AAC Odds: College Football Betting Preview 2023

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Written By Brett Gibbons | Last Updated
AAC Odds UTSA

In the midst of the largest conference realignment in a decade, the American Athletic Conference (AAC) was forced to trade star power for TV markets. Gone are five of the eight all-time conference game champions and the first-ever Group of Five team to make a College Football Playoff. In come six new faces – none of which replace the prowess of a Cincinnati or UCF – that help bolster the AAC’s presence in large markets. No longer is the “Power 6” conference. Where do these newcomers fit on ACC odds boards? Do any of them have the ability to compete this coming season?

Welcome to your betting guide for the AAC. Below, you’ll find power rankings, win projections, and a preview for each team for this upcoming college football season. We treat all college football as equal college football – you’ll find just as much detail below as in our ACC betting guide.

AAC Odds: To Win The Conference

Compare AAC odds from the best sports betting sites below.

In the AAC, the top two teams play in the conference championship game. What’s unique about this conference opposed to most others is that the team atop the standings (or the higher ranked one) hosts the game on their campus. That boost has proven to be critical, as No. 1 seeds have won the conference every year since divisions were axed ahead of the 2020 season.

There’s a clear top tier in this league: Tulane (), SMU (), and UTSA (). Memphis and FAU make up a middle tier while North Texas floats in a nebulous position. The remaining eight teams fall into longshot territory.

AAC Odds: Projected Wins, Win Totals

Projected wins below are derived from aggregate power ratings, including SP+, FPI, and more. Win totals are pulled from FanDuel Sportsbook as of July 13.

TeamProj. WinsWin TotalPrice
Tulane Green Wave9.19.5+100/-122
SMU Mustangs8.88.5+118/-148
UTSA Roadrunners8.37.5-148/+120
Memphis Tigers8.38.5+112/-138
Florida Atlantic Owls6.07.5-102/-120
East Carolina Pirates5.86.5+172/-215
North Texas Mean Green5.86.5-102/-120
UAB Blazers5.35.5+168/-210
Tulsa Golden Hurricane4.84.5+110/-134
Temple Owls4.85.5-105/-115
Navy Midshipmen4.75.5-172/+140
USF Bulls4.54.5-102/-120
Rice Owls4.14.5-110/-110
Charlotte 49ers3.43.5+124/-152

AAC Power Ratings

Table Key (all ranks except power rankings are national):
– Rank (Power ranking, conference)
– Proj. Wins (Projected total wins)
– Return (Returning production, total)
– Ret. O (returning offensive production)
– Ret. D (returning defensive production)
– PPD (Points per drive scored)
– PPDA (Points per drive allowed)
– L5 (Last five years recruiting average, national)

AAC KFord Ratings

Kelley Ford posts his KFord Ratings for each conference on his website and Twitter. See his projections below:

AAC KFord

AAC Odds: The Favorites

AAC Odds TUL

Tulane Green Wave

From 2-10 to 12-2, Willie Fritz completed the biggest turnaround in college football history last year. Tulane then shocked USC in the Cotton Bowl to cap an impressive run. Better yet for the Green Wave, they return veteran QB Michael Pratt, four starters along the offensive line, and eight starters on defense. Gaps do need to be filled – particularly star RB Tyjae Spears, both top receivers, and linebacking corps – but Tulane is set up for another success in 2023.

They hired on Troy defensive coordinator Shiel Wood, who led the Trojans to a top-10 mark in points per drive allowed. They promoted from within for offensive coordinator, rising longtime assistant Slade Nagle to OC.

Senior Jha’Quan Jackson likely rises as the top target for Pratt after earning second team All-AAC honors last year (33-554-3). Tulane scooped up Texas A&M transfer Yulkeith Brown and Louisiana transfer Dontae Fleming to add depth to a receiving room that features five juniors and seniors in the top six. Success should continue in the passing game despite turning the receiving room over. This Green Wave offensive line fixes to be the best in the conference, led by center Sincere Haynesworth.

Defensively is where Tulane might see regression. Though eight starters return, the loss of linebackers Dorian Williams and Nick Anderson hurts (245 combined tackles). They added a pair of linebackers in the portal, namely Louisiana Tech veteran Tyler Grubbs. The Green Wave finished 33rd nationally in points per drive and consistently held offenses to below expectations early on (see: vs. Kansas State, Houston). However, the stop unit fell apart at the end of the season, allowing 38.8 points per game in their last five.

