Sunday, May 22, 2022
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Week 1 Football Preview: American Athletic Conference


SHI Stadium (52,484/FieldTurf)
Piscataway, New Jersey

Thursday’s game will be the 37th meeting between Temple and Rutgers in a series that dates to 1948 … Rutgers holds a 20-16 series lead and has won the last four matchups, most recently a 23-20 decision in 2013, when the Scarlet Knights were members of the American Athletic Conference … Temple’s last win in the series was in 2002 (20-17).

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Rod Carey (Indiana ‘93)
9-11, third season at Temple
61-41, ninth season as collegiate head coach

Temple struggled through a 1-6 season in 2020 as the Owls were beset with an untimely confluence of injuries and opt-outs due to the pandemic … The Owls were 8-5 in 2019, Rod Carey’s first season in Philadelphia … Temple had 22 players make their first career starts during the 2020 season … The Owls expect to field a more experienced squad in 2021, thanks in large part to the addition of several key transfers … QB D’Wan Mathis was the Opening Day starter for Georgia last season and is expected to get the start against the Scarlet Knights … WR Jadan Blue had 41 catches for 371 yards and five touchdowns in the Owls’ six games last season and became Temple’s first 1,000-yard receiver in 2019 (1,067 yards) … WR Randle Jones had 31 catches for 270 yards and two TDs last year.

0-0, 0-0 Big Ten
Head Coach
Greg Schiano (Bucknell ‘88)
71-73, 13th season

Rutgers went 3-6 last year in the first season of Greg Schiano’s second head coaching tenure in Piscataway, and the Scarlet Knights return 21 starters for 2021 … Rutgers is looking for its first winning season since the Scarlet Knights went 805 in 2014 … Schiano had taken Rutgers to bowl games in six of his last seven years in his first go-around with the Scarlet Knights, including the 2006 season, when Rutgers finished the year ranked No. 12 … QB Noah Verdal threw for 1,253 yards and nine touchdowns against eight interceptions in 2020 … RB Isaih Pacheco had a team-high 515 rushing yards with three touchdowns, while WR Bo Melton had team highs with 47 receptions, 638 receiving yards and six touchdown catches … The defense is led by All-Big Ten LB Olakunle Fatukasi, who had 101 tackles with 11.0 tackles for loss.


The Bounce House (44,206/Natural Grass)
Orlando, Florida

Thursday’s game will be the first meeting between UCF and Boise State … This year’s game is the first in a homeand-home series that ends with a 2023 game in Boise … The Knights’ lone victory against a current Mountain West team was a 38-6 win against New Mexico in 1998, while the Broncos are 10-1 against current American schools.

0-0, 0-0 Mountain West
Head Coach
Andy Avalos (Boise State ‘05)
0-0, first season

Boise State has been one of the most consistent teams in college football as the Broncos have registered 23 consecutive winning seasons … Andy Avalos, a standout linebacker as an undergraduate at Boise State, makes his head coaching debut after serving as defensive coordinator at Oregon from 2019-20 … Avalos has 17 returning starters from last year’s squad that went 5-2 in an abbreviated season … The only losses were to then-No. 9 BYU and to then-No. 25 San Jose State in the Mountain West championship game … QB Hank Bachmeier threw for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns in five games as a freshman … RB Andrew Van Buren led the Mountain West with eight rushing touchdowns in 2020 … WR Khalil Shakir earned All-Mountain West honors after he had 52 catches for 719 yards and six TDs.

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Gus Malzahn (Henderson State ‘90)
0-0, first season at UCF
77-38, 10th season as collegiate head coach

UCF saw a streak of three consecutive seasons with double-digit wins come to an end last year as the Knights went 6-4 … The three regular-season losses were by a combined 12 points … Head coach Gus Malzahn begins his first season with the Knights after spending eight years at Auburn, where he reached the 2013 BCS National
Championship Game … QB Dillon Gabriel led FBS in passing last season (357.0 ypg) … Gabriel had 3,570 passing yards and 32 touchdown passes as he completed 248 of 413 attempts with only four interceptions … WR Jaylon Robinson had 55 receptions for 979 yards and six TDs … The Knights will be without their top three rushing leaders from last season … The defense expects a boost from the arrival of DE Big Kat Bryant, an All-SEC pick at Auburn last year.


Bank of America Stadium (75,412/FieldTurf)
Charlotte, North Carolina

Thursday’s game will be the 32nd meeting between East Carolina and Appalachian State in a series that dates to 1932 … The Mountaineers hold a 19-12 series lead, though the Pirates have taken the last six … This year’s game is the first in a four-game series that sees the teams play in Boone in 2023 and in Greenville in 2024 and 2026.

