2023 NCAAF: American Athletic Conference Preview

August 25, 2023


The new season brings a very different look for the AAC, which has expanded to 14 teams, rid itself of conference divisions and retained a sense of being the underdog compared with the Power 5 conferences.

That being said, the reigning Cotton Bowl champion resides here and there are a number of exciting programs that have entered the fold to replace the now departed Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston. A New Year’s Six bowl berth is still well within reach for this grouping of schools

Teams I Like


The reigning Cotton Bowl champion may have lost its workhorse running back to the NFL, but the Green Wave are still stocked with plenty of talent on both sides as it looks to defend a new-look AAC. Michael Pratt will be leaned on even more heavily without the help of Spears in the backfield, but that isn’t something that will scare the junior quarterback, who is a star in his own right.

Willie Fritz has brought this program back from the dead, and now it has a chance to prove to the country that the success was not a fluke. Particularly advantageous for the Green Wave is that unlike some of the other title contenders in the conference, Tulane and its players know what to expect from the competition in the AAC on a weekly basis.

Florida Atlantic

A lot of the likability of this program stems from its new head coach, former Houston and Texas boss Tom Herman. While things didn’t quite work out during his return to the Lone Star State following a successful stint as offensive coordinator at Ohio State, it’s difficult to deny that Herman knows a thing or two about how to move the football offensively.

The Owls may have some initial questions to answer at the quarterback position, but Herman has an array of talented skill position players to work with beyond whomever will be taking snaps behind center. After a couple of challenging non-conference games on the road (Clemson, Illinois) where Florida Atlantic may take its lumps, nearly all the big conference games will be in Boca Raton. A postseason berth in Herman’s inaugural season at the helm seems likely.

Not High On


Is anyone else a bit puzzled by this head coaching hire? The confidence from Trent Dilfer is clearly there, as the first-time collegiate head coach was busy in the transfer portal and has made it very clear he intends to flip the previous offensive scheme from a run-first approach to one that utilizes the passing game heavily. But that whole first-time collegiate head coaching thing…

What makes this additionally curious is that there is still a stable of talented running backs in the program, headed by Jermaine Brown Jr., who was nearly a 1,000 yard rusher last season as the backup. A lot is happening at once in Birmingham, and it may not necessarily produce excellent results.

Players to Watch

Frank Harris, UT-San Antonio quarterback

The senior is truly the most exciting player in the conference, which is a bit of a “buy one, get one free” type deal for the AAC given that the Roadrunners moved over from Conference USA this season. Harris is a threat with both his arm and legs, adding over 600 yards rushing to his impressive 4,000 yards passing last season.

While Michael Pratt may be the better pro prospect, Harris is the more electric athlete. Somewhat sadly for fans of a do-it-all talent, the Roadrunners bring back a ton of talent on the offense and so Harris won’t need to be Superman to be productive. That’s alright, though – he’s still a must-watch player.

Michael Pratt, Tulane quarterback

The earlier words about Pratt were not a dig at him; Tulane’s signal-caller is no slouch in the athleticism department. In fact, while the junior is a pro prospect primarily because of his accuracy and poise in the pocket, he’s considered a dual threat option like Harris.

The loss of Tyjae Spears at running back may prompt Pratt to tuck it and run a bit more, but the Green Wave will be better off with Pratt using his arm to slice apart defenses. This is a guy who had interest from teams in the SEC, so don’t roll your eyes at the claim that he is one of the better quarterbacks in the entire country. Caleb Williams surely wouldn’t…

Games to Watch (Non-Conference)

UT-San Antonio at Houston (September 2, 7 PM ET)

A victory for the Roadrunners would be a feather in the entire AAC’s cap, as Houston left for the (seemingly) greener pastures of the Big 12. But following a narrow defeat at the hands of the Cougars last season, UT-San Antonio simply wants revenge.

Mississippi at Tulane (September 9, 3:30 PM ET)

You read that correctly – an SEC team is playing Tulane on the road. Lane Kiffin’s squad will take the roughly 350 mile trip South to New Orleans to face a Tulane team brimming with confidence following its upset victory over Southern Cal in the Cotton Bowl to cap its previous season.

Games to Watch (Conference)

Tulane at Memphis (October 13, 7 PM ET)

Before the Green Wave can set up a potential top of the league showdown with UT-San Antonio, it will need to fend off a capable Memphis team on the road. The Tigers should be potent offensively, particularly through the air, and could make a run for the conference title themselves with a victory.

UT-San Antonio at Tulane (November 24/25, TBA time)

The conference is hoping (ahem, begging) that this game is a preview of the conference title game the following weekend for reasons that do not need to be fleshed out. With all the other great games going on during this same weekend of college football, there’s good reason the actual date of the game is still up in the air.


  1. Tulane (10-2, [7-1])
  2. UT-San Antonio (9-3, [7-1])
  3. Memphis (8-4, [6-2])
  4. Rice (7-5, [6-2])
  5. Florida Atlantic (8-4, [6-2])
  6. SMU (8-4, [6-2])
  7. North Texas (6-6, [4-4])
  8. East Carolina (5-7, [3-5])
  9. Navy (5-7, [3-5])
  10. UAB (5-7, [3-5])
  11. Tulsa (3-9, [2-6])
  12. South Florida (3-9, [2-6])
  13. Temple (2-10, [0-8])
  14. Charlotte (1-11, [0-8])

Conference Title Game

UT-San Antonio at Tulane

Conference Champion: Tulane

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