This year, Tulane plays the fifth-most difficult schedule in the AAC. They host Ole Miss (their first SEC home game in many, many years), South Alabama, and UTSA. Road games at Memphis and FAU prove to be their toughest tests. I project Tulane for 9.1 wins, the most in the AAC.

SMU Mustangs

Gone is star QB Tanner Mordecai (Wisconsin) and top receiver Rashee Rice (NFL). Because so much work went through the Mordecai-Rice duo, the Mustangs return just 52% of their offensive production on paper. However, SMU projects to still have one of the top offenses in the conference once again. They rise blue-chip Preston Stone, who has more mobility than Mordecai and more or less the same arm talent.

They landed blue-chip receiver Jordan Hudson from TCU (who was originally committed to SMU last year) and return five of their six other top receivers. Also returning is stud running back Tyler Lavine, who punched in 10 touchdowns last season, and four of five starters on the offensive line. To bolster the running back room, SMU landed Texas A&M transfer LJ Johnson and Miami transfer Jaylan Knighton. Phil Steele projects SMU to be the No. 1 offense in the AAC, and it’s hard to argue that given the talent on the roster.

But SMU didn’t go 7-6 last season because of their offense.

The Mustangs ranked 128th in rushing EPA allowed and 118th in points per drive allowed. The culmination of the poor defense was their Week 10 game against Houston, where SMU allowed the most-ever regulation points in a win in FBS history (77-63!). In regular season losses, SMU allowed 41 points per game; in wins (removing that Week 10 game), just 21.1. Four of five starters in the defensive secondary return, and they add all-conference candidate Charles Woods, a transfer from West Virginia.

SMU faces Oklahoma and TCU in non-league play (both on the road), but avoids Tulane, UTSA, or FAU in AAC play. A beneficial schedule makes them an intriguing team this year likely to top their win total. That number initially opened at 8, but grew to 8.5 by July.

Party Crashers: UTSA Roadrunners

The back-to-back Conference USA champion heads to the AAC in 2023. They return star QB Frank Harris, who’s set to play his seventh season for the Roadrunners. Head coach Jeff Traylor signed a de jure lifetime contract with UTSA after leading them to 23 wins in the last two seasons (they had never won 10 games since joining the FBS in 2012). Two of the top three rushers also return, as do four of the top five receivers, three offensive linemen, and eight defensive starters.

However, star receiver Zakhari Franklin does not return to UTSA. He transferred out to Ole Miss following spring ball, a big hit to the offense. Harris will look to Joshua Cephus (87-985-6) and De’Corian Clark (51-741-8) as a dynamic receiving duo. They looked internally for OC Will Stein’s successor after Stein left for Oregon, promoting assistant Justin Burke to fill the spot.

The recent success isn’t just a flash in the pan for UTSA. The Roadrunners signed their best-ever recruiting class, ranked 59th nationally; each of the last five years saw an improvement on the high school recruiting front, but the 14-spot jump in 2023 was the most significant. In fact, that 59th-ranked class topped the AAC and was the highest-rated class among Group of Five teams.

UTSA avoids both SMU and Memphis and closes the season out at Tulane (perhaps the first of two consecutive matchups?). A strong defensive front and experienced secondary likely sets the Roadrunners up for another successful season. They could even contend for a third consecutive 10-win season. However, as a projected underdog in three games and a short favorite in one more, a few bounces need to go UTSA’s way for a three-peat.

AAC Odds: The Contenders

Memphis Tigers

There are two schools of thought when it comes to projecting Memphis this season. The first is that they went 0-4 in one-score games last year and even splitting those games would have the Tigers back to winning nine games. The other school of thought is that Ryan Silverfield mismanages tight games and that Memphis may not regress to the mean. After all, they’ve dropped eight of their last ten one-score games under Silverfield. At some point, the buck has to stop.

I project Memphis for four one-score games this season and for them to be an underdog three times (with an additional toss-up). Because of that lack of variance and their track record in one-score games, it’s tough to be overly-optimistic about Memphis heading into 2023.

One big reason for optimism, though: quarterback Seth Henigan. As a sophomore, Henigan threw for over 3,500 yards and 22 touchdowns and added another four on the ground. In a conference loaded with QB talent, Henigan still stands out as a top name to know. While he’ll be working with an entirely new receiving corps, three starting offensive linemen and Memphis’ top rusher, Jevyon Ducker, returns. They also added Old Dominion running back Blake Watson in the portal.

Ultimately, Memphis lost more than it gained in the transfer portal. Defensive lineman CamRon Jackson and tight end Cade Prieskorn both dazzled in spring ball at their new SEC schools.

