Can the American Athletic Conference Be Big in the East?
With the 2013 college football season less than 100 days away, the American Athletic Conference is looking forward to its' inaugural season. The AAC, not to be confused with the ACC, is the old Big East Conference with a new look. Gone are Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and going next year are Rutgers and Louisville. As well, with the new four-team playoff format arriving in 2014, the term BCS now applies to everyone this season. The upshot is that the AAC will not have an automatic qualifier bid, as they no longer exist.
For 2013, however, Louisville is still there, and the defending champion Cardinals are the prohibitive favorites to win the championship. Louisville returns all-everything quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is coming off a great Sugar Bowl performance when he led the Cards to a 33-23 upset of Florida. The defense still needs to improve but tackles Brandon Dunn and Jamaine Brooks can dominate a game at anytime.
Rutgers and Cincinnati finished tied with Louisville at 5-2 in the Big East last year but the Cardinals won the tiebreaker. Quarterback Gary Nova returns for Rutgers and he has a slew of talented receivers along with running back Savon Huggins returning. The Bearcats return Brendon Kay at quarterback along with the entire offensive line and a nationally ranked defense. They also welcome Tommy Tuberville as their new coach after stops at Mississippi, Auburn, and Texas Tech.
South Florida and Central Florida, the latter a newcomer to the league, will form a great rivalry, but they are no better than the fourth- and fifth-best teams in the league. UCF will be led by quarterback Blake Bortles while USF has a new coach in WIllie Taggart and will have to replace their quarteback, BJ Daniels, a four-year starter.
Connecticut stays in the league although they would like to be somewhere else, while three newcomers -- Houston, Memphis, and SMU -- will be in the middle of the pack this season. The final team, Temple, was actually thrown out of the Big East at one point, welcomed back, and now is part of the AAC. By the end of the year, the Owls may wish they were back in the Mid-American Conference.