2024 Conference USA Football Preview

2024 Big 10 Conference Football Preview

2024 American Athletic Conference Football Preview

2024 American Athletic Conference Preview

Regular Season Win Totals

Memphis: 8.5
USF: 7.5
UTSA: 7.5
Tulane: 7.5
Army: 6.5
East Carolina: 6.5
FAU: 6.5
Rice: 6.5
UAB: 6.5
Navy: 5.5
North Texas: 5.5
Tulsa: 4.5
Charlotte: 3.5
Temple: 2.5

Coaching Changes

Tulane: Willie Fritz Out ~ Jon Sumrall In

Memphis Tigers 10-3 ~ 6-2 AAC ~ 4-7-1 ATS ~ 10-2-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 10/Defense 7

It was a great 2023 for Memphis last season as it went 10-3 with the three losses coming against teams that finished with 11 or more wins. The Tigers first year in the AAC was in 2013 and resulted in a 3-9 season overall but in the 10 seasons since, they have not posted a losing overall record. Even though they have the highest O/U win total at 8.5, they are not the betting favorite to win the AAC but seem to have the most complete team led by All-AAC quarterback Seth Henigan. He threw for 3,880 yards at a 67 percent completion rate while throwing 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Memphis finished No. 16 in total offense and No. 6 in scoring offense but in order to take the leap forward to make the title game and try and represent the conference in the CFP, the defense has to get better. Memphis was No. 95 in points allowed and No. 112 in total defense, however, they did allow 10 points or less in three of their last four games after giving up 32 points or more in seven of their first nine games. The conference schedule is not the best with three tough road games at USF, UTSA and Tulane. Win one of those, and another 9-3 season is doable with a higher ceiling based on their elite talent.

USF Bulls 7-6 ~ 4-4 AAC ~ 6-6-0 ATS ~ 7-5-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 10/Defense 8

The Bulls had a massive turnaround last season as after four straight losing seasons, three consisting of two wins or less, they finished .500 in the conference and .500 overall and won the Boca Raton Bowl over Syracuse 45-0 to provide some strong momentum heading into this season. But was it truly a good season? While the seven wins provided some confidence, all seven of those victories were against teams that did not finish with a winning record. The last time the Bulls had a victory over a winning FBS opponent was October of 2019 so if there is going to be consistent upward movement, this has to change. USF brings back one of the better quarterbacks in the AAC with Byrum Brown who threw for 3,506 yards with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while rushing for a team high 873 yards and 11 scores so the offense that finished No. 19 in the country overall should be just as good. But, in order to beat those better teams, the defense needs to shore up as the Bulls were No. 118 in total defense and No. 113 in scoring defense and there is experience coming back so they will be better. The AAC schedule is not horrible but the nonconference schedule includes Alabama and Miami FL.

UTSA Roadrunners 9-4 ~ 7-1 AAC ~ 5-6-1 ATS ~ 4-7-1 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 7

UTSA has won 32 games over the last three seasons and after four losses in its first four bowl games going back to 2016, the Roadrunners won their first ever bowl game, a 35-17 win over Marshall in the Frisco Bowl. Now comes the challenge of replacing the best quarterback in program history. Frank Harris set school records for passing yards (11,862), passing touchdowns (92), rushing yards (2,145), and rushing touchdowns (28) as a five-year player and four-year starter. Owen McCown, who led UTSA to that bowl victory, and Eddie Lee Marburger, who also saw action last season, will battle it out for the starting job. Leading receiver Joshua Cephus is also gone but running backs Kevorian Barnes, Robert Henry and Rocko Griffin, who combined for 1,883 yards rushing, are all back to provide offensive help until the passing game gets up to par. The Roadrunners were above average on defense, led by Trey Moore who won AAC Defensive Player of the Year and set a school record with 14 sacks, but he transferred to Texas so that is a big hole to fill while the secondary has to rebuild with three starters lost. The AAC schedule is tame as they miss two of the top three teams and get Memphis at home so UTSA can make it a success.

