By Lucas Owens
For the first time in what feels like forever, the American has a near full slate of games. In fact, only three teams — ECU, Memphis, and Temple — will be sitting out this week. Considering one of those teams in Memphis has a large amount of COVID-19 cases, and the others have full schedules coming up, that may not be a bad thing. We do, however, get to see eight teams from the conference in action, including the first conference game of the season in Navy versus Tulane on Saturday. Enough stalling though, let’s look at the slate of games in the American Athletic Conference this week.
Tulsa (+23.5) @ No. 14 Oklahoma State
Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Oklahoma on Saturday, September 19 @ 11:00 AM CST
Kicking off the action in the AAC this week is Tulsa, as the Golden Hurricane go thrashing into Stillwater as heavy underdogs to the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. This is actually both teams’ opener, so not much can be said about how the teams look this season, but I’d expect Oklahoma State to play inspired for their first home game. Heisman hopeful Chuba Hubbard anchors the Cowboys’ offense and looks to have a huge final year in an Oklahoma State uniform, but do not overlook wide receiver Tylan Wallace on that side of the ball, who could very well have a great year after being named an All-American in 2018. It would be a mistake though to assume Tulsa does not have a very real chance in this game, as they finished last season strong after a horrible start and return running back Shamari Brooks for his senior season. Aside from Brooks, the Golden Hurricane have plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the ball, giving underappreciated quarterback Zach Smith plenty of options. I still think Oklahoma State will come out on top in this game, but don’t be surprised if Oklahoma State decides to pretend Tulsa is a Sun Belt squad and screw everything up.
Prediction: Tulsa 28 – 38 Oklahoma State
No. 13 Cincinnati v Austin Peay
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio on Saturday, September 19 @ 11:00 AM CST
No, that is not a typo next to Cincy’s name; they have in fact clawed their way to 13th to start out the season. And honestly, why not? They return quarterback Desmond Ridder and a whole bunch of weapons on offense, and the Big Ten and PAC-12 are both sitting out at least another month. While Cincy has a good, hard schedule for them looking ahead, it is very manageable. Austin Peay, however, is not going to be one of the teams the Bearcats need to worry about.
Prediction: Cincinnati a lot – not a lot Austin Peay
Navy (+7) @ Tulane
Yulman Stadium, New Orleans, Louisiana on Saturday, September 19 @ 11:00 AM CST
Alongside Navy-Tulsa, this has to be one of my favorite games to talk about, if only for the puns involved. I mean, it’s the United States Naval Academy playing against a team whose mascot is just a wave with a face and a megaphone. While waves are also Navy’s biggest friends, they are also their worst enemies (aside from Army) at times. The Green Wave will most likely come crashing down and force the Midshipmen to sea in this one, mostly because Navy has a very weird practice arrangement that is making things hard for their preparation, but also due to Navy having a lot of roster turnover on their side of affairs. The Tulane offense did have a hard time rolling through South Alabama last week, but eventually they were able to crest and get over that hump primarily due to some good play by quarterback Keon Howard and running back Tyjae Spears. However, Navy was anchored all game against the BYU Cougars and will need to figure something out to have a chance of not capsizing. All things considered, the Green Wave will splash through the field in New Orleans, Navy is going to be salty about starting 0-2, and I get professional help to deal with my pun addiction going a bit overboard (dang it).
Prediction: Tulane 28 – 17 Navy
Houston (+4.5) @ Baylor
McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas on Saturday, September 19 @ 11:00 AM CST
Well, this game certainly came out of nowhere to find its way on both these teams’ schedules. I do not mean overlooked either, as this game was scheduled a few days ago due to both teams having holes in their schedules. Both teams have not played a game yet this season, so this will be a good matchup to iron things out on both sides. For the Houston Cougars, they need to figure things out at quarterback, and fast. With the state of the American this year, you do not want to be in a position where you have to paw your way back into a winning record, considering there are only eight conference games and very few out of conference. That combined with having to face No. 21 BYU, No. 14 UCF, and No. 13 Cincinnati should be enough of a reason for Houston to put up a good fight in this game. I think the Cougars pull one out here, but that is probably just me being an AAC homer.
Prediction: Houston 28 – 24 Baylor
USF (+25.5) @ No. 7 Notre Dame
Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana on Saturday, September 19 @ 11:00 AM CST
The Bulls of South Florida were able to stampede The Citadel last week, but this week is a whole other story for them. Notre Dame looks incredibly tough this year, and Ian Book is always one to watch out for. 263 yards last week passing, while not the best, is still a good performance, and I would only expect that to elevate this week. Notre Dame wins big, but USF gets a good experience and a home game down the road out of this trip to South Bend.
Prediction: USF 14 – 45 Notre Dame
No. 14 UCF (-7.5) @ Georgia Tech
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday, September 19 @ 2:30 PM CST
The Knights go marching in to the ATL Saturday, but waiting for them are the storming Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech, hot off a win in Tallahassee, Florida against Florida State. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel will have to have a good game for the Knights to compete in this game, but also look for a deep receiving core to make a difference. While most of the hype may be on the Knights’ side, do not overlook Georgia Tech for a second, as they could easily be a ranked team right now with the current landscape. Jeff Sims looked electric under center last week, and they have a lot going on with the defensive side of the ball that will make things difficult for UCF. This game will be a close, good matchup, but I believe UCF will ultimately prevail as victors.
Prediction: UCF 42 – 30 Georgia Tech
SMU (-14) @ North Texas
Apogee Stadium, Denton, Texas on Saturday, September 19 @ 5:00 PM CST
Last time the Mustangs went to visit a fellow Texas school as double-digit favorites, they almost fell asleep at the saddle and lost to Texas State. They ended up coming away with that win, but I think history could easily repeat itself here. SMU’s offense, aside from quarterback Shane Buchele’s two interceptions, looked good in their first game of the season, but their defense still needs a lot of work done to make me have confidence in them again. Texas State did only have 416 yards against SMU, but they were incredibly opportunistic and took advantage of small mistakes. To win this game, SMU can not let that happen again.
Prediction: SMU 42 – 38 North Texas
Pow6r Game of the Week: Navy @ Tulane
Throw me overboard because I am going to spend some more time talking about this game. Tulane comes in with a lot of kinks to work out, which should be interesting to look at considering the state of Navy’s defense. Navy needs to improve on offense as well so, while this will be a game between two teams with a lot to work on, it should be ferry interesting.
Edited by Emma Moloney