I project Memphis for 8.3 wins this season, although that’s an optimistic number. Should the Tigers continue their one-score woes, they could be fighting to even be bowl-eligible.

Florida Atlantic Owls

If there’s a team most likely to exceed their preseason projections in the AAC, it’s the Florida Atlantic Owls. FAU projects to play in seven one-score games this year, with two of those games being a toss-up or a short number. Boca Raton has served as a Power Five coaches’ rehabilitation facility, recycling Lane Kiffin, Willie Taggart, and now Tom Herman back into the mix. Kiffin led FAU to an 11-win season and two conference titles. Taggart didn’t quite stick, but that’s far from a departure from his career of underperforming.

Herman may have underperformed in the eyes of Texas boosters, but he never had a losing season, led Texas to their lone Big 12 Championship Game since 2009, and went 4-0 in bowl games. After a few years off (and a dramatic physical transformation), Herman returns to coaching with an all-star coaching staff and a big-name transfer QB. Casey Thompson transferred in from Nebraska after originally being recruited to Texas by Herman. He’s joined in the backfield by 1,000-yard rusher Larry McCammon and three of five starters along the offensive line.

Perhaps most impressively, 88% of production on defense returns – including 10 starters – the most in the country. Roc Bellatoni comes in as DC with plenty of coordinating experience at the Power Five level. Although FAU moves to a markedly more difficult conference, they avoid SMU and Memphis and handle both UTSA and Tulane at home.

Their AAC odds aren’t long enough to put them in “longshot” territory, or I’d have written on them below. I am bullish on the Owls this season. Although their insane number of projected one-score games lands them just 6.0 projected wins on the season, I like them to win closer to their sportsbook win total ().

AAC Longshot To Consider: TEMPLE OWLS

AAC Odds TEM

A good coach, capable quarterback, and reliable defense can win you a lot of games in college football. Temple has the makings of all three, although the sample size is small. Stan Drayton went 3-9 in his first season at the helm, but went 0-3 in one-score games. That’s expected for a first-time college head coach and also a result of a -11 turnover margin. According to Bill Connelly’s fumble luck metric, the bounces didn’t go Temple’s way in 2022, and their turnover numbers are bound to regress to the mean.

QB EJ Warner, son of Kurt, threw for over 3,000 yards as a true freshman, although ideally he cuts down from his 12 interceptions thrown. Six of his top seven receivers return this year, as do three starting offensive linemen and leading rusher Edward Saydee. Defensively, nine starters return, including stud linebacker Layton Jordan (18.5 combined sacks and TFLs). Aside from a 70-point drubbing at the hands of UCF, Temple’s defense played admirably and held opponents to under 30 points seven times.

It takes a bit of imagination and intestinal fortitude to get behind Temple this season. They handle their toughest games at home (granted, in Lincoln Financial Field with one of the worst home field advantages in college football) – Miami (FL), UTSA, SMU, Navy, and Memphis. In all five road games, Temple projects to be shorter than 10-point underdogs; in four of those games, they project to be just one-score underdogs.

I expect the defense to continue to improve in 2023. The secret might be out on the Owls, however, who opened with a 4.5 win total, which climbed to 6 by July.

AAC Team To Fade: UAB BLazers

No one’s really sure what UAB was going for when they opted not to retain Bryant Vincent and instead hire Trent Dilfer. Dilfer – who comes in with no college coaching experience and didn’t hire anyone who has any – was a hire panned almost across the board. Evidently, it wasn’t overly popular with the existing roster, either, as 12 players hit the transfer portal after the hire. Dilfer filled out his staff with his fellow high school defensive coordinator, Sione Ta’ufo’ou, and Alex Mortenson (son of Chris), an offensive analyst at Alabama.

Shortly after the Blazers ended their season, the players penned a letter to the athletic department requesting UAB keep Vincent on full-time – a request that was denied.

Despite a pair of decent quarterbacks in Jacob Zeno and Louisiana Tech-transfer Landry Lyddy and stud running back Jermaine Brown Jr., the temperature around UAB is one synonymous with a program in disarray. Especially in the college ranks, it’s wise to fade teams with a cultural imbalance.

Just two of UAB’s top 10 tacklers return and only seven starters return among the starting 22. They added a pair of Power Five offensive linemen in the portal, tackle Will Parker (Tennessee) and converted-defensive tackle Antavious Woody (Florida State). However, the star power just isn’t there.

