By Lucas Owens
Quite a few things have changed since the last time any team in the American Athletic Conference played a football game, haven’t they? For one, UCONN is finally out, making the American an 11-team football conference for the foreseeable future. However, the big change has come in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. While other conferences have postponed or cancelled their fall football seasons, the American is marching on with as much of a full schedule as possible. That schedule kicks off with three games this weekend, with two of these games even allowing a limited capacity of fans in the seats. Football is going to be incredibly different in the American this year, but the conference is still doing its best to have college football, at least for now.
SMU (-22.5) @ Texas State
Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, Texas on Saturday, September 5 @ 3:30 PM CST
SMU and quarterback Shane Buchele get the pleasure of kicking off play for the American this year in what should be an easy matchup for the Mustangs. Following up their ten win season last year with higher expectations will not be easy, but if anybody can do it, it’s coach Sonny Dykes. SMU returns most of their starters on both sides of the ball this year, and Buchele should be able to follow up an electrifying junior campaign with a great senior one. Texas State is thin everywhere and, while they could have a good year in the Sun Belt, they just do not match up well with SMU. I am expecting SMU to win here, and win big, to start off their season.
Prediction: SMU 45 – 14 Texas State
Memphis (-19.5) v Arkansas State
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee on Saturday, September 5 @ 7:00 PM CST
Memphis may have gone to the Cotton Bowl last year and lost by 14 to Penn State, but their future at the head of the American is not so strong this year as it was last. The Tigers lost head coach Mike Norvell to Florida State and star running back Kendrick Gainwell due to opting out this year, but did keep star quarterback Brady White, as the signal-caller chose to return for a final year. While they do have a tough road ahead in the American, the Tigers get a good chance for a tune-up with Arkansas State on Saturday. The Red Wolves lost just four games last year in the Sun Belt and do return Blake Anderson as head coach (Mizzou fans may recognize that name, as he was almost swooped up by the Tigers last winter), but they are simply outclassed by a fiery Memphis squad looking to start the season off strong.
Prediction: Memphis 38 – 21 Arkansas State
Pow6r Game of the Week: Navy (+1) v BYU
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland on Monday, September 7 @ 7:00 PM CST
The brigades of Midshipmen may not be filling the stands in Annapolis this year, at least for now, but Navy football is going to be playing on Labor Day and, like the other two American Athletic teams in action, do so after one of their best years in a long time. Navy had the pleasure of beating Kansas State in Memphis’ stadium to finish out last season and will play another nationally relevant team to start off this year as well. The Midshipmen have some holes to fill, especially the big one left by the loss of Malcolm Perry to the New Orleans Saints this past year. With their quarterback being by far the biggest component of a triple option offense, Navy needs to find a quick replacement, and it looks like that will probably end up being Perry Olsen to start the season. They also will look to have a good group of sailors ready in the offense as well, seeing as with the strict restrictions of the Naval academy they have not lost many players to the pandemic (a big factor later in the season). But for now, they have the Cougars of BYU to face and, even though they are favored by the spread, on paper and with the dreaded eye-test Navy looks like a more complete team. With that said, it will be an incredibly close game this Monday, but I am going to go ahead and say that it will fall Navy’s way. However, this far out, it is looking more like a toss-up and should be a very fun game through and through.
Prediction: Navy 21 – BYU 18
While some teams in the American Athletic Conference do get their start this week, the rest have to wait one or more to have their first matchup. Make sure to look out at the beginning of next week for The Most Americ6n Recap, and follow along all season to see just how the fourth best conference (solely due to the Big Ten and PAC-12 not playing) fares this year.
Edited by Emma Moloney