The AAC has been UCF's playground the past couple of years and it could be once again in 2019, but I think there are several teams in each division that are very capable of making things interesting. Cincinnati, Temple and USF are all bowl-caliber teams while the west features Memphis and Houston.
FanDuel Sportsbook has all of the win totals released, but you can only get it in New Jersey. Here are my thoughts and opinions on all the teams in this conference.
Note: Over/under totals provided by FanDuel Sportsbook.
AAC East Division
Over 7.5 wins +150...Under 7.5 wins -180
Non-Conference Games: UCLA, at Ohio State, Miami (Ohio), at Marshall
The Bearcats have what it takes potentially to win the AAC East and maybe the conference as a whole. Quarterback Desmond Ridder is back and so is his running back stable of Michael Warren II and a healthy Gerrid Doaks. Doaks is especially important considering he missed all of last year due to injury. They've got two offensive linemen back and a couple of decent wide receivers. The defense has seven starters back led by a strong back seven. They have to be big with the number of questions that are up front. The Bearcats lost three big fellas who helped account for a lot of their sacks in 2018. The schedule isn't awful with UCF, Temple and UCLA coming to Nippert Stadium while the toughest road trip is probably at Memphis or Houston.
Verdict: I like the over here. Cincy is sneaky good and could be a value play to take the AAC East.
Over 2.5 wins +115...Under 2.5 wins -135
Non-Conference Games: Wagner, Illinois, at Indiana, at UMass
It's going to be a long year for the Huskies as they continue to be led by Randy Edsall. The hire was unimaginative when it first happened and continues to be. To make things worse, this is the last year for the Huskies in the AAC so teams may not hold back on them. The offense was one of the worst in the country, averaging less than 180 passing yards per game. Six starters are back, but if they weren't good last year, why do I expect them to be better in 2019? The defense allowed more than 50 points per game and brings back nine starters. Their best chances for wins are probably at home against FCS opponent Wagner and East Carolina with a small shot at UMass as well.
Verdict: I've got no more than three wins for the Huskies so no recommendation from me.
East Carolina Pirates
Over 4 wins -140...Under 4 wins +120
Non-Conference Games: at NC State, Gardner-Webb, William & Mary, at ODU
As someone who covered a lot of JMU football, Mike Houston is a great hire for the Pirates. His teams in Harrisonburg ran a crisp offense and had a stout defense. He was able to recruit very well which is why the team was always in the mix for an FCS title. There is some work to do in Greenville with four starters back on offense. Holton Ahlers is a solid place to start under center, but he's without his security blanket at wide receiver. The defense gave up almost 40 points per game but brings back seven starters including five of the front seven. It'll be a slow climb, but Houston is the right guy to make it.
Verdict: Small lean to the under, but four is probably a really good number.
Over 6.5 wins -120...Under 6.5 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: Bucknell, Maryland, at Buffalo, Georgia Tech
The Owls underwent two coaching searches before landing on Rod Carey from Northern Illinois. Personally, I would have liked Manny Diaz more, but he lasted like three weeks on Broad Street. There's plenty of talent here led by Anthony Russo under center. Russo is protected by an offensive line that has four starters back. He'll be throwing to the likes of Isaiah Wright and Branden Mack out wide. The defense should continue to be strong with six starters back and leaders on every level. The non-conference schedule is fascinating with former head coach Geoff Collins bringing Georgia Tech to Philadelphia to close out September. There's a chance this team could start out 5-0 before a home game against Memphis in October.
Verdict: I really like the over here as I see eight wins potentially.
Over 9.5 wins -105...Under 9.5 wins -115
Non-Conference Games: Florida A&M, at FAU, Stanford, at Pittsburgh
The Knights will likely have Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush running the offense after Darriel Mack Jr. broke his ankle in early July. McKenzie Milton continues to recover from a gruesome leg injury. The offensive weapons are among the best in the conference with Adrian Killins Jr., Greg McCrae and Otis Anderson in the backfield with Gabriel Davis and Tre Nixon out wide. The defense has just five starters back and the front line is going to be a bit of an issue. Special teams also will have to break in some newcomers as well. The schedule is pretty nice although the Knights do travel to Temple and Cincinnati for AAC games and gets Stanford at home. The one thing I do know is that UCF is not going to go undefeated again in the regular season.
Verdict: Slight lean to the over.