Ultimately, it’s pretty public that there isn’t buy-in within the UAB football program – from players, fans, or otherwise. That’s an easy fade heading into the season.

Everyone Else

Charlotte 49ers

Charlotte went outside the box in hiring Biff Poggi as their new head coach. He’s a well-liked CEO-style head coach who often put out fires and managed the culture in his time at Michigan. The opposite of UAB, Charlotte has a strong foundation of good culture and Power Five coaching staff, but seriously lacks the talent. They lose quarterback Chris Reynolds and their most experienced returner attempted 16 FBS passes. Their top two receivers also leave, with their top returner being running back Shadrick Byrd. Charlotte plays at Maryland, Florida, and SMU, and catches FAU and Memphis at home. I don’t project Charlotte to be favored in any FBS game, although upward of four of those games could be a one-score spread.

East Carolina Pirates

Only Kent State returns less roster production than East Carolina this year, and the Golden Flashes had to revamp their entire coaching staff. Mike Houston looks to replace one of the most productive QBs in ECU history – Holton Ahlers – two 1,000-yard receivers, and explosive back Keaton Mitchell. Presumed starter Mason Garcia stands 6-foot-5 and over 250 pounds and should be able to run a similar system to what Houston had with Ahlers. However, he attempted just 12 passes last season as a freshman. ECU catches the AAC’s second-toughest schedule, traveling to Michigan, App State, UTSA, and FAU while also playing Tulane at home.

North Texas Mean Green

North Texas parted ways with their most successful coach since Hayden Fry (1973-79) in Seth Latrell. Latrell took the Mean Green to the Conference USA championship game last season and their third consecutive bowl (also went bowling in six of seven years). Instead, UNT brings in Eric Morris, the former Incarnate Word head coach off a one-year stint as the Washington State OC. They handle their only top-100 opponent in the first seven weeks at home (Cal) and project to be favored in seven games this year. UNT’s roster is decently talented, but it’s the schedule that should put the team in position to head to another bowl game this year.

Prepare for a new era of Navy football. Longtime coach Ken Niumatalolo was axed after an 11-22 three-year stretch and their way of offensive football has almost been eradicated. New head coach Brian Newberry (formerly the defensive coordinator) sought out Kennesaw State OC Grant Chestnut to help preserve option football at Navy while also bringing them into the new cut block-less era of college football. Chestnut ran a unique spread alternative to the option with a slight increase in passing. Fullback Daba Fofana returns behind four starting offensive linemen and alongside five of seven rushers with at least 30 carries. Defensively, Navy returns nine starters from a unit that ranked 55th in points per drive a year ago.

Rice Owls

Perhaps the biggest name in modern Rice football history comes to campus for 2023: JT Daniels. Daniels was a former five-star recruit who spent time at USC, Georgia, and West Virginia. Receiver Luke McCaffrey – also a former blue-chip QB recruit – returns, but running mate Bradley Rozner was a late transfer out. Rice also added two potential starters along the offensive line in the portal that should help improve the unit, but Athlon Sports ranks that unit eighth in the AAC and Phil Steele, 10th. This is the most serious Rice has been about its football program in decades following a 5-8 bowl season. Mike Bloomgren is also one of just two head coaches in the conference that have been with their school for more than four seasons.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Losing defensive coordinator Joseph Gillespie was a complete disaster for Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane fell from 41st to 97th in points per drive last year and again lost their top defensive player, linebacker Justin Wright, to Oklahoma State. Talented QB Davis Brin hit the transfer portal and Tulsa brings in an entirely new coaching staff, headed by Kevin Wilson. Just four starters return on offense and five on defense, and their 43% returning production mark is ninth-least nationally. Tulsa handles Washington and Oklahoma in the non-conference and adds a difficult conference road slate of FAU, SMU, and Tulane. The bottom line here: Tulsa will be fighting to stay off the bottom floor of the AAC.

USF Bulls

After winning four combined games in three years, USF appears to be headed in the right direction. They hired Tennessee OC Alex Golseh to be their head coach and the university approved a plan to build an on-campus stadium expected to be open by 2027. Veteran Gerry Bohanan returns to the team, but they lose prolific rusher and returner Brian Battie, who transferred to Auburn. USF went 0-4 in one-score games last season and should be bound for a little positive regression in that category. Their win total opened at 3, a number that was eaten up almost immediately and rose as high as 4.5 by July. It may not be a bowl season for USF, but the program is headed in the right direction and they should win more ballgames in 2023.

