Five teams from the American Athletic Conference posted double-digit wins last year - Memphis, Navy, SMU, Cincinnati and UCF - and went 4-3 in bowl games. Four teams were in the final Top 25 of the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com.
So what do we look for in 2020 from the league that calls itself the 6th Power conference
Well, for starters, the American enters 2020 with one less member as UConn departs to play as an independent. The Huskies never had a winning record in their 7 years as a member, and were 12-48 in conference games. UConn ended its association on a 19-game conference losing streak that was tied with Arkansas' SEC futility for 2nd-worst in the country.
Memphis, the defending conference champions, will be breaking in a new head coach after Mike Norvell left for Florida State. Memphis' previous head coach, Justin Fuente, had also left Memphis for the ACC (Virginia Tech) after the 2015 season. Fuente built the program, and Norvell took it to historical heights as he leaves the school as the winningest coach in its history with a winning percentage of .717 (38-15).
The Tigers retained some consistency in the program by promoting Norvell's right-hand man, Ryan Silverfield. He becomes the 6th Memphis head coach this century.
The Silverfield era will begin on September 5th at home against an always dangerous Arkansas State team, but the first big challenge comes on the road 7 days later at Purdue. The Tigers return home to face Houston on the 19th and close out the month at UTSA.
Only one other team in the conference will kick off 2020 with a new head coach. USF canned Charlie Strong and brought in Clemson's co-offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, as the new head coach of the Bulls. USF was 10-2 in Strong's first season in Tampa and they reeled off 7 consecutive wins to start the 2018 campaign. However, it was a complete reversal of fortunes with a 4-14 mark in the last 18 games for a 3-year total of 21-16. He was 11-13 in American Conference games.
Scott's inaugural game as head coach comes at Texas on September 5 in the "we fired Strong" bowl. Strong was the head coach of the Longhorns from 2014-2016. Scott's debut in front of the home folks will come a week later when USF hosts FCS member Bethune-Cookman from the other end of Florida's I-4.
Last year saw Navy pull off one of the most surprising seasons in recent history. The Midshipmen went 11-2 for an 8-win turnaround from the previous year. Ken Niumatalolo is the longest-tenured head coach in the conference, having taken over as Navy's head coach following Paul Johnson's move to Georgia Tech after the 2006 season.
Navy joins USF in having a stiff opening week challenge as the Middies will travel to Ireland to play Notre Dame in the very first game of the 2020 season on August 29.
Here are some of the other top games to look for during the opening weeks of the season in the American conference:
Friday, September 4 -
North Carolina at UCF'
Saturday, September 12 -
Houston at Washington State (Battle of Cougars)
FIU at UCF
East Carolina at South Carolina
Tulane at Northwestern
Tulsa at Oklahoma State
Saturday, September 19 -
UCF at Georgia Tech
Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio) - 125th meeting
Saturday, September 26 -
Cincinnati at Nebraska
USF at FAU
Tulane at Mississippi State