You can tell a lot about how the AAC football season will go by around midnight on the first Saturday of action.
That’s when many of you—at least me—will be home from the Temple at Villanova football and Cubs at Phillies baseball sports doubleheader and home on the couch as halftime approaches of the Navy at Hawaii football game.
By then, we should have a pretty good picture of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams.
Here’s a look:
- Houston is playing its crosstown rival, Rice, at the same time (noon) the Owls are playing Villanova. If either Temple or Houston struggle against either team, it’s probably not going to be a good season. More likely, is the scenario that both AAC teams win those games in the area of 41-14, 35-21. At least that’s the hope.
- Even if ECU is down this year, and the Pirates are, they should smoke North Carolina A&T in their 6 p.m. opener.
- Don’t sleep on the Elon Phoenix, though, in another 6 p.m. game. Coached by former Temple assistant coach Curt Cignetti, Elon won both at No. 8 Richmond (featuring New York Giant draft choice and quarterback Kyle Lauletta) and beat Villanova by a wider margin than Temple did a year ago. The Phoenix travel to USF and, if Cignetti is able to beat Charley Strong before a sparse crowd in Tampa, he immediately gets mentioned for FBS head coaching jobs.
- The marquee game of the night for the league is an hour later when Cincinnati travels to UCLA. The Bearcats have had the top two-rated recruiting classes the last two years and if they can beat UCLA (without Josh Rosen but still a good P5 team), they will immediately enter the conversation for the AAC East title with UCF and Temple.
On Thursday, Aug. 30, there are a couple of interesting games as Wake Forest travels to Tulane and UCF visits UConn. UCF will enter as the favorite to win the AAC East, but any team with an unproven first-year head coach is a crapshoot. The last time Wake Forest played Tulane, it won, 7-0. That was the same Wake Forest team that beat the Matt Rhule-less Owls, 34-26. (Temple beat Tulane that year with Rhule, 31-0, and that was probably the main reason the Owls entered the Military Bowl with as a 13.5 favorite.)
In ensuing weeks, Temple is the only team in the league to take on two Power 5 foes on the ROAD. Other AAC teams have dipped their toes into that water only once, as UCF travels to North Carolina, Houston is at Texas Tech, Tulsa at Texas, ECU at Virginia Tech, SMU is at Michigan and USF is at Illinois.
Some of those other AAC teams have a second P5 opponent, but those games are home games. So if Temple is able to pull off a couple of road P5 wins and take the league as well, it puts the Owls in the national conversation. Summer officially ends on Sept. 23.
By the end of it, we should be able to separate the pretenders from the contenders.
Friday: Is This The One?