Over 6.5 wins -165...Under 6.5 wins +140
Non-Conference Games: Wisconsin, at Georgia Tech, South Carolina State, BYU
The Bulls are another contender in the AAC East with nine returning starters on offense and six on defense. The Bulls allowed 32 points per game, but they need to keep Nico Sawtelle healthy. He's the team's middle linebacker and the glue for the unit. The front four has three returnees back. Blake Barnett will have to be better at quarterback after throwing 11 interceptions and 12 touchdown passes. Jordan Cronkite was very good out of the backfield while they have several skill position guys back as well. Getting Wisconsin at home to kick off the season will be a good test.
Verdict: The over is 100% the way to go, but not at this juice. I think this team could win eight maybe.
AAC West Division
Over 7 wins -200...Under 7 wins +170
Non-Conference Games: at Oklahoma, Prairie View, Washington State (NRG Stadium), at North Texas
Getting Dana Holgorsen is big for the program as many were left scratching their heads after he left West Virginia. Holgorsen will do wonders for an offense that already put up nearly 44 points per game. D'Eriq King had 36 touchdown passes to just six interceptions. His top three wide receivers are back as well as three starters along the offensive line. Defensive improvement has to come or else this team will be playing nothing but 50-40 games. The Cougars return just five starters on that side of the ball including their two top safeties. Starting off with Oklahoma will be a good measuring stick game. Houston's toughest AAC road game is at UCF.
Verdict: I like the over here, but this juice is ridiculous. Shop around.
Over 9.5 wins -120...Under 9.5 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: Ole Miss, Southern, at South Alabama, at ULM
Some interesting non-conference opponents this year for Memphis with a pair of road dates against Sun Belt teams. The Tigers got some good news when they found out Brady White got another year added to his NCAA career. White was stellar in 2018 with 26 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Damonte Coxie is back at wide receiver and he's going to continue the tradition of strong pass catchers from the school. Patrick Taylor Jr. also is really good coming out of the backfield. There needs to be a better effort from a defense that coughed up 124 points over the last three games. The unit brings back eight starters so we'll see if the improvement occurs.
Verdict: The under is worth a look at this price as I came up with 8-9 wins.
Over 5 wins -135...Under 5 wins +115
Non-Conference Games: Holy Cross, Air Force, at Notre Dame, vs. Army (Philadelphia)
Navy's offense struggled terribly last season and it reflected in their 3-10 record. Malcolm Perry is back under center for his senior season, but he's got little else returning. Nelson Smith is in the backfield while Ford Higgins mans the center position. Ken Niumatalolo is going to have to do some things to try and get the triple-option attack working because the schedule features tough trips to Notre Dame, Houston and Memphis. The Midshipmen are home just once over their final five contests. The defense also only has three starters back. Could be another rough year for Navy.
Verdict: Came up with around six wins so no play here.
Over 6 wins -114...Under 6 wins -102
Non-Conference Games: at Arkansas State, North Texas, Texas State, at TCU
The Mustangs hope that former Texas QB Shane Buechele is the answer under center. He's got a full complement of WRs back led by James Proche and Reggie Roberson Jr. The offensive line should be decent as well, but the questions are on defense. SMU gave up more than 35 points per game last year, but also return five of the defensive front seven including all four linemen. The schedule features tough road trips to Houston, Memphis and TCU. I don't love this team's chances of competing.
Verdict: Slight lean to the under.
Tulane Green Wave
Over 5.5 wins -165...Under 5.5 wins +140
Non-Conference Games: FIU, at Auburn, Missouri State, at Army
Willie Fritz has seen his win total improve in each of the last two seasons leading the Green Wave. Quarterback Justin McMillan seems like a solid guy to run his system with Will Hall at offensive coordinator. Darnell Mooney and Jalen McCleskey, who comes over from Oklahoma State, form a nice WR pairing for the quarterback. Darius Bradwell ran for more than 1,000 yards last year. Tulane's defense could be better than expected too with their front line back as well as some key pieces in the secondary. The Green Wave have to play at Auburn and Memphis but have some manageable games at home.
Verdict: The money move is correct so no play here.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Over 4.5 wins +110...Under 4.5 wins -130
Non-Conference Games: at Michigan State, at San Jose State, Oklahoma State, Wyoming
I really don't get what they are trying to do with this non-conference schedule. The first two weeks the Hurricane are doing a ton of traveling before hosting a Big 12 school. San Jose State is bad, but Tulsa could be really beaten up after playing the better Spartans (Michigan State). The Hurricane's defense should continue to see improvement. They went to a 3-3-5 alignment last year and saw them allow fewer points. Linebacker Cooper Edmiston is the leader of the unit. On offense, the team will be looking for the quarterback to take them to the next level and Baylor transfer Zach Smith is someone to keep an eye on. Keenen Johnson is the senior out wide with Shamari Brooks in the backfield.
Verdict: I came up with three wins so a lean to the under here.
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of gobearcats.com)