With the college football season now upon us, it is time for the final edition of Favorite, Value, Longshot. If you are not familiar with these bet types, read the original blog post, here. I will offer up one favorite, one value, and one longshot bet, this time for the American Athletic Conference (AAC). Let’s get into it!
The Favorite – Central Florida
In the underdog story of 2017, UCF dominated their schedule and played to a perfect 11-0 record in the regular season. After an AAC title game victory, the Knights then proceeded to knock of SEC-opponent Auburn in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day to secure the only undefeated season in FBS football.
Head Coach Scott Frost has moved on to greener pastures but leaves behind a very solid program for first-year coach Josh Heupel. Heupel turned the offense at Missouri into a juggernaut as coordinator but is unproven as head coach.
Heupel’s most dangerous weapon this year is the junior quarterback McKenzie Milton who threw for over 4,000 yards in 2017. The Knights led the nation in points per game last year while ranking fifth in passing yards per game. There will be a lot of pressure on Milton to repeat his strong performance.
At +135, UCF is moderate favorites to win the conference. They have lost plenty of talent from last year which accounts for their good-not-great projections. Star wideout Tre’Quan Smith and standout linebacker Shaquem Griffin have both moved on the NFL, but the Knights still have the most talented and experienced roster in the conference. They are poised to make another deep run this year.
The Value Pick – Memphis
With the second-best odds to win the AAC in 2018, there is a lot to like about the Memphis Tigers. UCF may have had the highest-scoring offense in 2017, but the Tigers were second and actually out-gained the Knights. At +270, bettors can receive very good odds on a team that was neck-and-neck with the only undefeated FBS team last season.
Head Coach Mike Norvell is entering into his third season at the helm for the Tigers and enjoys the luxury of the conference’s best offensive line and a deep running back corps. This strong line led the Tigers to average nearly two-hundred yards on the ground per game last year and remains largely unchanged heading into 2018.
On offense, Memphis can hang with UCF or anyone in the nation. Defense is where they struggle a bit, allowing an average of 33.4 points per game in 2017. Defensive coordinator Chris Ball is also entering into his third year at Memphis and is very confident his improved defense can turn the Tigers into a national powerhouse this season.
Returning eight starters on defense, Memphis boasts an experienced and talented secondary. If they can improve upon their anemic pass rush, they could embark on a UCF-esque run in 2018.
The Longshot – Temple
Betting longshots in smaller conferences is very appealing because you do not have the Alabamas or Clemsons of the world to compete with at the top.
I really like Temple in 2018 for a couple of reasons. They struggled initially under first-year Head Coach Geoff Collins last season before finishing the year winning four of their last five. This indicates the players respond well to Collins as a coach.
Temple excels on the defensive side of the football and deserves to be considered the AAC’s top defense heading into this year. All of Temple’s starting linebackers are returning, led by the standout junior Shaun Bradley. Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker believes that the Owls may have the best linebackers in the country.
Temple’s defense will need to play their absolute best if they hope to contain the high-powered offenses of UCF or Memphis, but at +1100, I believe they possess a lot of value.