Handicapping the AAC Offensive Player of the Year contenders
Last we checked, Vegas hasn't set odds on the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, but Quinton Flowers might be the betting favorite if it did.
Key word: might. Fact is, this could be a tight race among three -- and perhaps four -- candidates. Bulls fans may find it absurd to consider anybody except Flowers, currently the league's total offense leader; but folks in Houston and Annapolis, Md., are saying the same about their respective quarterbacks.
So let's take a look at the handful of reasonable contenders for the award (to be announced Nov. 30), and set some odds of our own for giggles.
QB Quinton Flowers, Jr., USF
Key stats: 333.8 total yards per game (leads AAC); top pass-efficiency rating in AAC (157.2); 1,273 rush yards; 2,399 pass yards; 22 TD passes
Why he should win: No real reason, except the staggering resurrection of USF football didn't occur until Coach Willie Taggart let Flowers be Flowers. Since Taggart turned Flowers loose in his zone-read system, the Bulls are 16-4, with a shot at notching the first 10-win season in program history. Moreover, he's the only 2,000/1,000 player you'll find on this list, and his team leads the league in total yards (516.2 ypg) and scoring (43.2 ypg).
Why he may not win: Unlike Houston's Greg Ward Jr., Flowers still doesn't have a win against a ranked Power-Five heavyweight. He also likely won't have a chance to play for a conference title -- again.
QB Greg Ward Jr., Sr., Houston
Key stats: 329.4 total yards per game (second in AAC); 284.1 passing yards per game (leads AAC); 453 rushing yards (leads Houston)
Why he should win: Because he has mostly flourished despite being banged up most of the year, and that type of courage will endear himself to voters (AAC coaches). To be sure, Ward's overall numbers don't possess quite the sparkle of Flowers' stat line, but no other quarterback in America boasts victories against two teams (Oklahoma, Louisville) ranked in the top five at the time the Cougars defeated them. Those two victories alone could garner Ward enough votes.
Why he may not win: Purely from a statistical standpoint, his numbers don't match Flowers'. Houston's midseason swoon, lowlighted by that loss to SMU, also doesn't help.
QB Will Worth, Sr., Navy
Key stats: 13.2 ppg (leads AAC); 1,074 rushing yards (fourth in AAC); 22 rushing TDs (leads AAC)
Why he should win: Worth's stunning rise from obscurity to Naval Academy folklore might compel some voters. The backup when the season began, Worth was thrust into action when Tago Smith tore up his knee in the season opener, and has led the Midshipmen to the West Division title. Three times this season, Worth has been named the AAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Why he may not win: Because Navy operates a run-heavy offense, and Worth doesn't have the passing numbers (1,259 yards, seven TDs). Besides, a Navy guy (Keenan Reynolds) won the award last year.
WR Zay Jones, Sr., East Carolina
Key stats: 13.7 receptions per game (leads nation); 153.2 receiving yards per game (leads nation); 392 career catches (NCAA record)
Why he should win: Because Jones -- whose 151 catches and 1,685 yards are AAC season records -- somehow has remained productive when everyone from cornerbacks to concessionaires knows the ball is coming his way. What's more, he has done it despite ECU's instability at quarterback.
Why he may not win: Because his team (3-8) has been mostly wretched this season.
RB James Flanders, Sr., Tulsa
Key stats: 1,332 rushing yards (leads AAC), 15 rushing TDs, 6.6 yards per carry
Why he should win: Because a 1,300-yard season is nothing to sneeze at. Over his last five games, Flanders is averaging 174.4 yards and has scored 10 TDs. Additionally, he has 15 carries of 20 or more yards (Marlon Mack has nine).
Why he may not win: Because his total yardage output doesn't compare to the first three guys on this list. Flanders also is complemented by another 1,000-yard rusher in his backfield, junior D'Angelo Brewer (1,231 yards, seven TDs).