American Athletic Conference Football Predictions 2013
By Tyler Smith
Offense: Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater returns under center for the Cardinals. Bridgewater threw for over 3,700 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. He has plenty of talented options to throw too. DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland combined for 90 receptions, 12 touchdowns, and over 1,300 yards. Three transfers could play key roles on the receiving core Matt Milton, Gerald Christian, and Robert Clark. Running back will feature Senorise Perry 12 touchdowns and Dominique Brown 4 touchdowns (2011). The addition of Micheal Dyer at RB makes this team even more dangerous. The line will fare well with three returning starters.
Defense: The defense brings back plenty of experience and depth. Last year's pass defense only allowed 191 yards per game. This year's secondary should be even better. Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor have played in a combined 69 games and both are first team All-AAC. Andrew Johnson and Terell Floyd will start at cornerback. Look for LB Keith Brown to emerge this season. He posted double-digit tackles vs. UC and Pittsburgh last season as a freshman. Two other starters return including the Cardinals leading tackler Preston Brown, who had 17 tackles vs. South Florida. Sophomore DeAngelo Brown will see plenty of time at DT. Smith and Mauldin will play on the ends and will be looked to apply lots of pressure for the Cardinals.
Special Teams: JUCO transfer Robert Clark could provide a spark on returns. John Wallace returns at kicker and Ryan Johnson will be the punter.
Final Thoughts: The non-conference slate will keep Louisville outside of title considerations, but this will be another BCS bowl team in 2013. Look for the Cardinals season ending game at UC to be the toughest game of the 2013 season.
Offense: All five starters return on the line for the Bearcats, which will help having lost RB George Wynn. The RB position will likely be by committee with Ralph Abernathy getting the most carries. Who starts at QB will be decided in the fall, Brendon Kay seized his opportunity after Munchie Legaux went down with an injury. Kay only had two interceptions in 5 starts. Leguax will need to work on his accuracy having thrown six interceptions in his last three starts. Whoever gets the nod at QB will be looking to get the ball to WR Anthony McClung.
Defense: The Bearcats lose six starters from last season's solid defense. Bearcat fans are excited to see the debut of LB Jeff Luc. The one time Florida State player was one of the top LB in the 2010 class. Greg Blair will return at middle LB, Blair had 19 tackles last year vs. Louisville. In the secondary Deven Drane and Arryn Chenault return with two sophomore's safety Kevin Brown and corner Trenier Orr likely play big roles in the secondary.
Special Teams: The big hole to plug in special teams lies at punter. Four year starter Pat O'Donnell transferred out of the program. Tony Milliano returns at kicker.
Final Thoughts: The Bearcats always seem to find their way to the top of a conference, don't expect much different in the AAC. The running game will be something to watch progress throughout the season. All eyes will be on LB Jeff Luc to perform at a high level. The QB battle between Kay and Legaux will be something to follow in the spring. Louisville at home Dec. 5, that's big time.
Offense: We all thought Gary Nova had made the turn for consistency and then the final 6 games of the season happened. Nova will show you flashes of greatness (397 passing yards and 5 touchdowns vs. Arkansas) then he can hit you with a 1 touchdown, 6 interception game vs. Kent State. Consistency will be key. Running back Savon Huggins had a lot of hype when he arrived on campus. This year he will be the featured back. 6-6 WR Brandon Coleman is very dangerous in the redzone. Highly touted recruit, sophomore Leontee Carroo could make an impact this season. He had 10 touchdowns last season and has 16 on his career. The line remains strong with Kaleb Johnson at left tackle.
Defense: The Scarlet Knights lost five players to the NFL, so don't expect a repeat of last season's defense. The line will be the strength of the team with three starters and former five star prospect, Darius Hamilton getting a shot at defensive tackle. The secondary returns one starter, but gains transfer Lewis Toler, who has plenty of experience. Replacing the Big East Defensive Player of the Year won't be easy, but Rutgers has two linebackers it's very high on, Kevin Snyder and Steve Longa.
Special Teams: Sophomore Kyle Frederico is back at kicker. Punter will likely go to Nick Marsh, a transfer from Utah.
