Cleat Geeks

2017 College Football American Conference (East Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. Every year, the American Conference is one of the top conferences competing outside the power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12 and SEC). Don’t let the label fool you in terms of how legitimate a team from the AAC is. The East division is filled with teams that have defeated and or shocked a power 5 conference team. Last year alone, the Cincinnati Bearcats beat Purdue (Big Ten), UConn beat Virginia (ACC) and the East Carolina Pirates beat Syracuse (ACC). This year, each team is aiming for bigger and better teams. The South Florida Bulls are a team from a non-Power 5 conference have the highest potential to make the playoffs. This is a very competitive division, however, each of these teams are looking to win the American Conference and go to either the playoffs or a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Central Florida Knights – “After a major rebuild, will the Knights be back in the divisional title fight?”
6-7, 4-4 in American in 2016

The UCF Knights were one of the top teams in the Big East and the American Conference under Head Coach George O’Leary. They were co-Conference champs in the 2014 season and then suffered a 0-12 collapse in 2015 that forced O’Leary to resign. After a huge rebuilding season last year, the Knights are now ready to compete with some of the top teams in the conference. The good news is that the Knights return 9 offensive starters and OLB Shaquem Griffin, who accounted for 11.5 sacks last season. They will need to make their offense more efficient against tougher opponents like Maryland, Memphis, and South Florida.
Cincinnati Bearcats – “Will the new staff revamp and reenergize the offense in 2017?”
4-8, 1-7 in American in 2016

For a Tommy Tuberville coached team, last year’s Bearcats experienced a lack of defined focus as opposed to 2015. In the 2015 season, Cincinnati was ranked 37th in the nation in points per game (33.8) but last season, they were 123rd in points per game (19.3). Despite an offense full of offensive stars, the Bearcats were not able to make an efficient offense going. With coach Tuberville resigning, the new Bearcats staff are not only having to make an efficient offensive scheme but to provide much-needed intensity to the program. The Bearcats also have a young Defensive Coordinator to work into their system.
Connecticut Huskies – “Will a winning season be within grasping reach for UConn and 2nd stint Head Coach Randy Edsall?”
3-9, 1-7 in American in 2016

UConn has not had much success of winning after Randall Edsall left as Head Coach. Luckily the UConn Huskies were able to hire Edsall back after his failed stint with the Maryland Terps. Last season was his first season back with UConn and did not go as planned with a 3-9 record. This season, the Huskies return 7 offensive starters and 6 defensive starters from last year. With a full year of recruiting under Edsall, he hopes to have more talent with the Huskies football program. Watch for the passing game to improve under returning starter QB Bryant Shirreffs who passed for over 2,000 yards last season.

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East Carolina Pirates – “How will the defense get better after a lack lusting pressure setting?”
3-9, 1-7 in American in 2016

Head Coach Scott Montgomery’s first year with the East Carolina Pirates was not smooth in terms of securing wins. A huge part of the losses came from the lacking Pirates that was ranked last in the nation in total sacks (8) and creating turnovers (5 interceptions). The Pirates were also 113th in the nation in defensive efficiency (28.2). The offense could not keep up when the defense gave 35 points in 7 games last season. If the Pirates want to make themselves more of a competitor in the American Conference, then Defensive Coordinator Kenwick Thompson will need to take charge and put more pressure on the defense.
South Florida Bulls – “Are the Bulls the team to beat outside the Power 5 conferences?”
11-2, 7-1 in American in 2016

Even after losing Head Coach Willie Taggart to Oregon, the Bulls are expected to achieve even more in the 2017 College Football. On paper, South Florida absolutely aced their Head Coach search with former Texas HC Charlie Strong. As an excellent defensive coach and a strong recruiter in the South Florida/Miami region, Strong makes a perfect hire for the Bulls. Now comes the actual test, the Bulls must get performance on defense as they were 92nd in points allowed per game (31.6). They do return 9 defensive starters as well as QB Quinton Flowers, who passed 2,812 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Flowers could be a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy this year.
Temple Owls – “Will new Head Coach Geoff Collins continue the success of the Owl in 2017?”
10-4, 7-1 in American in 2016

For the past two seasons, the Temple Owls have been East division winners including last season where they won the Conference. The Owls have had 6 winning seasons in the past 8 years. Now Geoff Collins will take over as Head Coach after Matt Rhule left for the same position at Baylor. While the Defensive Backs are the best-returning unit on the team, they do not have many starters returning beyond that. The schedule is also not in Temple’s favor with games at Notre Dame, at South Florida and cross-divisional opponents in Houston and Navy.

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