Why AAC teams make the College Football Playoff

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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We’ve reached the only Group of 5 conference to win a national championship in the last five years. It doesn’t matter that it was claimed because college football is weird already. Let it happen. UCF’s dominated this conference and the regular season (25 straight wins), even with a new coach. A couple teams have schedules that could push them into playoff conversation, but will they make it? That’s what we’re going to find out.

OTHERS: Sun Belt, CUSA, MW, IND, PAC 12, BIG 12, B1G, ACC, SEC

AAC East

UCF Knights

If someone’s going to make a run, it’s UCF. They’re talented enough to hang with almost anyone, but it comes down to the schedule. UCF could go undefeated again this year, and they still wouldn’t be in the playoff conversation. The AAC is tougher than many think, but beating Stanford and Pitt won’t be enough to push them into the playoff. A third consecutive NY6 would be a lock if they went undefeated. They just need Brandon Wimbush to prove he can run the offense in the absence of McKenzie Milton. Those are big shoes to fill. The Knights also survived a handful of close games last year, which may be tough to do again.

USF Bulls

Charlie Strong gutted his coaching staff this offseason in hopes that new faces means new life. USF won their first seven games last year, only to lose their last six. Blake Barnett showed he can be a great quarterback at times, but needs to stay healthy. The Bulls also get Wisconsin and Georgia Tech right off the bat, and have a brutal last month. It’s tough to see them going undefeated, but that would certainly get everyone’s attention.

Temple Owls

Temple’s gotta figure out this trend of slow starts the past two years. It shouldn’t happen again in 2019, but you never know. With a new coaching staff entering the picture (again), there will be plenty to work out. The Owls surprised many in the conference, and almost upset UCF, but that shouldn’t happen again this year.

UConn Huskies

Ha. Good one. Only way UConn makes the NY6 is if every other school drops their football programs.

ECU Pirates

Sleeper team in the conference this year. New head coach Mike Houston comes from James Madison, where winning was part of the culture. Pirates fans are hoping he can bring that back to their culture. It’s tough to see them beating NC State Week 1, and it’s even more difficult to see this team winning double digit games (especially in the AAC). Still, this team should win more than three games this year, and that’s a start towards a winning culture.

Cincinnati Bearcats

If you picked the Bearcats to surprise everyone in the conference, hats off to you. Not many saw it coming. Luke Fickell’s team started the surprises early by upsetting UCLA. The Bruins return on the schedule, followed by Ohio State. If Cincinnati wins both of those games, throw away everything we think we know. It’s probably still not a playoff worthy resume if they go undefeated, but it’s a no doubter for the NY6. They’re not surprising anyone anymore, so they don’t have that element this year.

AAC West

Memphis Tigers

Good news for the Tigers: their schedule is relatively easy. Bad news: it’s too easy for a playoff run. Ole Miss appears on the schedule in Week 1, but the other nonconference opponents (ULM, Southern, and South Alabama) are less than stellar. Memphis has a backloaded conference schedule which provides multiple tough tests, but this roster is loaded. Even with losses like Darrell Henderson, guys like Patrick Taylor Jr. step up. If they do make it to the conference championship game for a third straight time, they’ll most likely need to overcome UCF.

Tulane Green Wave

Tulane, once again, is being picked to make a run in the West. Last year, it didn’t work so well. This year should be different. Tulane’s offense is loaded, and it comes down to quarterback play. The Green Wave defense just needs to address the secondary. Besides the Auburn game, there aren’t many games to be extremely concerned.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Phillip Montgomery’s back is against the wall. After winning 16 games in his first two seasons, he’s followed that with just five in the past two. Quarterback play has doomed his teams the last two years, which is unfortunate given the talent on the team. Tulsa has plenty to work with again this year, but things could be rocky early with Michigan State and Oklahoma State presenting big challenges. Not to mention the tough AAC slate they get near the end of the season.

Navy Midshipmen

This isn’t the Navy team we’re used to seeing in the AAC. The triple option isn’t confusing teams, and the Midshipmen can’t seem to stop anyone. Malcolm Perry’s last audition at quarterback must go well for this team to turn things around, but there’s also a ton to replace (just six starters return).

Houston Cougars

A playoff appearance is possible. Yes, you read that right. A PLAYOFF APPEARANCE IS POSSIBLE. Houston just has to do the tough task of winning every game. Oklahoma, Washington State, and North Texas all appear on the schedule this year. Oklahoma’s made the playoff the last two years, Washington State’s coming off an 11 win season, and North Texas will make a run at the NY6 this year. Throw in conference games against Tulane, Cincinnati, UCF, and Memphis, and this team’s resume will scream playoff if they’re 13-0. Houston’s offense will score a ton of points, but it comes down to the defense. If the defense is even average, this team’s going places. One final year of D’Eriq King would be so fun to watch if it ended in a playoff appearance.

SMU Mustangs

Shane Buchele lost the starting job at Texas to Sam Ehlinger, and decided to transfer. Now, he’ll take over an offense that’s loaded at the skill positions. Besides TCU, no one on their schedule should overwhelm them. James Proche is set to have a big year, and it’s up to Buchele to determine how big it ends up being. The Mustangs are another team to watch in the West.

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