Final Thoughts: Nova has to be consistent for a shot at the title. Huggins will have to emerge as a star at running back. The defense will be fine, but they won't be able to win games for Rutgers as they did last season. Rutgers have two big home games vs. Arkansas and Cincinnati.
Offense: Lyle McCombs returns from an injury that held him back all season. McCombs will be back to his 2011 self when he ran for over 1,100 yards. The line returns four starters which should help quarterback Chandler Whitmer, if they can keep him protected. Giving up sacks was a major problem last season. Whitmer had issues with taking care of the ball last season with 16 interceptions. Having McCombs to rely on in the backfield should take some pressure off him. 2012's reception leader, Geremy Davis will be the team's top receiving target.
Defense: The defense will have to replace a few NFL draft picks, but UConn is looking to reload. At linebacker they have one starter returning, Yawin Smallwood. Smallwood had 120 total tackles last season. Two transfer's will compete for the two other spots at linebacker. The front four is one of the best in the American. Both ends Elijah Norris and Jesse Joseph are bound to make big plays this season with Stephen and Pruitt returning at defensive tackle. The secondary should be fine with Jones, Brown and Mack returning.
Special Teams: Kicker Christian has solid power, but needs to work on his accuracy. Cole Wgner will handle the punting duties, again.
Final Thoughts: The defense should be fine with quality returning players. Lyle McCombs will determine how far this team will go. Maryland and Michigan will invade Rentschler Field in September.
Offense: Blake Bortles is back at QB. Last season Bortles had an impressive 25 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He will have plenty of famillar faes to throw the ball too, Including former QB Jeff Godfrey who had 39 receptions a year ago. The running game should be fine with Storm Johnson getting the bulk of the carries. If Johnson goes down the Knights could be in trouble due to lack of depth. He will have a few returning starters to run behind. With left tackle Torrian Wilson being the best of the bunch.
Defense: The defense is looking to replace several starters. The strength of the defense looks to be up front with transfer Demetris Anderson and E.J. Dunston manning the DT spots. Junior linebacker Terrance Plummer is the team's leading returning tackler. He had 108 tackles in 2012. The secondary will be decided come fall camp.
Special Teams: Shawn Moffitt returns at Kicker. Freshman Caleb Houston will likely be the new punter for the Knights.
Final Thoughts: The Knights have some questions on defense. The passing game will be great with Borles and depth at WR. A big non-conference game in September with South Carolina visiting Orlando.
Offense: Gilbert will have to bring his turnover numbers down after throwing 15 last season. The line will have to improve for Gilbert to have a better season. The line gave up 34 sacks in 2012. Running back Zach Line is gone, but SMU fans shouldn't be too worried with JUCO transfer Traylon Shead stepping in. The receiving game will be focused around Jeremy Johnson and Der'rikk Thompson.
Defense: A secondary that gave up over 235 yards game returns three starters. If the secondary doesn't take a step forward SMU will be involved in plenty of shootouts. The defensive line returns depleted, losing all three starters. If the Mustangs don't put pressure on the QB, the secondary will have a hard time improving. The bright spot on defense looks to be the linebacking core. Stephon Sanders and Randall Joyner combined for 141 tackles.
Special Teams: Deion Sanders Jr. will likely return kicks this year, with Der'rikk Thompson. Chase Hover returns at Kicker and Mike Loftus is back at punter.
Final Thoughts: The two big concerns are the offensive line and the defense as a whole. If the defense can play OK, the Mustangs will be in most AAC games. The non-conference schedule is brutal with Texas Tech at home and TCU and Texas A&M away.
Final Thoughts: Willie Taggert enters year one at South Florida with key departures on offense. The defense will be solid with DE Aaron Lynch and key linebackers returning. The Bulls host Miami, UC, and Louisville at home.
Final Thoughts: Piland was OK at quarterback last season. WR Deaontay Greenberry will have a big season. Departure of RB Charles Sims hurts. The defense struggled last year and will struggle again this year. The Cougars end the season at Louisville, home vs UC, and SMU.
Final Thoughts: The offense struggled to score points and the quarterback position is shaky. Defensively the Tigers well compete. The Tigers won't compete this year, but the future is looking better.
Final Thoughts: Plenty of question marks on offenses. Defense returns six starters, but they were allowed over 30 points a game. Matt Rhule will have a rough first start.