The American Athletic Conference is in a state of transition in 2023. The conference is welcoming six new teams and saying goodbye to Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston. The AAC went from 11 teams to 14 teams in the span of one year. It's going to be an exciting season for the American Athletic Conference! Stay updated with the AAC at FanBuzz.
American Athletic Conference Preview
NUMBER OF TEAMS: 14. Six teams are joining in: The Charlotte 49ers, the Florida Atlantic Owls, the UAB Blazers, the North Texas Mean Green, the Rice Owls, and the UTSA Roadrunners from the C-USA.
BOWL TEAMS LAST YEAR: 8. Tulane defeated USC at the Cotton Bowl Classic in 2022 as the lone New Year's Six representatives from the AAC. The Green Wave won 46-45, beating the Trojans by 1 point. Newbies UAB (beat Miami-Ohio in the Bahamas Bowl), UTSA (lost to Troy in the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl) were also in bowl games, as were returning teams Memphis (beat Utah State in the First Responder Bowl), East Carolina (beat Coastal Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl), SMU (lost to BYU in the New Mexico Bowl), and Rice (lost to Southern Miss in LendingTree Bowl), and North Texas (lost to Boise State in the Frisco Bowl).
THE WISE ONE: Willie Fritz is going into his eighth year as Tulane's head coach. Fritz has the second-highest number of program wins of all time, with 43.
GETTING HIS FEET WET: Half of the conference has a new head coach.
Some teams have chosen veteran head coaches who are new to the team. This includes the Florida Atlantic Owls hiring Tom Herman (54-22 career record). UNT head coach Eric Morris (24-18) also has HC experience under his belt, having spent three seasons at FCS Incarnate Word. Kevin Wilson (26-47) is the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes new head coach.
Four teams are going for rookie head coaches heading into 2023. After 15 years, Ken Niumatalolo was replaced by Brian Newberry as Navy's head coach. Newberry has been Navy's DC since 2019. Trent Dilfer is also a rookie head coach and is working on leading the UAB Blazers to victory. Alex Golesh is new and driven. He plans on being the HC and OC for the USF Bulls.
Biff Poggi is taking over as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers. He was an off-field analyst under Michigan's Jim Harbaugh and once played ball with Dan Marino. Head coaching in college is a new venture for Biff.
THE KING: Tulane ruled the American Athletic Conference in 2022. The program was in the AP top-25 for the first time in 24 years, with the Green Wave having the largest turnaround record-wise in FBS history. They went from 2-10 in 2021 to 12-2 in 2022. The AAC is competitive, but if anyone has what it takes to win it all in 2023, it's Tulane.
THE UPSTART: FAU returns 18 starters (8 offense, 10 defense) from its 5-win team a year ago. Maybe new HC Tom Herman will convert talent into wins.
THE REBUILDER: The UAB Blazers won seven games and made a bowl game, but only return nine starters (4 offense, 5 defense). They rebuilt their coaching staff with new HC and former NFL QB Trent Dilfer, too.
THE BEST LEAGUE GAME: UTSA at Tulane, Nov. 26. This could be a preview of the AAC Conference title game on Dec. 2 — just one week later.
THE BEST NON-AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE UPSET CHANCE: SMU at TCU, September 23rd.
THE TAKE: The AAC is a whole new conference this year. Between 3 teams leaving and 6 teams coming, along with 7 brand new head coaches, change is afoot. UTSA and Tulane remain the most competitive for the AAC championship, but with this much unpredictability, an upset wouldn't be out of the question.
Some teams, like Navy, Florida Atlantic, and Temple, are comfortable with who they have. Whether they should be or not. Other teams are in rebuild mode, such as the Charlotte 49ers, Tulsa, and East Carolina.
Hopefully, the invigoration that comes with so much change can inspire some of our struggling teams. No team should win a single game. USF and South Florida will need to tighten it up and win at least three games, like several other teams in the conference.
With a conference that has an average coaching term of 2.7 years, the AAC is lacking experienced wisdom at the head coaching position. However, so many new faces on the sidelines could bring fresh, innovative ideas to the American Athletic Conference.
SMU, Memphis, and possibly North Texas have the greatest potential to become contenders in the American Athletic Conference. They had decent winning records last year and have taken the necessary steps to fill the holes on their teams with strong athletes, backed by a coaching staff that will help them be their best.
UTSA and Tulane have all the signs of being the clear leaders of the AAC. However, newcomer UTSA is coming into a more competitive league like everyone else from the C-USA, and it could impact them more than anticipated. Tulane has a rock-solid offense going into 2023, but they lost defensive players in the offseason. There's no guarantee they can repeat the 2022 season without some of their key players on the roster.
CONFERENCE FINAL DETAILS: Saturday, December 2nd.
CONFERENCE FINAL PREDICTION: UTSA beats Tulane 40-30
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.