Tulane Green Wave 11-3 ~ 8-0 AAC ~ 5-7-0 ATS ~ 2-10-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 7

Tulane had a clean run through the AAC last season as it went 8-0 but lost to SMU in the conference championship and eventually lost to Virginia Tech 41-20 in the Military Bowl but was without its head coach and starting quarterback in that bowl game. The Green Wave are the only team in the AAC with a new head coach as Willie Fritz took the job at Houston and taking over is Jon Sumrall who comes over from Troy where he went 23-4 in two years as head coach. In order to continue his success and the recent success of the program, he needs a quarterback to step in and excel. Tulane is another team that has to replace a record-breaking quarterback with four-year starter Michael Pratt moving on and it will be a two-man competition with veteran backup Kai Horton and Oregon transfer Ty Thompson battling it out. The offense will lean on running back Makhi Hughes who rushed for 1,466 yards and seven scores as a freshman. The Green Wave were strong on the other side, ranking No. 39 in total defense and No. 24 in scoring defense and Sumrall is a great defensive coach, leading Troy to the No. 13 ranked defense last season. Their two toughest AAC games are at home so they should be contending again.

Army Black Knights 6-6 ~ 5-6-1 ATS ~ 5-6-1 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 3

Army is a conference member for the first time in 19 years and it should be a seamless transition. The Black Knights were inconsistent last season as they had some really good wins to counter some really bad losses to finish 6-6 but were ineligible for a bowl game as two of those six wins were against FCS teams. They have not had a losing season since 2019 and look to be in very good shape in extending that streak. One thing is certain as Army will run the triple option which is difficult to prepare for to begin with but now it will be facing some teams that have never seen it so surpassing its No. 11 rushing offense from last season is likely. Quarterback Bryson Daily led the team in rushing and he returns for his senior season while the top three running backs also are back. On the other side, the Black Knights finished No. 54 in total defense and No. 30 in scoring defense and the first team defensive depth chart consists of all juniors and seniors so this team is loaded with experience. The schedule sets up very well for Army to get back to a bowl as in the conference, it avoids Memphis, Tulane, and USF and in nonconference games besides Navy and Air Force, they have Lehigh and Notre Dame. This could be a real sleeper team to make a championship run.

East Carolina Pirates 2-10 ~ 1-7 AAC ~ 5-7 -0ATS ~ 4-8-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 7

It was a miserable campaign for East Carolina as it went 2-10 with one of those wins against Gardner Webb of the FCS and the only FBS win was against Florida Atlantic which was in a rebuild. The Pirates have had only two winning seasons since 2014 but those were in 2022 and 2023 so last season could be considered an anomaly should they bounce back which is expected as there was very little experience on the roster last year especially on the offense. East Carolina hit the transfer portal hard to improve that offense that finished No. 130 overall and No. 127 in scoring, bringing in Michigan St. quarterback Katin Houser, South Carolina wide receiver O'Mega Blake, and West Virginia/Florida St. wide receiver Winston Wright Jr. The offensive line lacked experience and it will be far better off in 2024. The defense was far from horrible as the Pirates were No. 38 overall and No. 40 in points allowed with only SMU and UTSA scoring 30 or more points in conference games and while they did lose a few key pieces, portal arrivals should keep the unit strong. The nonconference schedule is not horrible and in the AAC, East Carolina misses Memphis and USF while facing the bottom three projected teams.

Florida Atlantic Owls 4-8 ~ 3-5 AAC ~ 5-7-0 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 4/Defense 8

Lane Kiffin put together two 11-3 seasons in his three-year tenure in 2017 and 2019 but Willie Taggart was unable to keep that sustainable. Tom Herman was brought in to revitalize the program and while the Owls finished just 4-8 in his inaugural season, it was a better season than the record showed. Florida Atlantic lost four games by one score and had a lopsided win over USF and now in his second season knowing the players and bringing in some of his own, Herman should have the Owls turn the corner. The offense had a huge drop-off from the previous two seasons as they finished No. 102 in total offense and No. 89 in scoring offense and they turn to Marshall transfer Cameron Fancher at quarterback where he was average but has better personnel around him. The defense stayed level from 2021 and 2022 but it was not good enough to make up for the regression of the offense and the defense is now loaded with experience. Florida Atlantic faced six bowl teams last season and this year, the schedule is one of the easiest in the country and it faces only two bowl teams from last season, UTSA and USF. The Owls open at Michigan St. and then have winnable games against Army, FIU and Connecticut.