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Mike Houston (Mars Hill ‘94)
7-14, third season at ECU
87-39, 11th season as collegiate head coach

East Carolina went 3-6 last year, but the Pirates finished 2020 with back-to-back victories by an average of 19.5 points … The return of 20 starters has made the Pirates a trendy sleeper pick in The American this season … After the neutral-site season-opener against Appalachian State, East Carolina plays three of its next four games at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium … QB Holton Ahlers is a veteran who threw for 1,921 yards and 18 touchdowns in eight games last season … RB Rahjai Harris shared American Rookie of the Year honors after he rushed for 624 yards and four touchdowns … WR Tyler Snead led the squad with 53 receptions to go with 524 yards and five touchdowns … CB Ja’Quan McMillian earned all-conference honors thanks to a league-leading four interceptions.

0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt
Head Coach
Shawn Clark (Appalachian State ‘98)
9-3, second season

Appalachian State has been tabbed as one of the favorites in the Sun Belt Conference as the Mountaineers tied with Coastal Carolina for first in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll … The Mountaineers have won at least nine games in six consecutive seasons, spanning three head coaches … App State was 9-3 last year, falling to Marshall, Coastal Carolina and Louisiana … The Mountaineers topped North Texas 56-28 to win the 2020 Myrtle Beach Bowl … Head coach Shawn Clark was the only first-year head coach in FBS to win at least nine games last season … RB Cameron Peoples ranked 10th nationally in rushing last season with 1,124 yards, giving the Mountaineers a 1,000-yard rusher for the ninth consecutive season … QB Chase Brice, who was Duke’s starter last season, is expected to take over behind center in 2021.


Carter-Finley Stadium (57,600/Natural Grass)
Raleigh, North Carolina

Thursday’s game will be the fourth meeting between South Florida and NC State in a series that dates to the 2005 season … The Bulls are 1-2 against the Wolfpack, having scored a 41-10 win in Raleigh in 2008 … NC State won in 2005 (14-0 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl) and 2014 (49-17 in Tampa).

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Jeff Scott (Clemson ‘03)
1-8, second season

South Florida won its season-opener last season, but the Bulls dropped their last eight games of the 2020 campaign in Jeff Scott’s first season in Tampa … Scott looks for a turnaround in his second season thanks to the return of 18 starters and 54 letterwinners from last year … QB Cade Fortin, who was limited by injuries to only two appearances last year, has been named as the starter for the season-opener … A transfer from North Carolina, Fortin made two starts for the Tar Heels as a freshman in 2018, including a 276-yard showing with a passing touchdown and a rushing TD against NC State in a 34-28 loss … WR Bryce Miller had 33 receptions for 327 yards and three touchdowns in 2020 … The defense is led by LB Antonio Grier, who earned second-team all-conference honors last year and led the Bulls with 59 tackles and 3.0 sacks.

0-0, 0-0 ACC
Head Coach
Dave Doeren (Drake ‘94)
55-46, ninth season at NC State
78-50, 11th season as collegiate head coach

NC State closed the 2020 regular season with four straight wins before the Wolfpack fell to Kentucky in the Gator Bowl … NC State has won at least eight games three times in the last four seasons … The Wolfpack has 19 starters returning from last year’s squad and was picked behind only Clemson in the Atlantic Division in the ACC’s preseason media poll … NC State plays four of its first five games at home, where the Wolfpack went 5-1 last season … QB Devin Leary played in four games last season and threw for 890 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions … RB Zonovan Knight had 10 rushing touchdowns and 788 rushing yards as a true freshman … LB Payton Wilson, who earned first-team All-ACC honors, had an ACC-high 108 tackles last season.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 2 • 7:30 P.M. • ESPN+

H.A. Chapman Stadium (30,000/FieldTurf)
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Thursday’s season-opener will be the first meeting on the gridiron between Tulsa and UC Davis … The game will be Tulsa’s first against an FCS opponent since a 38-27 win against Central Arkansas to start the 2018 season … The Golden Hurricane has won its last 11 contests against FCS opponents.

0-0, 0-0 Big Sky
Head Coach
Dan Hawkins (UC Davis ‘84)
23-18, fifth season at UC Davis
139-79-1, 20th season as collegiate head coach

UC Davis returns to the gridiron for the second time in 2021 as the Aggies played a five-game spring season through March and April, going 3-2 … Head coach Dan Hawkins is in his third year as head coach at his alma mater after previous stops as head coach at Willamette (1993-97), Boise State (2001-05) and Colorado (2006-10) … UC Davis was picked sixth in the Big Sky preseason coaches and media polls … The Aggies had three players named to the preseason All-Big Sky team as C Connor Pettek, DT Bryce Rodgers and P Daniel Whelan were so chosen … QB Hunter Rodrigues threw for 931 yards and eight touchdowns against four interceptions in the abbreviated spring season … Whelan is one of the top punters in FCS with an average of 47.9 yards per punt last spring.

