Examining the Over/Under 2016 Win Totals for the American Athletic Conference

Can the AAC build off of last year's success?

It's never too early to start dissecting some college football win totals. Last year I went through every conference and gave my thoughts on every team's win total. With regards to my process, I basically break down the games into three categories of definite wins, definite losses and toss-ups. For the most part, conference road games will represent losses unless it's against a bottom dweller. There will be teams that I just don't have a feel on because their number is spot on.

 

The American Athletic Conference had a very good 2015 with Houston beating Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl as well as wins by Temple (Penn State) and Navy (Pittsburgh in Military Bowl) that put the conference on the map. The Cougars figure to be the class of the league once again with Greg Ward Jr. under center. We'll see if the Owls and Midshipmen can continue to take the next step. South Florida, Cincinnati and Memphis are among the teams that have the potential to make things interesting.


Related: American Athletic Conference 2016 Football Predictions

 

Note: Over/under odds courtesy of South Point Las Vegas Hotel and Spa

 

AAC East

 

Cincinnati Bearcats

(Over 6.5 wins -130...Under 6.5 wins +110)

 

Record Last Year: 7-6, 4-4

 

Returning Starters: 11 (4 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: Gunner Kiel is back with a new offensive coordinator this season. Kiel and Hayden Moore represented a potent duo under center, but who will they be throwing to? The team lost their top five wide receivers. Tion Green leads a solid group in the backfield.

 

Defense: This is the classic case of a group returning from last year, but it wasn't exactly an effective unit, allowing 31.2 points per game. There is optimism on this side of the ball though with linebacker Eric Wilson and safety Zach Edwards providing senior leadership.

 

Schedule: This is a very friendly start to the season with five of the first seven games at home with the road matchups at Purdue and UConn, which could be considered winnable. Outside of Temple, Cincinnati has a very winnable slate away from Nippert Stadium.

 

Selection: To me, there's great value with the over here. If Kiel can grasp new coordinator Zac Taylor's offense quickly and find some new reliable targets, then this team should start fast. The Bearcats host Houston, USF and BYU so their toughest games will be in front of their own fans. Take the over here unless it starts to fall a lot.

 

Connecticut Huskies

(Over 5 wins EVEN...Under 5 wins -120)

 

Record Last Year: 6-7, 4-4

 

Returning Starters: 15 (9 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: Last year, I said this group had nowhere to go but up, and the Huskies took it literally. They moved up one spot in terms of points per game from 122nd to 121st overall. The Huskies managed fewer than 10 points three different times. They are returning a lot of starters and one can hope that continuity will help them here. I do really like running back Arkeel Newsome and wide receiver Noel Thomas if they can get out in space. 

 

Defense: This side of the ball was 15th in the country in points allowed with 19.5 ppg. The secondary figures to be in the mix for the best in the conference with Jamar Summers and Jhavon Williams back.

 

Schedule: The Huskies are another team with a home-friendly start to their year with four of their first six in Storrs. Their non-conference slate is Maine, Virginia, Syracuse and at Boston College. The road is very unkind in conference playing at Navy, Houston, South Florida and East Carolina.

 

Selection: I think the under is the play depending on the price. The defense will keep this team in games, but can the offense take the next step? The games with Virginia and Syracuse will be huge for this number because both are toss-ups. Neither the Orange nor Cavaliers have an offense to scare you, but they do have improving defenses.

 

East Carolina Pirates

(Over 5.5 wins +105...Under 5.5 wins -125)

 

Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5

 

Returning Starters: 10 (4 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: The Pirates are in transition with former Duke offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery taking over after the odd firing of Ruffin McNeill. Philip Nelson figures to be under center and he'll have Davon Grayson and Isaiah Jones as weapons outside. The offensive line figures to be strong on the right side, but the rest is a question mark.

 

Defense: This was a middle of the road group last season, checking in at sixth or seventh in the conference in most of the major categories. The secondary figures to be the strength while the front line continues to gel in the 3-4 defense.

 

Schedule: ECU will be starting its year out with home matchups against Western Carolina and NC State before road games at South Carolina and Virginia Tech. The Pirates alternate home and road games in conference and have to play at Temple and Cincinnati as well as South Florida.

 

Selection: Small lean to the under here. There's a lot of question marks surrounding East Carolina this year. Montgomery did good things at Duke, but can he quickly turn the Pirates into a bowl team? I don't think so which is why I'm leaning to the under.

 

South Florida Bulls

(Over 8.5 wins -110...Under 8.5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 8-5, 6-2

 

Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: Running back Marlon Mack had an awesome season for the Bulls last year as he helped take the pressure off quarterback Quinton Flowers. The latter accounted for 34 touchdowns and has even more weapons in 2016. Keep an eye out for Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who comes over from NC State.

