The VSiN college football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 131 FBS teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.
Here are the team previews for the American Athletic Conference
Last year, Cincinnati became the first Group of 5 school to make the College Football Playoff before losing to Alabama, 27-6, in the semifinal. National Coach of the Year Luke Fickell’s club is still the favorite in its last season in the conference before departing with Houston and UCF for the Big 12, but the Bearcats must replace nine NFL draft picks.
Having made the playoff last season, you would think that Cincinnati’s offense was a juggernaut, but it was not (58th in the nation in total offense). Nevertheless, the unit must replace a four-year starter and two-time AAC Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Desmond Ridder, plus its leading rusher Jerome Ford and leading receiver Alec Pierce (all of whom went to the NFL).
While the skill position corps is brand new, there is some continuity on offense with the entire offensive line returning for first-year offensive coordinator and former Bearcats QB Gino Guidugli (2001-2004). Guidugli still holds most of the program’s passing and total offense records and was promoted this year from QB coach to replace Mike Denbrock, now at LSU in the same role.
Ben Bryant was the backup QB here in 2019 and 2020 before transferring to Eastern Michigan last year where he started 11 games and threw for 3,121 yards and 14 TDs. Bryant is now back at Cincinnati competing with highly touted former Mr. Ohio QB Evan Prater for the starting job. LSU transfer Corey Kiner is going to need to be counted on immediately to produce for a running attack that averaged 173.3 YPG.
Six starters, including No. 4 overall pick CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, are now in the NFL, so this unit will undergo a major overhaul in 2022.