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Philip Montgomery (Tarleton State ‘95)
31-40, seventh season

Tulsa enjoyed an outstanding season in 2020 as the Golden Hurricane went 6-1 in the regular season and was ranked as high as No. 20 in the Associated Press poll on its way to an appearance in The American Championship Game … Tulsa finished the year 6-3 and has 18 returning starters from last year … Tulsa will look to replace the production of LB Zaven Collins, who won the Nagurski Trophy and Bednarik Award as the national defensive player of the year … DT Jaxon Player is a returning all-conference first team pick … QB Davis Brin s expected to take over as the Opening Day starter … RB Shamari Brooks, who rushed for 1,081 yards in 2019, returns after missing all of last season with a knee injury … WR Keylon Stokes led a deep group of receivers with 46 receptions for 644 yards and three touchdowns last year.


Yulman Stadium (30,000/UBU Speed Series 55-M)
New Orleans, Louisiana

Saturday’s game will be the second meeting between Tulane and Oklahoma … The Sooners were 56-14 winners in Norman in the first matchup during the 2017 season as QB Baker Mayfield (four) and QB Kyler Murray (one) combined for five touchdown passes … The schools will return to Norman for a 2024 matchup.

0-0, 0-0 Big 12
Head Coach
Lincoln Riley (Texas Tech ‘06)
45-8, fifth season

Oklahoma enters the 2021 season as a projected national championship contender as the Sooners are ranked No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll and No. 3 in the USA Today coaches’ poll … The Sooners have been ranked in the preseason top 10 19 times in the last 21 seasons … Oklahoma went 9-2 last season, rebounding from early losses to Kansas State and Iowa State to close the season with eight straight wins … QB Spencer Rattler is the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite after he threw for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns with seven interceptions last year … Well know for its offense under coach Lincoln Riley, the Sooner defense allowed only 21.7 points per game in 2020 and was ninth nationally in rushing defense (105.1 ypg) … LB Nik Bonitto was an AP second-team AllAmerica pick who had 10.5 TFL and 8.0 sacks.

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Willie Fritz (Pittsburg State ‘83)
29-33, sixth season at Tulane
183-102, 25th season as collegiate head coach

Tulane has played in a bowl game in each of the last three seasons after the Green Wave went 6-6 during the 2020 campaign … Tulane started last season at 2-4, but closed with four wins in its final five regular-season games … Head coach Willie Fritz enters his sixth year in New Orleans with 16 returning starters from last season, including 10 on offense … The offense is led by QB Michael Pratt, who threw for 1,806 yards and 20 touchdowns as a true freshman … RB Cameron Carroll led The American with 12 rushing touchdowns last season … RB Tyjae Spears averaged 7.4 yards per carry in three games before suffering a season-ending injury … WR Duece Watts tied for the team lead with 31 catches for 512 yards and six TDs … LB Dorian Williams had 97 tackles and 15.5 TFL in 2020.


Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (34,000/FieldTurf)
Annapolis, Maryland

Saturday’s game will be the first meeting between Navy and Marshall … The Midshipmen have gone 14-10 all-time against current members of Conference USA, while the Thundering Herd is 30-39-1 all-time against current members of The American … The schools will play in Huntington, West Virginia, to start the 2023 season.

0-0, 0-0 Conference USA
Head Coach
Charles Huff (Hampton ‘05)
0-0, first season

Marshall played in a bowl game for the fourth straight season after the Thundering Herd went 7-3 overall, was ranked as high as No. 15 nationally and reached the Conference USA Championship Game … Charles Huff, most recently an assistant at Alabama, begins his first season in Huntington … Marshall has 15 returning starters from last year, including QB Grant Wells, who earned first-team all-conference honors and was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2020 … Wells threw for 2,091 yards and 18 touchdowns in his rookie season … WR Corey Gammage had 35 catches for 409 yards and four touchdowns, while WR Xavier Gaines had 28 receptions for 404 yards and four TDs as well … LB Eli Neal had 75 tackles to lead all returning players, while DT Jamare Edwards earned second-team all-conference honors.