 

Defense: The Bulls' defense held opponents to 22.9 points per game in 2015. The 4-2-5 alignment worked well for this unit, which ranked 17th (tied) nationally in tackles for a loss and 14th (tied) in interceptions. The majority of the defense is back making this team the chic pick to win the AAC East.

 

Schedule: Florida State comes to Tampa on Sept. 24. The Bulls also host Towson and Northern Illinois with a road matchup against Syracuse on the docket as well. The real test is if they suffer any hangover after the Seminoles game at Cincinnati. The Bulls play at Temple just six days after hosting UConn.

 

Selection: I'll bite on the hype and lean to the over. Five of the first seven are at home. My one concern is road game sandwiched between the FSU contest and will the Bulls be focused before and after. Last year a loss to the Seminoles started a three-game losing streak.

 

Temple Owls

(Over 8.5 wins -120...Under 8.5 wins EVEN)

 

Record Last Year: 10-4, 7-1

 

Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)

 

Offense: Quarterback P.J. Walker is back for another season and he’s got Jahad Thomas in the backfield to help out. A lot of the top WRs are gone, but Ventell Bryant and Adonis Jennings should be able to pick up the slack. Hopefully the change at OC will help spark this group as they were stale at times.

 

Defense: This unit has some work to do as Tyler Matakevich, Tavon Young and Matt Ioannidis all have graduated. The cupboard isn’t completely bare though with Sean Chandler at corner and Stephaun Marshall at linebacker. Coordinator Phil Snow will be a hot name next offseason if he turns this group into a top-20 unit again.

 

Schedule: The Owls ease into the season with four of their first five at home and all winnable matchups. The road game will be at Penn State, which will be out for revenge after losing in Philly last year. South Florida and Cincinnati both come to Lincoln Financial Field with the toughest road conference game being at Memphis (Oct. 6).

 

Selection: Temple has to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. The good thing is that the slate is manageable and the offense has the weapons to move. This team will need the points as the defense could struggle at times. I think this is a good number and have a slight lean to the under. 

 

UCF Knights

(Over 5 wins -110...Under 5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 0-12, 0-8

 

Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)

 

Offense: Quarterback Justin Holman is back for his senior season, but that may not be a great thing. He struggled mightily at times, as this unit scored just 47 points in the last four games. The offensive line will be a strength with four returnees. Maybe new head coach Scott Frost’s influence will help jumpstart everything.

 

Defense: The Knights' defense was horrendous, allowing almost 40 points per game. The secondary returns three starters, but it could be a long year. Drico Johnson is the leading returning tackler with just 64.

 

Schedule: The good news is that UCF won’t go winless, especially with an opener against South Carolina State. The bad news is that the Knights may not get too many more victories. Road trips to Michigan and FIU go with a home game against Maryland out of conference.

 

Selection: Last year, I was optimistic about the Knights. This year, not so much. I think five is quite a bit higher then I’d expect. I think the under for UCF might be my favorite bet in this conference. 

 

AAC West

 

Houston Cougars

(Over 9.5 wins -135...Under 9.5 wins +115)

 

Record Last Year: 13-1, 7-1

 

Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)

 

Offense: Greg Ward Jr. may be a decent longshot Heisman Trophy candidate if you think he can replicate his 2015. The WR corps has changed with Chance Allen and Steven Dunbar leading the way. The run game is going to have to find someone to replace Kenneth Farrow.

 

Defense: Houston had the eighth-ranked rush defense in the country and will need a young secondary grows up quick if the Cougars hope to go to another New Year's Six bowl or possibly even crash the College Football Playoff. Linebacker Steven Taylor returns after a 92-tackle, 10-sack, two-interception season.

 

Schedule: There’s no grace period, as the season starts with Oklahoma in Houston. The rest of the non-conference slate is Lamar, at Texas State and Louisville. Three times this year, the Cougars play games five days apart. It’s the price you pay for being a good team.

 

Selection: I think Houston wins nine this season. There are a couple of potential pitfalls that make the under very intriguing especially at a plus price. 

 

Memphis Tigers

(Over 6.5 wins -110...Under 6.5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 9-4, 5-3

 

Returning Starters: 14 (6 on offense, 8 on defense)

 

Offense: Paxton Lynch is in Denver so the quarterback position could be a weakness. The good thing is that Doroland Dorceus and Anthony Miller are both back. New head coach Mike Norvell will need to do some work on this side of the ball, but the potential is there.

 

Defense: The Tigers were the 106th-ranked pass defense last year. There’s a good chance this side of the ball will feature all upperclassmen starters. Jackson Dillon is an intriguing pro prospect at linebacker.

