Many of the American Athletic Conference teams will begin conference play this week, and it’s time to assess them as the AAC grind begins.
There have been two AAC games already played, with Memphis beating Navy 28-24 and South Florida downing Rice 42-29.
Here is a look at each team now that most are finished with non-league games. In another month, we will reassess the true contenders for the AAC’s two playoff berths.
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Listed in alphabetical order
Alabama-Birmingham (1-3, 0-0) After losing 49-21 at Georgia, new coach Trent Dilfer’s Blazers now must visit Tulane on Saturday. That’s not the easiest way to jump into AAC action. UAB ranks 13th in the AAC in scoring defense, allowing 36.3 ppg.
Charlotte (1-3, 0-0) The 49ers have been respectable in two Power Five losses, 38-20 at Maryland and 22-7 at Florida. The big problem has been on offense, where Charlotte is 13th in the AAC in scoring, averaging 19 ppg.
East Carolina (1-3, 0-0) The non-league schedule has been tough with losses at Michigan (30-3), home against Marshall (31-13), and at Appalachian State (43-28). The Pirates beat Gardner Webb 44-0 last week at home. This is a team that should challenge for a bowl bid, but won’t match last year’s 8-win total.
Florida Atlantic (1-3, 0-0) After opening with a 42-20 win over FCS Monmouth, FAU has lost three in a row to Ohio 17-10, at Clemson 48-14, and at Illinois 23-17. In last week’s loss to Illinois, junior quarterback Daniel Richardson made his first start as an Owl and completed 28-49 for 256 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. A transfer from Central Michigan, Richardson looks to help improve an offense that averages 20.8 ppg.
Memphis (3-1, 1-0) The Tigers lone loss was this past week, 34-27 in St. Louis against a Missouri team that is 4-0 and might be better than advertised. One concern is that standout quarterback Seth Henigan has already thrown five interceptions. The Tigers host Boise State this week in what should be an excellent tune-up before finishing their final seven games against AAC opponents.
Navy (1-2, 0-1) The defense should keep Navy in most games, but the Midshipmen are last in the AAC in scoring offense (17 ppg.). After an opening 42-3 loss to Notre Dame in Ireland, Navy beat FCS Wagner 24-0 and lost a close one at Memphis 28-24.
North Texas (1-2, 0-0) The Mean Green’s lone win was 40-37 over a Louisiana Tech team that just lost 28-14 to Nebraska. North Texas’ losses were at home to California 58-21 and 46-39 at FIU. North Texas is last in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 47 ppg. That can’t continue if the Mean Green wants to be competitive.
Rice (2-2, 0-1) A big highlight was a 43-41 double OT win over neighboring Houston, but the Owls took a step back with last week’s 42-29 loss at USF. Well-traveled QB JT Daniels has made a big difference, with 1,137 passing yards, 11 TDs, and three interceptions. Rice should contend for a bowl game, but the defense, which allows 31.8 ppg, remains questionable.
South Florida (2-2, 1-0) The Bulls have already surpassed their win total from last year when they went 1-11. They were impressive defensively in a 17-3 home loss to Alabama and followed that up with last week’s 42-29 home win over Rice as Byrum Brown threw for 434 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 81 yards and a score. In the early going, USF has shown that it is no longer an automatic W for opponents.
SMU (2-2, 0-0) The Mustangs have suffered their two losses to Big 12 teams, 28-11 at Oklahoma and 34-17 last week at TCU. SMU remains an AAC contender, but QB Preston Stone has to play better. He has thrown nine TD passes, but five came in a rout of Prairie View A&M.
Temple (2-2, 0-0) The Owls appear improved from a 3-9 team, but there were no surprises in the preseason. Home wins over Akron and Norfolk State were expected, and losses at Rutgers and in Philadelphia vs. Miami were expected as well. Even though the Owls lost 36-7 at Rutgers, it was just 13-7 early in the fourth quarter. Sophomore E.J. Warner has completed 53.5% of his passes and thrown five TD passes and four interceptions. He will need to pick up his play.
Tulane (3-1, 0-0) The Green Wave’s lone loss was a 37-20 home defeat to Ole Miss in a game the Rebels outscored Tulane 20-3 in the fourth quarter. It was the first of two games that Tulane QB Michael Pratt missed due to injury. He returned in last week’s 36-7 victory over Nicholls State. With a healthy Pratt, Tulane is a major threat to defend its AAC title.
Tulsa (2-2, 0-0) The schedule has been difficult as the Golden Hurricane lost to Power Five schools Washington and Oklahoma by a combined 109-27 margin. Tulsa is not considered a contender but should be competitive. Safety Kendarin Ray (38 tackles) is an impact player on D.
UTSA (1-3, 0-0) This has arguably been the most disappointing AAC team. Seventh-year QB Frank Harris has missed the last two games due to injury, a 37-29 loss to Army and last week’s 45-14 defeat at Tennessee. The lone win was impressive, 20-13 over a good Texas State team. UTSA lost its opener 17-14 at Houston. A defense allowing 28 points per game must improve if the Roadrunners plan to contend in the AAC.