Brad’s 2022 College Football Preview- American Athletic Conference Analysis and Predictions

Every summer since 2007 I have created an intricate set of college football predictions for each upcoming season.  This year is no exception, as I will be using my blog over the next few hours to publish my 16th annual college football preview guide which will contain 18 entries in all. The records below reflect each team’s predicted regular season overall record followed by their conference record.  These records include conference title games for the top two teams but exclude bowl games which will be previewed later on in a separate column on this blog.  The teams marked in bold font are the ones predicted to gain bowl eligibility.  Without further ado, here are my predictions for the American Athletic Conference in 2022.

1Houston (12-1, 7-1)conference champion

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Running Back

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: at Texas Tech (September 10)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at East Carolina (November 19)- upset of the year in AAC conference play!

Bottom Line: The Cougars have all of the key pieces back on a team that was dangerously close to knocking off Cincinnati in the AAC title game and going to a New Year’s Six Bowl. I am predicting they take the next step this year and win the AAC thanks to a schedule that doesn’t feature regular season games against either UCF or Cincinnati.

2Cincinnati (10-3, 7-1)- conference runner-up

Positional Strength: Offensive Line

Positional Weakness: Quarterback

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: at SMU (October 22)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at UCF (October 29)

Bottom Line: The good news for the Bearcats is that they have 13 starters back from a team that went to the CFP last year. The bad news is that the top 8 players from that team are gone now including the starting QB, the top RB, the top receiver, two NFL CBs, and the three top tacklers on defense. The Bearcats still have a ton of talent but I can’t pick them to beat Arkansas or return to the New Year’s Six with all those pieces gone.

3UCF (9-3, 6-2)

Positional Strength: Offensive Line

Positional Weakness: Linebacker

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Cincinnati (October 29)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at USF (November 25)

Bottom Line: John Rhys Plumlee and Isaiah Bowser will both run wild in Gus Malzah’s spread option rushing attack, but Malzahn is notorious for losing one or two games each season that he shouldn’t (see Navy in 2021), and I think this squad will drop a couple of games as road favorite that keeps them out of the AAC title game.

4East Carolina (8-4, 6-2)

Positional Strength: Running Back

Positional Weakness: Offensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Houston (November 19)- spoiling the undefeated season for the Cougars!

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: vs. UCF (October 22)

Bottom Line: Mike Houston got his breakthrough season with the Pirates in 2021 as he has finally steered this program out of the doldrums of FBS and back into relevance. The only thing he is missing as ECU’s coach is that signature win that he can hang his hat on. I think that win comes on November 9th as the Pirates knock off a Houston team that I believe enters that game as a top 10 unbeaten football team.

5SMU (8-4, 5-3)

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Linebacker

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. TCU (September 24)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at UCF (October 1)

Bottom Line: The Mustangs bring a lot of experience back from a really good football team in 2021, including their starting QB, and RB. However, they will still have to adapt to a new coach with new schemes and also navigate a brutal schedule that requires them to play the top 3 teams in the conference as well as two power 5 opponents.

6Memphis (7-5, 4-4)

Positional Strength: Defensive Backs

Positional Weakness: Running Back

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. UCF (November 5)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Navy (September 10)

Bottom Line: I hate to say it, but this seems to be a program in the midst of a gradual decline under coach Ryan Silverfield as the Tigers have gone from conference title contenders/champions (2017-2019) to a little over .500 (2020) to right at .500 (2021). It is also troubling that the running back position which used to be the strength of this program on an annual basis is now one of the team’s weakness. With that being said, the Tigers still have a talented QB and a favorable schedule which should keep them above .500 in 2022.

T-7USF (4-8, 3-5)

Positional Strength: Linebacker

Positional Weakness: Defensive Backs

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. UCF (November 25)- the Bulls have played the Knights surprisingly close the past few seasons and this is the year they finally get over the hump.

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Tulsa (November 18)

Bottom Line: This team will take a noticeable step forward in 2022 in Jeff Scott’s third year with the help of former Baylor Quarterback Gerry Bohannon. Nevertheless, the schedule, which features two power 5 non-conference games on the road and a meeting with BYU in the opener, will prevent this team from attaining bowl eligibility.

T-7Navy (4-8, 3-5)

Positional Strength: Defensive Line

Positional Weakness: Wide Receiver

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Memphis (September 10)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: vs. Army (December 10)

Bottom Line: It is sad to see this program take a major step back under Ken Niumatalo who was once one of the hottest names in coaching after his initial run of success at the Naval Academy. The Midshipmen went from the premier football program amongst the service academies to a clear afterthought behind Army and Air Force. With that being said, their unique style will always lead to a couple of upsets (see UCF in 2021) and I think they will knock off at least a few conference foes in 2021 despite only returning 11 total starters.

9Tulsa (4-8, 2-6)

Positional Strength: Wide Receiver

Positional Weakness: Defensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Northern Illinois (September 10)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: vs. Tulane (November 5)

Bottom Line: Embattled coach Philip Montgomery has done just a enough the past few seasons to save his job, but I feel like this program is in gradual decline after its Cinderella run to the AAC title game in 2020. This season they return their starting QB Davis Brin (pictured above) but lose their top RB and receiver, four starting offensive linemen, and their defensive coordinator. Not sure, Montgomery is going to make it to year 9…

10Tulane (4-8, 1-7)

Positional Strength: Linebacker

Positional Weakness: Defensive Backs

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: at Tulsa (November 5)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at USF (October 15)

Bottom Line: A lot of people are expecting a strong bounce back campaign from the Wave in 2022 after their disastrous 2-10 finish last season. And while I think Tulane will definitely be improved in 2022 (because frankly they couldn’t be much worse), their manageable non-conference schedule turns into a brutal conference slate that could render them winless in league play.

11Temple (2-10, 0-8)

Positional Strength: Defensive Backs

Positional Weakness: Defensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. UMass (September 24)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Duke (September 2)

Bottom Line: You can’t say enough about the job Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins did to elevate this perennial football doormat into a national power that actually hosted college gameday. Nevertheless, this program has returned to being absolutely dismal, and I don’t see new coach Stan Drayton turning this mess around anytime soon.

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