 

Schedule: Four of the first five are at home with the non-conference slate going SE Missouri State, Kansas, Bowling Green before the road tilt with rival Ole Miss. The Tigers get Temple, South Florida and Houston at the Liberty Bowl.

 

Selection: I like the Tigers to go over the total. This side of the AAC features way too many win opportunities and they’ll get three outside the conference as well. I’d wait to see if there is a place you can get it at a plus price though. 

 

Navy Midshipmen

(Over 6.5 wins -110...Under 6.5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 11-2, 7-1

 

Returning Starters: 7 (1 on offense, 6 on defense)

 

Offense: Record-setting dual-threat quarterback Keenan Reynolds finally graduated, meaning Tago Smith most likely takes over. Jamar Tillman is the only starter back on offense and he’s at WR, which is lightly used anyways. The good thing about the Midshipmen is that they’ll be ready and will run the triple option very precisely.

 

Defense: This unit may have to shoulder the load early until the offense catches up. The Middies had the 26th-ranked scoring defense last year, which no one really expected. Daniel Gonzales leads the way at linebacker.

 

Schedule: Navy’s non-conference schedule is pretty much the same every year with games against Fordham, Air Force, Notre Dame and Army. The game against the Irish takes place in Jacksonville, Fla. The Middies have just five true home games.

 

Selection: I lean to the over, but that’s only if the offense can get its act together. Replacing Reynolds is a huge task, but this coaching staff is very good at their job. I don’t know if the Commander-in-Chief Trophy makes it back to Annapolis again this year.  

 

SMU Mustangs

(Over 3.5 wins -120...Under 3.5 wins EVEN)

 

Record Last Year: 2-10, 1-7

 

Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)

 

Offense: Year two with Chad Morris should be beneficial as the pieces are in place for a team that is capable of scoring more. Matt Davis showed flashes of being a capable QB while Courtland Sutton could be one of the best WRs in the conference. The offensive line needs work.

 

Defense: Trying to find something nice to say about a defense that allowed 48 points or more eight times is very difficult. To be honest, it will be a concern again this year. The over is in play in almost every game the Mustangs have.

 

Schedule: The rare team in this conference that’ll be spending the start of the season on the road. SMU opens at North Texas and Baylor before coming home to play Liberty and TCU. Be careful as the Mustangs lost to FCS member James Madison last year and Liberty has some talent as well. Houston, Memphis and South Florida all come to Dallas, but that may not matter.

 

Selection: The under may be the play here. The Mustangs will be improved on offense, but this poor defense is going to be tested early and often. Getting the better teams at home is a blessing, but it didn’t help last year. 

 

Tulane Green Wave

(Over 3.5 wins -110...Under 3.5 wins -110)

 

Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7

 

Returning Starters: 11 (4 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: The Green Wave scored 20 points or less seven times last year and are shuffling the deck once again with just four returning starters on offense. Quarterback is up in the air, but new head coach Willie Fritz coming over from Georgia Southern could help spark some things. He did good work with the Eagles.

 

Defense: The defense allowed more than 36 points per game last year, but Nico Marley is a good start at linebacker. The secondary brings three players back, but none will be as good as Lorenzo Doss.

 

Schedule: September features home games against Southern and UL Lafayette as well as a road game at Wake Forest. The non-conference slate is completed with a road tilt at UMass on Oct. 1. For the most part, the latter part of the schedule alternate home and road contests.

 

Selection: I like the over for the Green Wave. The Fritz hire is a fantastic one, and I think the opportunity is there for the offense to improve. This one won’t sail over the three, but I think there are enough winnable opportunities. 

 

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

(Over 6.5 wins -120...Under 6.5 wins EVEN)

 

Record Last Year: 6-7, 3-5

 

Returning Starters: 13 (6 on offense, 7 on defense)

 

Offense: Dane Evans is back and so are D’Angelo Brewer and Josh Atkinson. This side of the ball did its part last season, putting up 37.2 points per game. The offensive line has some holes so Evans may be on the run.

 

Defense: This side of the ball did not do its part, allowing nearly 40 points per contest. Much like some of the other schools in this conference, the unit returns a bunch of starters, but will it really matter? Matt Linscott had 107 tackles and five sacks last year. He’s back along with Craig Suits and Trent Martin.

 

Schedule: This is an odd arrangement of non-conference games going from hosting San Jose State to playing at Ohio State then Tulsa returns home to take on North Carolina A&T before getting Fresno State on the road. The Golden Hurricane also play at Navy and Houston.

 

Selection: The under is my slight lean, but only because of the price. Improvement will come in year two with head coach Philip Montgomery, but it’s a long reach for me to count on this defense to win many games for Tulsa. 

 

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

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