Predicting the American

Ready for some college football? Camps are opening. UConn players report Thursday. And the new American Athletic Conference holds media days Monday and Tuesday in Newport, R.I. Here's our shot at predicting the order of finish in the conference's first season.

College football is back. Conference media days around the nation have been held in recent weeks. The new American Athletic Conference – the league formerly known as the Big East – takes its turn Monday and Tuesday.

The membership has changed but the location for media days hasn't. Coaches and players from the American will meet with the media Tuesday and part of those formal activities will be the release of the preseason media poll.

The following is my predicted order of finish, which I submitted to the league office for the media poll. We will have the results of the media poll and more coverage on Tuesday and the remainder of the week as UConn players report to camp on Thursday.

1-Louisville: Teddy Bridgewater might be the best quarterback in the country. That's right, Johnny Manziel. The Cardinals are still soaring after pounding Florida in the Sugar Bowl. With 14 starters back, Louisville will win the American and could battle for the national championship.

2-Cincinnati: The Bearcats may not look the same with Tommy Tuberville taking over as head coach. But the results could be familiar in Cincinnati, where the Bearcats won 10 games each of the past two seasons. Keep an eye on Brendon Kay at quarterback.

3-UCF:Coach George O'Leary has a 60-55 record in nine seasons at UCF. Moving into the American might give the Knights a little more attention. The Knights have a lot to replace on defense but Blake Bortles is solid at quarterback and he is surrounded by some potent offensive weapoins.

4-Rutgers: Coach Kyle Flood turned in a 9-4 record in his first season in Piscataway but the Scarlet Knights lost four of their last six games, including a bowl loss to Virginia Tech. Quarterback Gary Nova returns but the defense faces major reconstruction. Rutgers is off to the Big Ten next season.

5-USF: The Bulls are starting over after last season's 3-9 record that led to the firing of coach Skip Holtz, who lost 14 of his last 16 conference games. New coach Willie Taggart must find a replacement for incredibly productive quarterback B.J. Daniels. That could be a season-long project.

6-Houston: The Cougars were the exact opposite of UConn last season, averaging 34.2 points and 479.6 yards per game. While the offense flourished, the defense didn't get the job done at all. There's a lot of optimism around the Houston program but progress will be made after this season.

7-Connecticut: Defense has kept UConn in games the past two seasons but the Huskies always come up short offensively. Linebacker Yawin Smallwood is a special player but he can't make up for all the top players who aren't back on defense. New offensive coordinator T.J. Weist will be scrutinized and coach Paul Pasqualoni is under tremendous pressure. The Huskies need an offensive spark to move higher.

8-Temple: New coach Matt Rhule says he has come to Temple to win championships. That won't happen until the Owls find a reliable quarterback. Rhule was a popular choice to replace Steve Addazio but he needs time to get the Owls back on track.

9-SMU: Coach June Jones has had a nomadic career but he does have five years under his belt with the Mustangs. That has resulted in a 31-34 record, including a 7-6 record last year, and four straight bowl games. It will be difficult keeping that streak alive with a non-conference schedule that includes Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU.

10-Memphis: The Memphis basketball program will compete for championships in the American immediately. Not so with the Tigers in football. Coach Justin Fuente has 14 players returning but Memphis has been an erratic team and will be hard pressed to improved on last year's 4-8 record in a new conference.


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