The college football betting previews come to the sixth conference of the Power 5, the American Athletic Conference. The AAC doesn’t have the tie-ins of the Power 5 schools, but has separated itself from the rest of the Group of 5 with a series of quality bowl wins and a penchant for good football games.
What does the 2018 season bring for the upcoming conference? What over/under bets look the best?
Last year, conference champion UCF stamped themselves on the country stage with a win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl. The same bowl season also saw USF defeat Texas Tech and Navy take down Virginia. Within the conference, South Florida and UCF played out arguably the game of the year during rivalry week to close out the regular season.
The AAC has three favorites true favorites to win this year. UCF, Memphis, and Houston are all the conference leaders to start the year.
We’ll start with UCF, last year’s conference champions and favorites to win in 2018. The team is extremely talented on offense. Scott Frost did one of the best jobs in the country with UCF in 2017, only possibly outdone by Lane Kiffin and FAU (They play week 4, there will be points). As it stands, the Knights have QB McKinzie Milton, one of the best QBs in college football, and Adrian Killins Jr is also a great RB who you do not want to see in open space. New head coach Josh Heupel has offensive weapons at his disposal and he’ll know how to use them. Defensively, they have holes to fill, but the offense should carry the team to plenty of wins.
You could put ditto marks for Memphis with a question mark at QB, but Mike Norvell also knows how to run an offense and this program knows how to churn out some great gunslingers. The Tigers are loaded in offensive skill positions, and should run the AAC West on the single most explosive offense in the nation. On defense, less position question marks than UCF, but the starters are going to need to step up as they become sophomores. The schedule almost sets up nicely for Memphis, but a monster clash with UCF lies in wait on October 13th as well as a possible division decider vs Houston to close the regular season.
Houston rounds out the favorites, but with a more balanced team than Memphis and UCF. The run game is solid, but the passing game will be unproven as Houston is replacing their top five target wideouts. The offensive line should help at least. Defense is where Houston thrives, with far and away the best defense in the American. They didn’t hold down the lowest success rate in the conference, but big plays simply didn’t happen against them. Offenses will be dismayed that Ed Oliver is coming back for one more year, so havoc will be high for the Cougar defense.
Unless Heupel messes with the offense (see: South Florida 2017), it’s going to be difficult to pick against the Knights. They return enough that the momentum should continue while their top challenger, Memphis, replaces their QB. Because of the volatility of the conference, you can double your money on UCF, unlike favorites in other conferences. We’d suggest going to Karamba to take advantage of 13/10 odds.
There’s two outside shots for you, but they’re not really proper dark horses. South Florida and Temple could both take advantage of UCF’s coaching change and flip the script on the Knights. For South Florida, the defensive improvement was night and day between 2016 and 2017, but the offense took several steps backward. Ironically, the loss of star QB Quinton Flowers might be a blessing in disguise for the Bulls as their yet to be decided starter for 2018 will likely be a better fit into the mold that offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert is attempting to create.
For Temple, defense will continue to be the cornerstone of their team. They didn’t excel in any specific areas, but they were solid in every area. The offense was frankly bipolar, pretty poor early in the season, great in the back half. They should be able to continue their late season form, despite losing two of last year’s top receiving targets.
Both teams *can* play defense, and could absolutely take down the winner of the AAC West if they reach the title game. Despite not being true dark horses, nobody else in the conference has the quality to challenge. For South Florida, the bet is 11/1 at 888sport. Temple’s odds are nicer, offered at 20/1 at William Hill.
Believe what you want about the National Championship, betting doesn’t think very highly of UCF. If want to take a chance on UCF to win the NCAA outright, you can find them at 100/1 on sportnation (several sites don’t have non-Power 5 schools listed). Yes, they have to win the CFP to receive your payout. Memphis is hanging out on Karamba at 300/1, Houston and South Florida at 500/1. Is this the year the AAC cracks the College Football Playoff? It doesn't look like it, but if you win the bet, you'll definitely win big