling quirk, Cincinnati has two bye weeks to start the season leading into a stretch of eight straight games. One of them, a trip to The Horseshoe on Sept. 27, is a chance to go out and earn that national recognition it deserves.
The Dark Horse: Houston (+3300)
Houston has been a roller coaster program over the past several years, rolling from 10 wins in 2009 to five in 2010 to 13 in 2011 to five in 2012 to eight in 2013. They have 17 starters back from last year's somewhat surprising showing as the Cougars went on the road and put a major scare at Central Florida (19-14) and Louisville (20-13) in back-to-back weeks. Add in a one-point loss at BYU and a touchdown defeat versus Cincinnati, and all of UH's regular season defeats came by a touchdown or less. This team will use that as motivation in the 2014 campaign. They host Central Florida in a crucial Thursday night game in October, and the Cougars play seven of their first 10 at home. With games against the two top teams in the league, the Cougars control their own destiny in a wide-open AAC race. One thing to be wary of: Houston is coming off a 10-3 season against the spread, and they are 26-13 ATS the last three years. The books won't be overlooking them for much longer .
The Disappointment: East Carolina (+750)
East Carolina is another team that produced a high water mark for the program in 2013. Ruffin McNeil guided them to 10 wins, and ECU boasted one of the most explosive offenses in the nation (40.2 points per game). Quarterback Shane Carden is back at the controls this year, along with all-conference receiver James Hardy. But they represent two of just nine returning starters on this team. The Pirates have to step up in class this year, going from CUSA to the AAC. While that is mostly a semantic difference, they will still have some new opponents to prepare for. Regardless of McNeil's respectable 30-22 career mark, I still don't think he's a very good coach. And ECU's early-season schedule is a doozy, with South Carolina, Virginia Tech (who has revenge) and North Carolina (also with revenge) coming in three successive weeks in the first month. I think it will take an effort to get to 6-6 and back to a bowl game.
South Florida (+3300) - Perpetual underachievers USF finally hit rock bottom last season in head coach Willie Taggart's maiden voyage with the team. The Bulls went 2-10 and were noncompetitive in humiliating losses to McNeese State and Florida Atlantic, among others. South Florida has gone just 12-24 ATS the last three years. They have 10 starters back on offense and 15 returning starters total. But until I see this team offer up anything of substance they are strictly one to bet against or avoid completely.
SMU (+2500) - June Jones has only had four losing seasons in his career. He has rebounded from each of the past three with a winning season. Jones' chargers are always dangerous, and his fun-and-gun is always good for an upset or three. The problem for Jones has been retention and program building. He hasn't had more than 11 returning starters in each of the past two seasons and only has 12 this year. There is some individual talent on this roster. But still more questions and answers.
Connecticut (+2500) - The Huskies should've been much better than they were in each of the past three seasons. However, proven loser Paul Pasqualoni ran several very experienced Huskies teams into the ground, and now they are trying to reset things with new taskmaster Bob Diaco. Connecticut had some of the worst quarterback play I've ever seen during Pasqualoni's regime. And the position is a major issue heading to camp this year. The Huskies have an experienced defense, a quality running game, and the benefit of low expectations. If someone emerges under center they could be a surprise team at the window.
Tulane (+2500) - The Green Wave played way, way above themselves in 2013 and parlayed several wacky, inexplicable victories into their first bowl appearance in over a decade during a seven-win season. Now it is time to pay the piper. Tulane posted five outright wins as an underdog, and they were outgained and nearly outscored on the season. They will face two teams from the ACC and one from the Big Ten in the nonconference portion, and they will be running up against a host of revenge-minded opponents in the AAC. Tulane is stepping up from Conference USA, and I'll be surprised if this group manages to pull off more than three wins.
Tulsa (+2500) - This is an intriguing team this year and is sort of like SMU's shadow. Both teams rely on go-go-go passing offenses, and both are capable of springing an upset on an unsuspecting opponent. Bill Blankenship desperately needs better quarterback play this year. And if he gets it then a veteran line and receiving corps can compliment 10 returning starters on defense. Tulsa has one of the worst schedules in the AAC this year, though. They have six road games and a home game against Oklahoma. They are also stepping up in conference class. So while the win-loss record may not improve too much, I expect a more competitive season out of the Hurricane.
Memphis (+6600) - The Tigers are definitely a team to keep an eye on in the AAC this year. They don't have enough juice to contest for a league title. But they definitely could play a large role in who does take the crown. Memphis might have the second-best defense in the league this year (behind UCF's Top 20 national group). The Tigers boast an aggressive front seven, and they welcome back 17 starters. Memphis went just 3-9 last year. But they played each of the top four teams in the league tough, losing to UCF, Louisville, Houston and Cincinnati by an average of just 9.3 points per game. They have brutal nonconference games at UCLA and at Ole Miss. But the back half of the schedule sets up perfectly, and they could be a cash machine through October and November.
Temple (+7500) - Man, Temple football sucks. This is one of the worst programs in the country and has been dating back to its time scraping the bottom of the Big East. If you eliminate their solid three-year run between 2009-2011, the Owls have gone 18-63 SU the other seven seasons of this decade. They have eight starters back on a defense that's allowed an average of 30 points per game the last two years. And that's the nicest thing I can think to say about them. They may close the gap and be more competitive this year. But that's the best they can hope for.
2013 American Athletic Conference Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
3. Central Florida
5. East Carolina
6. South Florida
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc's Sport and he has earned over $9,000 in football profit for his clients over the last 15 football months. He went 5-1 last week with his NFL preseason selections and will have an 8-Unit and a 5-Unit NFL futures bet released this week. Also, for the first time ever, Robert will release selections from his incredible KING College Football Betting System. (Learn more HERE.) We are so confident that you will be amazed by this moneymaking system we are going to give you a free, no-strings-attached $60 credit to use toward a purchase of Robert's football selections. CLICK HERE for $60 absolutely free!
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