AAC

Group of 5 Wild Card Players in 2017

These players could be the difference between an average season and crashing a New Year's Six bowl
Group of 5 Wild Card Players in 2017

All college football teams have one player who, if he steps up and performs to or even above his potential, could be the catalyst for a magical season. The teams in the Group of 5 conferences (American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt) are no different, as many of them have key players who could be the difference between another season of flying under the radar nationally and possibly crashing the party that is the New Year's Six bowls.

 

East Carolina Football: 2017 Pirates Preview and Prediction

The Pirates rank No. 112 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
East Carolina Football: 2017 Pirates Preview and Prediction

East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery’s debut got off to a great start with back-to-back wins. Unfortunately that was followed by five straight losses as the Pirates would win only one more game and finished 3-9 and tied for last place in the American Athletic Conference East Division. The biggest culprit was a defense that couldn’t stop anyone, which necessitated a myriad of changes on that side of the ball.

UConn Football: 2017 Huskies Preview and Prediction

The Huskies rank No. 101 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Connecticut Football: 2017 Huskies Preview and Prediction

A familiar face is back in Storrs, as Randy Edsall returns for his second stint as Connecticut’s head coach. Edsall left UConn for Maryland after leading the Huskies to a share of the Big East title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl in 2010 and the hope is he can get the program back to its winning ways as a member of the American Athletic Conference.

Tulane Football: 2017 Green Wave Preview and Prediction

The Green Wave rank No. 100 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Tulane Football: 2017 Green Wave Preview and Prediction

Tulane went 4-8 in head coach Willie Fritz’ first season and the Green Wave should be even better this fall now that everyone has had a full year together. This should especially be the case on offense, as Fritz is hoping for better execution of his complex attack, even if there is still some uncertainty as to which quarterback will be running it. The defense returns eight starters but must replace two of the best players in program history.

Cincinnati Football: 2017 Bearcats Preview and Prediction

The Bearcats rank No. 95 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Cincinnati Football: 2017 Bearcats Preview and Prediction

A 4-8 finish led to Tommy Tuberville resigning as Cincinnati’s head coach and the Bearcats hiring Luke Fickell as his replacement. Fickell worked under Jim Tressel and then Urban Meyer at Ohio State and is looking to re-energize a program that claimed a share of the American Athletic Conference championship just three seasons ago.

SMU Football: 2017 Mustangs Preview and Prediction

The Mustangs rank No. 82 in Athon's Top 130 for 2017
SMU Football: 2017 Mustangs Preview and Prediction

SMU more than doubled its win total (from two to five) in head coach Chad Morris’ second season, but back-to-back losses at the end ruined a shot at a bowl game. The Mustangs are aiming for at least six wins this fall and the offense has a chance to be better than last year provided a consistent quarterback emerges and the offensive line comes together. The defense is the side of the ball that really needs to improve if the SMU wants to take another step forward under Morris.

 

Temple Football: 2017 Owls Preview and Prediction

The Owls rank No. 81 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Temple Football: 2017 Owls Preview and Prediction

It’s a new beginning for Temple, with former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins taking over as head coach for the departed Matt Rhule. But the changes go beyond the coaching staff, as only eight total starters return, resulting in plenty of question marks throughout the roster. The offense has some playmakers, but the quarterback position is completely up in the air. The secondary is basically intact, but the defense lost a first-round NFL Draft pick and several other key contributors.

UCF Football: 2017 Knights Preview and Prediction

The Knights rank No. 79 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
UCF Football: 2017 Knights Preview and Prediction

UCF went 6-7 in head coach Scott Frost’s debut, which is impressive considering he took over a team that didn’t win a single game in 2015. What Frost and the Knights do for an encore likely depends on the progress the offense makes. Plenty of weapons return it’s just a matter of identifying the right quarterback to run Frost’s up-tempo attack.

Lamar Jackson Talks Heisman, Louisville Football and Coach Petrino

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson answers it all in this exclusive Q & A.
Lamar Jackson Talks Heisman, Louisville Football and Coach Petrino

A Heisman Trophy winner with unfinished business? That’s the situation Lamar Jackson finds himself in this season. Jackson had one of the most statistically dominant campaigns in college football history, but a late slump left him and his Louisville teammates wanting more.

Tulsa Football: 2017 Golden Hurricane Preview and Prediction

The Golden Hurricane rank No. 74 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2017
Tulsa Football: 2017 Golden Hurricane Preview and Prediction

Tulsa blew the doors off others’ expectations last season, going 10-3 in head coach Philip Montgomery’s second season. Unfortunately, a lot of firepower from one of the nation’s most productive offenses has to be replaced. The defense returns seven starters, but those that are gone were key contributors on a unit that fared better in 2016, but still gave up plenty of yards and points. Even though Tulsa will likely take a step or two back in the win column, a second straight bowl appearance is not out of the question.

 

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