NCAAF – AAC Conference Odds: Cincinnati, Houston Expected to Lead the Way

Despite Exodus of Stars to NFL, Cincinnati Could Embark on Another Title Run

Familiar Faces at Top of AAC Conference Odds in 2022

The American Athletic Conference likes to refer to itself as a “Power 6” Conference. That was certainly the case during an unforgettable 2021 season when Cincinnati earned a spot in the College Football Playoff while Houston wasn’t far behind the Bearcats.

The Bearcats and Cougars are not only the favorites once, according to the NCAAF AAC Conference odds, but both Cincinnati and Houston are favored to top the regular-season expected win total of nine. In the odds to win the NCAAF National Championship, Cincinnati comes in at +15000 followed by Houston at +25000. UCF also has +25000 odds to win the national title. It will be the AAC swan song for all three teams who will be joining the Big 12 beginning with the 2023-24 season.

While Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder is now with the Atlanta Falcons, most of the other starting quarterbacks in the conference are back so it could be quite the season in the AAC.

There will be some intriguing Week 1 matchups featuring American Athletic Conference teams, including East Carolina meeting North Carolina State, Cincinnati facing Arkansas and Memphis set to play Mississippi State.

Here is the team-by-team breakdown in the American Athletic Conference

Cincinnati Bearcats (+165 to win conference title)

Cincinnati made history by being the first team, not in a Power-5 Conference (not named Notre Dame) to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff field. Now there are plenty of holes to fill.

Nine players were selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, led by cornerback Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner. The offense will look much different without quarterback Desmond Ridder, running back Jerome Ford, and receiver Alec Pierce.

Linebackers Bryan Cook and Darrian Beavers, defensive linemen Myjai Sanders and Curtis Brooks, and cornerback Coby Bryant were also drafted. Still, the AAC Conference odds favor the Bearcats once again.

There is strength in the trenches with the return of offensive linemen Jake Renfro, Dylan O’Quinn, and Lorenz Metz as well as defensive linemen Malik Vann and Jowon Briggs.

Linebacker Deshawn Pace is coming off a season with 95 tackles and four interceptions while tight end Josh Whyle could have a larger role in the offense.

Cincinnati finished fifth in the 2021 NCAAF team stats in scoring defense and that is leaving tough shoes for the 2022 defense to fill.

Houston Cougars (+225 to win conference title)

Quarterback Clayton Tune completed 68% of his passes for 3546 yards and 30 touchdowns. Nathaniel Dell was his favorite receiver as he finished his sophomore season with 1329 yards on 90 catches. Keep an eye on the updates on star running back Alton McCaskill, who tore his ACL in the spring. Ta’Zhawn Henry could have a larger role after rushing for 513 yards in 2021. Patrick Paul should be one of the top offensive linemen in the conference.

The defense will certainly miss ball-hawking defensive back Marcus Jones, who was also one of the most dynamic returners in the country, and defensive lineman Logan Hall who both were selected in April’s NFL Draft.

Leading tackler Donavan Mutin (77 tackles), defensive lineman Derek Parish (54 tackles, five sacks), D’Anthony Jones (six sacks), and safety Gervarrius Owens (52 tackles) will form the nucleus of what should be one of the top defenses in the conference.

UCF Knights (+350 to win conference title)

Mikey Keene didn’t figure to see much time at quarterback in 2021 but that changed when starter Dillon Gabriel played in just three games before suffering a season-ending injury. Now Gabriel is at Oklahoma and Keene is looking to build on a season when he threw for 17 touchdowns. Ryan O’Keefe also returns after leading the Knights with 84 catches and 812 receiving yards. Keep an eye on tight end Alec Holler. The running game should be in good shape with Johnny Richardson and Isaiah Bowser both coming back.

The transfer of leading tackler Tatum Bethune definitely hurts the Knights. Cornerback Davonte Brown, safety Divaad Wilson, and linemen Tre’mon Morris-Brash and Ricky Barber will lead the defense. It is no wonder that the AAC Conference odds view the Knights as a contender once again.

Southern Methodist Mustangs (+1000 to win conference title)

The big change comes at the top with Rhett Lashlee hired after Sonny Dykes took the job at Texas Christian.
Quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who completed 68% of his passes with 3628 yards and 39 touchdowns, and receiver Rashee Rice (64 catches, 670 yards) will be players to watch on offense. Receivers Danny Gray and Reggie Roberson as well as tight end Grant Calcaterra is off to the NFL so there are some holes to fill.

Defensive linemen Elijah Chatman and DeVere Levelston are players to watch on defense.

SMU has an expected win total of seven in Lashlee’s debut season.

The Mustangs failed to cover in four of their last five games a season ago.

Memphis Tigers (+1200 to win conference title)

Memphis is yet another team with a starting quarterback returning. Seth Henigan threw for 3322 yards and 25 touchdowns. He will miss leading receiver Calvin Austin. Jay Drucker comes in after rushing for 1184 yards as a freshman at Northern Illinois.

Safety Quindell Johnson (104 tackles) and linebacker Xavier Cullens (70) return to lead a defense.

The odds are at -145 for Memphis to finish under the expected regular-season win total of 7.5.

Memphis was 2-5 against the spread in the final seven games of the 2021 season.

East Carolina Pirates (+2200 to win conference title)

Running back Keaton Mitchell burst onto the scene and ran for 1132 yards as a redshirt freshman.

Tight end Ryan Jones and quarterback Holton Ahlers are other key returnees on offense.

Cornerback Malik Fleming (34 tackles, nine pass breakups) and linebackers Jeremy Lewis and Xavier Smith will be players to watch on defense.

Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (+3300 to win conference title)

Tulsa has some experience back on the offensive line despite Tyler Smith being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Sincere Haynesworth and Gerard Wheeler will be key players on the line. Receiver Juan Carlos Santana (50 catches, 674 yards) is also coming back.

Leading tackler Justin Wright (82 tackles) is also returning while Tulsa could have the best kicking game in the AAC with the return of kicker Zack Long and punter Lachlan Wilson.

Tulane Green Wave (+4000 to win conference title)

Tulane is another team with experience on the offensive line. Quarterback Michael Pratt and running back Tyjae Spears should benefit for improved line play.

Linebacker Darius Hodges and Nick Anderson will be key contributors on defense.

South Florida Bulls (+6600 to win conference title)

Jaren Mangham ran for 15 touchdowns in 2021 after transferring in from Colorado. Leading receiver Xavier Weaver (715 yards on 41 catches) also returns as does leading tackler Antonio Grier (92 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two interceptions).

The expected win total comes in at 4.5 so it could be another long season for the Bulls.

Navy Midshipmen (+8000 to win conference title)

Quarterback Tai Lavatai is back, but the other ball carriers in the option offense have moved on. Kip Frankland will lead the offensive line while John Marshall (54 tackles) figures to be the top defensive player.

Bijan Nichols is back after going 15 for 19 on-field goals.

Navy was 8-2 against the spread in the final 10 games of the 2021 campaign.

Temple Owls (+20000 to win conference title)

The bottom has fallen out on a Temple program that isn’t far removed from being a contender in the AAC.

Defensive backs Keyshawn Paul and Cameron Ruiz are key returnees on defense, although the work against the run needs to improve.

Quarterback D’Wan Mathis figures to connect with receivers Jose Barbon and Amad Anderson early and often.

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