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Media picks USF to finish last in AAC. Here’s how Joey Knight voted

UCF is projected to win the conference in a poll of 20 league media members
UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) runs the ball against USF defensive end Greg Reaves and defensive back Nick Roberts during the first half of the Knights' 34-7 romp in Orlando last season.
UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) runs the ball against USF defensive end Greg Reaves and defensive back Nick Roberts during the first half of the Knights' 34-7 romp in Orlando last season. [ WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | AP ]
Published Sep. 1, 2020

The email that arrived late last week, asking me to vote in the American Athletic Conference’s preseason media poll, represented another welcome sliver of normalcy.

I expect a much heartier slice — in the form of vitriol from Bulls fans — now that I’m revealing my ballot.

I project the Bulls, under new coach Jeff Scott, to finish eighth in the 11-team league. Evidently, my modest expectations are ambitious compared to those of many peers.

USF is picked to finish last in the media poll, which can be seen here.

While I don’t believe things will get worse for the Bulls before they get better (How could they possibly get worse?), I believe Jeff Scott’s rebuild won’t be expeditious. USF’s recruiting suffered in the last couple of years of the Charlie Strong era, and Scott had to liberally tap into the transfer portal upon his arrival to build some depth.

Related: USF football up to 20 pledges for Class of 2021

Even so, the Bulls’ depth remains questionable in significant areas, especially the line of scrimmage, and we all know how they were exploited up front — on both sides — in 2019.

Atop the poll, I picked Memphis to win the league, but I turned in my ballot before news arrived of Tigers tailback Kenneth Gainwell’s decision to opt out of the 2020 season. Nonetheless, the Tigers — behind 37-year-old quarterback Brady White (maybe he just seems that old) — still are teeming with talent at the skill positions.

So are the Knights, who I put at No. 2 but who were picked to win the league in the media poll. UCF received 10 of the 20 possible first-place votes to finish slightly ahead of Cincinnati (seven first-place votes).

Related: As season nears, USF defense battling depth issues, Glenn Spencer says

Joey Knight’s preseason AAC ballot

1. Memphis

2. UCF

3. Cincinnati

4. SMU

5. Houston

6. Tulane

7. Temple

8. USF

9. Navy

10. Tulsa

11. East Carolina

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