Top Difference Makers To Know

Seth Henigan, QB, Memphis: In his first two years on campus, Henigan already has over 6,800 passing yards and a 47:16 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Although the junior will have to find new faces to throw to, he’s one of the most prolific quarterbacks that goes completely under the radar. While consistency needs to improve a bit, he threw five touchdowns three separate times last year and threw for 300 yards four times.

Joshua Cephus, WR, UTSA: Without Zakhari Franklin on the roster, Cephus becomes necessary for the UTSA offense. With some continuity in the offensive system, we can expect the Roadrunners to run a top-30 offense in terms of pace and, with Harris, likely better than that in terms of production. Harris eclipsed 3,000 yards in 2021 and 4,000 yards in 2022 and all those yards have to go somewhere. Expect Cephus to become the alpha in one of the AAC’s top offenses this season.

Sincere Haynesworth, C, Tulane: Haynesworth leads an impressive list of names of returning starters for Tulane. He also leads an offensive line unit that is ranked No. 1 in the AAC this preseason by both Athlon Sports and Phil Steele (No. 26 nationally, per Steele). The Green Wave will need to replace Spears in the backfield, but having a rock-solid OL will go a long way in making up for a talent drop off at running back.

Layton Jordan, LB, Temple: Jordan led the Temple defense with 9 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss a year ago; he also added two interceptions to his resume. He returns alongside two other starting linebackers – the second-ranked LB unit in the conference – and an experienced defensive line. As the APEX linebacker (named “JACK” on the Temple defense), Jordan has the opportunity to line up all over the field and be a difference maker for the Owls.

Coaching & Coordinator Changes In The AAC

Most Impactful Hires

Tom Herman, HC, FAU: Herman was far from a disappointment at Texas. Unfortunately, his downfall in Austin came from disagreements with boosters – the exact politics that keep Texas from reaching their potential. He makes his coaching return in sunny Boca Raton with a coaching staff filled with who’s-who and an experienced and talented transfer QB. He’s a massive upgrade from Willie Taggart and should have FAU contending for an AAC title shortly.

Trent Dilfer, HC, UAB: Dilfer has no experience has a collegiate head coach, or any college coach for that matter. That’s not to say first-timers can’t succeed, but he hired on a group of first-time coordinators, as well. Nobody in the UAB building has wet feet in the college ranks. Dilfer’s hire felt more like a PR move intended to take advantage his relationship with elite quarterbacks in the Elite 11. Unfortunately, those QBs aren’t going to UAB. This hire has the potential to destroy the program.

Grant Chestnut, OC, Navy: When talking about “impact,” nobody has more of it on their team’s identity than Chestnut. At Kennesaw State, he ran a modern, modified option offense ran primarily from the gun and with more passing incorporated. Due to cut blocks being largely outlawed in college football, Navy had to make a move away from the traditional Wing-T triple option. It’s a sad movement away from the identity of service academy football, but the root of Chestnut’s offense is the same.

The Rest

  • Biff Poggi, HC, Charlotte (Michigan assistant HC)
  • Alex Golesh, HC, USF (Tennessee OC)
  • Kevin Wilson, HC, Tulsa (Ohio State OC)
  • Eric Morris, HC, North Texas (Washington State OC)
  • Brian Newberry, HC, Navy (defensive coordinator)
  • Mike Miller, OC, Charlotte (Maryland co-OC)
  • Charlie Frye, OC, FAU (Georgia analyst)
  • Jordan Davis, OC, North Texas (Washington State analyst)
  • Slade Nagle, OC, Tulane (TEs coach)
  • Steve Spurrier Jr., OC, Tulsa (Mississippi State WRs)
  • Alex Mortensen, OC, UAB (Alabama analyst)
  • Justin Burke, OC, UTSA (TEs coach)
  • Ryan Osborne, DC, Charlotte (Ravens assistant)
  • Roc Bellatoni, DC, FAU (Auburn ST coordinator)
  • PJ Volker, DC, Navy (LBs coach)
  • Matt Caponi, DC, North Texas (Iowa State CBs)
  • Everett Withers, DC, Temple (FAU assistant HC)
  • Shiel Wood, DC, Tulane (Troy DC)
  • Matt Guerrieri, DC, Tulsa (Ohio State analyst)
  • Sione Ta’ufo’ou, DC, UAB (Dilfer high school assistant)
  • Todd Orlando, DC, USF (Former Power Five coordinator)

WATCH! TheLines AAC Odds Breakdown With Kelley Ford

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