Rice Owls 7-6 ~ 4-4 AAC ~ 8-4-0 ATS ~ 6-6-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 8

Rice is coming off its first six-win season since 2014 but it could not carry that into a bowl win as it lost to Texas St. 45-21 in the First Responder Bowl. There is plenty of veteran experience back on both sides of the ball so while that normally could mean an even better season lies ahead, the schedule is not on the Owls side. Rice was inconsistent on both sides of the ball, ranking No. 84 in total offense and No. 56 in scoring offense and No. 53 in total defense and No. 83 in scoring defense. The reason for the yardage and scoring discrepancies on both sides were because of turnovers as the Owls had 26 giveaways and a -14 in turnover differential which were No. 126 and No. 128 in the country. To state the obvious, that has to be cleared up. On offense, the Owls got Temple transfer quarterback EJ Warner who should help immediately as he will be working behind four returning starters along the offensive line. The lack of takeaways hurt the defense and Rice was just 1-7 when it allowed more than three touchdowns. The schedule is a tough one as Rice faces the top four teams in the AAC, two at home and two on the road and the only real tough nonconference test is at Houston. Six wins are again doable but it will come down to Warner and the limiting of turnovers.

UAB Blazers 4-8 ~ 3-5 AAC ~ 6-6-0 ATS ~ 7-5-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 4

UAB finished just 4-8 a season ago in the first year under head coach Trent Dilfer, its first losing season since 2013. The Blazers had only one quality victory and of the eight losses, the first seven were all by double digits so the record indicates what transpired on the field. The issue was inexperience as UAB used 15 freshmen, 10 on defense which was by far the worst unit. The Blazers finished No. 121 in total defense and No. 130 in scoring defense but that experience will pay off in 2024 and their 21 takeaways were tied for No. 33 in the country which helped stop some of the bleeding. The potent offense has the chance to be just as good if they can find replacements for their leading receiver and rusher. The offense is led by Jacob Zeno who threw for 3,126 yards and 20 touchdowns last year while completing a school record 73.6 percent of his passes. He will have a veteran unit in front of him as the offensive line has a lot more experience than last season as four of five starters are back. UAB could use a 3-1 record in their nonconference games against Alcorn St., UL Monroe, Arkansas and Connecticut as the conference schedule is not in their favor with games against Tulane, USF and Memphis, the latter two on the road.

Navy Midshipmen 5-7 ~ 4-4 AAC ~ 4-8-0 ATS ~ 4-7-1 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 7

It was another tough year for Navy which has now had four straight losing seasons and to put that in perspective, not counting the COVID year, the Midshipmen had only two losing campaigns in its previous 17 seasons. This is the worst run since losing five years in a row from 1998-2002 and not making it five straight this season is realistic. Navy has been known for its strong rushing game for many years but the 194.6 ypg was the worst since 2001 (again, not counting 2020) when it averaged 182 ypg. The Midshipmen were 2-6 when failing to reach 240 rushing yards so the turnaround looks simple, get back to running the ball as first year head coach Brian Newberry tried to increase the passing game which did not go well, averaging just 105.7 ypg. Quarterback Blake Horvath has some decent experience and the job will be his to lose and he has the top three running backs returning to keep the offense in synch. The defense was outmatched against Notre Dame, USF and SMU but held its own outside of those games, finishing No. 47 in total defense and No. 39 in scoring defense. The back end of the defense will be the strength again. The schedule has three very likely wins and three very likely losses with the six toss up games all taking place on the road.

