2022 AAC College Football Betting Odds, Picks, Win Totals: UCF Ready to Push for League Title?
Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Isaiah Bowser (UCF)
The college football landscape has seen some drastic changes over the last year. Whether it’s NIL deals, the transfer portal, or conference realignments, nothing feels set in stone anymore.
One thing is for certain, this will be the last season for the American Athletic Conference as we know it today.
Starting next season, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will be departing for the Big 12.
The AAC will be bringing in six new programs to replace them in Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA. The American will move forward competing as a 14-team league.
The three programs heading for the Big 12 next season are projected as the early favorites in this year’s preseason predictions. The remaining eight schools hope to keep the AAC title inside the conference.
South Florida Under 4.5 Wins
After posting a 3-18 record, Jeff Scott enters his third year with the program on the hot seat. This is a make-or-break season for Scott, who has 19 starters returning to the team.
There is a lot to like about the returning production for USF. Quarterback Timmy McClain showed continued improvement throughout last season. They also added depth at the position during the spring by landing Baylor transfer Gerry Bohanon.
Running back Jaren Mangham is a wrecking ball who averaged 4.2 yards per carry while punching in 15 touchdowns. He will be running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.
But the defense was horrid last season. The Bulls failed to stop the run — allowing 5.8 yards per carry — and they allowed 35 points per game and over seven yards per play.
The program brought in Bob Shoop to try and fix this defense, but that will be a heavy ask.
The main reason I love this under for South Florida is the grueling schedule it was dealt. The Bulls matchup with BYU, Florida and Louisville in the first month of the season. They will be 14+ point underdogs in those games, along with road matchups against Cincinnati and Houston.
I have the Bulls pegged as favorites just twice all season — against Howard and Temple. Finding five wins against this schedule is too tall of a task.
Central Florida Over 8.5 Wins
Central Florida lived by the phrase “Next Man Up” last season, as the injury bug ran rampant throughout the roster. The one-two punch of Dillon Gabriel and Isaiah Bowser was missed for the majority of the season.
Despite an evolving roster, Gus Malzahn was able to put together a quiet nine-win season. The Knights finished the year undefeated at home, winning all seven of their matchups by an average of 16 points per game.
UCF looks to use its 29-17 victory over Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl as momentum heading into this season.
Action Network’s Brett McMurphy broke the news on Sunday afternoon that John Rhys Plumlee would be starting in Week 1.
UCF coach Gus Malzahn names John Rhys Plumlee as Knights’ starting QB. Plumlee transferred from Ole Miss, where he started 8 games at QB. UCF opens at home vs. South Carolina State (Sept.1) & Louisville (Sept. 9)
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) August 21, 2022
Plumlee started eight games at quarterback for Ole Miss in 2019, converting 16 touchdowns and rushing for over 1,000 yards. He is a true dual-threat quarterback, which Malzahn will certainly take advantage of.
The Knights’ top three rushers from last season all return after combining to average 5.9 yards per carry. Among them is a healthy Bowser, who torched the Florida defense for 155 yards rushing and two scores.
The UCF defense returns nine starters from a group that allowed just 24 points per game. The Knights allowed only 12 passing touchdowns while coming up with 11 interceptions. This group should be even more dangerous than last season.
This will be the final season that Central Florida is given such an advantageous schedule before jumping to the Big 12.
I have the Knights pegged as two touchdown favorites or more in seven of their matchups. They will be close to seven-point favorites on the road against Memphis and East Carolina.
Also, the Knights’ toughest games — against Louisville, Cincinnati and SMU — will all be played at home in the Bounce House. Over the last five seasons, UCF has gone 29-2 at home, with both losses coming during the COVID-filled 2020 season.
Central Florida has an opportunity to take the reins of the AAC back from Cincinnati this season. I anticipate the Knights to come away with a double-digit win total before stepping up in class next year.
Tulane Over 6 Wins
The Tulane Green Wave finished last year with their lowest win total since joining the AAC in 2014. The program won just two games and had the deck stacked against them before the season began.
Tulane had the toughest schedule of any Group of Five team. The Green Wave matched up with Oklahoma, Ole Miss, UAB, Houston, SMU and Cincinnati all before Halloween.
Amidst that brutal stretch, Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana, causing the football team to relocate for an extended period of time.
Tulane finished the season 2-10 while dropping all five games that were decided by one possession.
Willie Fritz brings in a new offensive coordinator in Jim Svoboda, who put together a 85-43 record at Central Missouri. Svoboda is a fresh offensive mind who will have nine returning starters to work with.
The Green Wave are due for some positive regression this season, and their schedule helps that cause. The program should start 3-1, with probable wins at home against UMass, Alcorn State and Southern Mississippi. They will also have toss-up games against East Carolina, Memphis, Tulsa and Memphis.
Tulane ends the season with home matchups against Central Florida and SMU, which are two very winnable games, especially at Yulman Stadium.
Fritz will want to reestablish his program toward the upper echelon of the AAC before it is restructured. I anticipate a big bounce-back season for Tulane, which will ride the Green Wave to a bowl game.
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