AAC Preview: 10 must-see games
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll take an in-depth look at the upcoming American Athletic Conference football season from various angles. Players, pivotal matchups, prevailing story lines -- all will be dissected. Today: 10 must-see games.
Houston vs. Oklahoma, Sept. 3 (at Houston's NRG Stadium)
We're calling it now: The Cougars topple the Sooners in an upset that USF fans might view with mixed emotions. On one side, it strengthens the overall cachet of the American Athletic Conference, which boasted a pair of top-20 teams in the final 2015 Associated Press poll. On the other, it fortifies Houston's case for candidacy in the Big 12, which does USF no favors in its own case for Big 12 admission.
Connecticut at Navy, Sept. 10
While this matchup may not leap out at most folks, it could signal a slight conference power shift. UConn, entering Year 3 of the Bob Diaco era, returns most of its starters from a unit that ranked 15th in scoring defense last season. Navy, meantime, must replace almost everyone on offense.
SMU at Baylor, Sept. 10
Granted, SMU's defense was putrid last year, but the same adjective applies to Baylor's offseason. Second-year Mustangs coach Chad Morris has some athletes on his roster. This one could be interesting.
Temple at Penn State, Sept. 17
Another non-conference showdown that could add a nice sheen to The American brand. Temple, a 27-10 winner against Penn State last season, hasn't defeated the Nittany Lions in consecutive years since 1931-32.
FSU at USF, Sept. 24
When this game arose in newsroom conversation the other day, it was mentioned as possibly the most important contest in the Bulls' brief history. Amid possible Big 12 expansion and a feasibility study for an on-campus stadium, USF is in dire need of a big-time win, if for nothing else than to ratchet up fan support. The Bulls have a real chance here if they can find an answer for 'Noles TB Dalvin Cook, who shredded them (266 rushings yards, three TDs) last season in Tallahassee.
Temple at Memphis, Oct. 6
The Owls' surprising 31-12 romp of Memphis last November helped propel them into the inaugural AAC title game. We expect similar implications in this Thursday night rematch, in which both teams will be playing for the second time in six days. Temple hosts SMU the prior Saturday; Memphis plays at revenge-minded Ole Miss.
USF at Temple, Oct. 21
Quite possibly the AAC East championship game when all is said and done. Could be a bit chilly in Philly, where the Owls will seek atonement for last season's embarrassing 44-23 defeat in Tampa.
UCF at Connecticut, Oct. 22
What would this list be without mention of the storied "Civil ConFLiCT"? There, we mentioned it.
Tulane at Houston, Nov. 12
The quintessential trap game. Only five days before hosting Louisville in a Thursday night matchup, the Coogs get Tulane, which likely will employ an option-style offense that Houston will see twice a year, tops.
Army vs. Navy, Dec. 10 (at Baltimore)
Do we even have to explain this one?