AAC West: 2015 Preview
History will be made on Saturday 19 September, when Navy plays East Carolina as a member of the American Athletic Conference.
This will be the Midshipmen's first football season as a conference member after 134 years of playing as an independent.
Navy didn't waste any time becoming a favorite to win the AAC West. QB Keenan Reynolds returns for his final season and welcomes back his favorite receiver Jamir Tillman. Of course, the Middies will also look to beat Army for the 14th straight season. If they do it and also beat Air Force in October, Navy can also win the Commander-in-Chief trophy for the tenth time in thirteen years.
Houston will be interesting this season, as former Ohio State assistant coach Tom Herman takes over as head coach as the Cougars try and improve on an 8-5 season. Greg Ward is ahead in the quarterback competition, while top running back Ken Farrow also returns. Houston plays Navy late in the season at home and that game could well be for the division championship.
Memphis may have something to say about Navy or Houston winning a title, as the Tigers are coming off a 10-3 season, a blowout of Cincinnati, and an testosteronic bowl win over BYU, to say the least. Paxton Lynch returns to run the offense, which was decimated by graduation. Still, a few intriguing pieces do return to run coach Justin Fuente's offense. The defense needs retooling, but the Tigers have time to get things together; they don't play Navy and Houston until late in the season.
The division's other three teams will struggle for winning seasons and hope for some sort of bowl bid. Tulsa (2-10) and Tulane (3-9) both need to boucne back from tough seasons. SMU dropped to 1-11, and there may be no help for the Mustangs in 2015.
Tulsa returns its quarterback, Dane Evans, top running back, Zack Langer, and top receiver Keevan Lucas, but the Golden Hurricane's issue is stopping people. Their defense gave up over thirty points in every game but one.
There's a new coach at SMU, but the Mustangs are years away from contending for anything. Chad Morris left Clemson for a bare cupboard; the offense that scored ten points or less in eight games last season, while the defense surrendered over 35 points in ten games. Worse, SMU has Baylor and TCU for non-cons and may not recover before the league schedule starts.
It's going to take years for the AAC to build enough tradition to barge into the forefront of college football fans' hearts and minds. For its sake, perhaps the addition of Navy and all its trappings will provide an instant injection of it.