North Texas Mean Green 5-7 ~ 3-5 AAC ~ 7-4-1 ATS ~ 6-6-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 5/Defense 6

North Texas has been stuck in neutral after consecutive nine-win seasons in 2017-2018 as it has not finished over .500 since then. The Mean Green started off 3-3 last season but then faced the top four teams in the AAC and lost all of those games and were eliminated from bowl contention. Four of the seven losses overall were by one possession so it could have been a better season and the blame can be put on the defense that finished dead last in the country, allowing 476.4 ypg while the 37.1 ppg given up was No. 131. Clearly, this is an area that has to be improved and it can only go up from last season and there is a decent amount of experience returning. In order for it to be a successful season, the defense will likely have to make huge strides because the offense has plenty of question marks. Quarterback Chandler Rogers was sensational but he transferred out to California and North Texas has only one starter back from an offense that was No. 6 in the country and that is right guard Gabe Blair. Overall, the Mean Green lost their top five running backs and three of their top four receivers. The schedule is not ideal with nonconference games against Texas Tech and Wyoming and only avoid USF of the top four in the AAC.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane 4-8 ~ 2-6 AAC ~ 4-7-1 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 4

Tulsa is coming off a 4-8 campaign in the first season under head coach Kevin Wilson, the fourth time in the last seven seasons it has had four or fewer victories. The struggles were very evident, quarterback and defense. How bad was the quarterback play last season? Despite being tied at No. 21 in rushing attempts and finishing with the sixth highest run rate in the country, Tulsa had the second most interceptions thrown with 19. The Golden Hurricane utilized four different quarterbacks so there was no comfort level and it will likely be up to two of those, Cardell Williams and Kirk Francis, to battle it out and establish as the true No. 1 that will avoid mistakes. The running game will be just fine once again as Anthony Watkins and Bill Jackson, who combined for 1,303 yards, both return. While a quarterback needs to make this a stable offense, the defense needs a big turnaround. Tulsa finished No. 127 in total defense and No. 120 in scoring defense and when the offense finishes No. 121 in total turnovers, this will not do it. The personnel is in place for improvement and the one aspect they would like to carry over were the 21 takeaways, tied for No. 33. The AAC schedule is the easiest in the conference so a .500 season is in reach if those vital areas improve.

Charlotte 49ers 3-9 ~ 2-6 AAC ~ 6-6-0 ATS ~ 6-6-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 5

Since entering the FBS in 2015, Charlotte has had only one winning season when it went 7-6 in 2019. The 49ers moved to the AAC last season, coming over from C-USA and it duplicated its record from 2023 where it went 3-9 overall and 2-6 in conference games. Biff Poggi is entering his second season as head coach after coming from Michigan where he was associate head coach and it was evident he brought that same culture with him. The defense saw major improvements as it had its best season since 2018 as the 49ers finished No. 61 in total defense. They did allow an unproportional amount of points but a lot of that was due to the offense turning it over 22 times, putting the defense in tough places. The defense was good enough to win but the offense struggled mightily. Charlotte was ranked No. 118 in total offense and No. 226 in scoring offense as it was held to just 17.5 ppg. With plenty of experience in the backfield and a stronger offensive line thanks to the transfer portal, it comes down to the quarterback battle between Florida transfer Max Brown and incumbent Trexler Ivey. It will be tough to surpass the 3.5 wins with nonconference games against James Madison, North Carolina and Indiana and a tough AAC slate.

Temple Owls 3-9 ~ 1-7 AAC ~ 3-9-0 ATS ~ 6-6-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 5/Defense 5

While not quite to same degree, this recent Temple run is looking similar to the 2003-2006 Temple teams when it went a combined 4-42 in its final two years in the Big East Conference and two years as an Independent. The recent Owls have gone 10-33 the last four seasons, including just four AAC wins, so while it is not as dire, the five consecutive winning seasons prior to this seem like eons ago. Blowouts were common and Temple finished with the worst scoring differential in the conference at 14.6 ppg. The good news is that they are in the third season under the systems of head coach Stan Drayton but the bad news is that they have lost most of their talented played from 2023 so it is looking like yet another rebuild. Gone is quarterback EJ Warner who transferred to fellow AAC team Rice and on the other side, the front seven was hit hard with the losses of Layton Jordan and Jordan Magee in declaring for the NFL Draft. Junior Forrest Brock is the only quarterback to have thrown passes with the Owls and those amount to only 15. There is limited experience at running back and receiver as well. Defensively, the early depth chart shows seven transfers on the first team. The schedule is not great which will make it even tougher for Drayton to keep his job.

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