Louisville Favored in The American
The Louisville Cardinals are heavily favored to win the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural season, beating out former Big East rivals the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Cincinnati Bearcats who share second place on the bookmakers’ list.
The revamped and rebranded conference isn’t likely to draw huge viewing figures outside of its home markets, and few expect the AAC to offer any true national title threats, but that doesn’t mean football fans should expect a dud. In fact, there’s plenty to hold the interest when play kicks off on August 29.
Read on for the BettingSports.com preview of the conference.
Note: All odds quoted are sourced from Bovada’s College Football futures and are accurate as of July 31. Win totals are sourced from the sportsbook’s College Football team props.
Last season, the Cardinals (10-2, 5-2 Big East) earned a share of the last ever Big East football championship, and edged out Cincinnati and Rutgers to represent the conference in the All State Sugar Bowl in the process. Charlie Strong’s team went on to hand the Florida Gators a 33-23 defeat in that game, giving the now defunct football conference one final set of bragging rights.
The Cardinals will look to make more noise this season, taking the inaugural conference championship before jumping ship and joining the ACC in 2014. The club will again look to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to lead it to success.
Bridgewater threw for 3,718 yards last year, scoring 27 touchdowns in the process. He threw just eight interceptions during the season and connected on 68.5 percent of his passes. Entering his junior season, Bridgewater is 10/1 to win the Heisman award, making him fourth on the list.
Bridgewater will have familiar targets in Devante Parker, Damian Copeland and Eli Rogers, three of the school’s top four receivers from a year ago. The backfield could be weak though as Senorise Perry (705 yards last year) takes over starting duties from Jeremy Wright, who went undrafted in this spring’s NFL Draft.
The Cardinals are 4/7 to win the conference, miles ahead of their nearest rivals. But in terms of the national title picture, Bovada has the school at 22/1, 10th on its rankings.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers is another one-and-done team in the American Athletic Conference this season. The Scarlet Knights will up sticks at the end of the year and head for the Big Ten. Before that, Tim Pernetti’s school would love to take a conference championship.
Rutgers (9-3, 5-2 Big East), alongside Cincinnati, narrowly missed out on representing the Big East in the Sugar Bowl having earned a share of the Big East title. The school experienced further disappointment as they fell to the Virginia Tech Yellow Jackets 13-10 in overtime in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Gary Nova returns at quarterback alongside favorite receiver Brandon Coleman, but the departure of Mark Harrison and Tim Wright, his No. 2 and 3 receivers, and starting running back Jawan Jamison could mean winning a conference title is just out of reach.
Bovada currently has Rutgers at 4/1 to win the conference, level with Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights are listed at 150/1 to win a national championship, 29th on the futures list.
Cincinnati (9-3, 5-2 Big East) followed up its share of the Big East title with a 48-34 victory over the Duke Blue Devils in the Belk Bowl. The school waved goodbye to head coach Butch Jones, who was lured by the bright lights of the SEC and agreed to take over the reins with the Tennessee Volunteers. The school now welcomes Tommy Tuberville, who led the Texas Tech Red Raiders to an 8-5 record last season.
The Bearcats will have the tandem of Muchie Legaux and Brendon Kay at the helm. The duo combined for 3,000-plus yards and 23 touchdowns last season. However, three of the school’s four leading receivers have moved on, while running back George Winn – who accounted for 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground last year – has graduated. With question marks at the skill positions, Cincinnati could have similar problems to Rugers.
As it stands, Cincinnati has 4/1 odds of winning the American Athletic Conference, but only 250/1 odds to win a national title, ranking the club a lengthy 37th.
Four former Conference-USA schools will enter the AAC fray this season, before being joined by three more (East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa) next season. Of these four, bookies like the UCF Knights best, assigning the school 15/2 odds of winning the conference at the first try.
The Knights (9-4, 7-1 C-USA) fell to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the conference championship game last season, but went on to pick up a decisive 38-17 win over the Ball State Cardinals in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg. The Knights won an appeal over NCAA sanctions and will be eligible for postseason play again this year.
Little is expected from the remaining C-USA schools joining the conference. The SMU Mustangs (6-6, 5-3 C-USA) are considered 25/1 to win the conference, while the Houston Cougars (5-7, 4-4 C-USA) are 50/1 and the Memphis Tigers (4-8, 4-4 C-USA) are 66/1.
Equally little is expected of the remaining Big East holdovers. The Connecticut Huskies (5-7, 2-5 Big East) and South Florida Bulls (3-9, 1-6 Big East) are both considered 33/1 to take the conference title. The Bulls are 500/1 to win a national championship. Meanwhile, the Temple Owls (4-7, 2-5 Big East) prop up the conference with 75/1 odds of winning the AAC title.
The full American Athletic Conference football schedule can be found here.