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Ken Niumatalolo (Hawaii ‘89)
101-67, 14th season

Navy dropped its last five games of the 2020 season to finish 3-7 on the year … The Midshipmen started 3-0 in American Athletic Conference play, but fell in its last four conference games … Navy tied a school record with 11 wins in the 2019 season … The Midshipmen struggled to find consistency at the quarterback position last year and the position was considered wide open at the start of fall camp … QB Xavier Arline, who made three starts last year, and QB Tai Lavatai, who did not play in 2020, are considered the leading candidates … WR Mychal Cooper had a team-high 199 receiving yards and two touchdown catches … The defense is led by stalwart LB Diego Fagot, a two-time all-conference selection who had 72 tackles with 11.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks in 2020 … S Kevin Brennan had 68 stops and five pass breakups.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 4 • 3:30 P.M. • ESPN+

Nippert Stadium (40,000/UBU Speed Series 55-M)
Cincinnati, Ohio

Saturday’s game will be the 125th meeting between Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) in a series that dates to 1888, marking the oldest current nonconference rivalry in college football … Miami leads holds a 59-58-7 advantage in the rivalry, though Cincinnati has won the last 14 contests and would tie the all-time series with a win this season.

0-0, 0-0 MAC
Head Coach
Chuck Martin (Millikin ‘90)
32-46, eighth season at Miami
106-53, 14th season as collegiate head coach

Miami was scheduled to play seven games last season, but the RedHawks saw four games canceled due to the pandemic, leaving the squad with only three games … The RedHawks opened their season with a 38-31 win against Ball State, handing the Cardinals their only loss of the year … The RedHawks return 19 starters from last season … Miami was picked third in the East Division in the MAC preseason poll, trailing Kent State and Ohio … The RedHawks have won 25 of their last 34 conference games and claimed the league title in 2019 … QB Brett Gabbert threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns without an interception in the three games last year … WR Jack Sorenson had 18 receptions for 354 yards and four touchdowns.

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Luke Fickell (Ohio State ‘97)
35-14, fifth season at Cincinnati
41-21, sixth season as collegiate head coach

Cincinnati enters the 2021 season ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press preseason poll, the highest preseason ranking by an American Athletic Conference team in the league’s first nine seasons … The Bearcats return 14 starters from last year’s team, which went 9-1, won The American Championship Game and saw its only loss come on a late field goal against Georgia in the Chick-filA Peach Bowl … The Bearcats have won 20 consecutive home games and have not lost at Nippert Stadium since
2017 … QB Desmond Ridder is a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate after he accounted for 31 touchdowns (19 passing, 12 rushing) last season … The defense is led by
All-America CB Ahmad Gardner, who had three interceptions and nine passes defended in 2020.


NRG Stadium (72,220/Hellas Matrix Helix)
Houston, Texas

Saturday’s game will be the 33rd meeting between Houston and Texas Tech in a series that dates to the 1951 season … Houston holds an 18-13-1 series lead, but looks to snap a three-game slide against the Red Raiders … Houston’s last win in the series was a 29-28 decision in 2009.

0-0, 0-0 Big 12
Head Coach
Matt Wells (Utah State ‘96)
8-14, third season at Texas Tech
52-48, ninth season as collegiate head coach

Texas Tech looks to break a stretch of five consecutive sub-.500 seasons as the Red Raiders went 4-6 last season, though four of the losses came to nationally ranked opponents … The Red Raiders will play nine of their 12 games in the state of Texas this season … QB Tyler Shough, who made seven starts for Oregon last year to help the Ducks to the Pac-12 title, has been named the Week 1 starter … Shough threw for 1,559 yards and 13 touchdowns last season … RB SaRodorick Thompson rushed for 653 yards and eight touchdowns last year … The top receiver is WR Erik Ezukanma, an All-Big 12 pick who had 46 catches for 748 yards and six touchdowns … The defense is paced by LB Krishon Merriweather, who had 75 tackles with 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks in 2020.

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Dana Holgorsen (Iowa Wesleyan ‘93)
7-13, third season at Houston
68-54, 11th season as collegiate head coach

Houston battled through an unconventional season to go 3-5 last year as the Cougars look to return to the form that produced winning seasons from 2013-18 … Houston returns 18 starters from last year and expects to see a number of impact transfers in the lineup in 2021 … The Cougars do not face Cincinnati or UCF — the top two teams in The American’s preseason media poll … The top player is CB Marcus Jones, who earned All-America status as a return specialist last season and had four interceptions … QB Clayton Tune enters his third year as a starter and completed 170 of 285 passes for 2,048 yards and 15 touchdowns last season … Tune added five rushing TDs as well … WR Nathaniel Dell led the team with 29 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns.


Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (58,318/AstroTurf)
Memphis, Tennessee

Saturday’s game will be the second meeting between Memphis and Nicholls … The only previous matchup was the Tigers’ 31-10 win in 2008 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium as QB Arkelon Hall passed for 173 yards and a touchdown and had a rushing TD … Memphis limited Nicholls to 164 total yards and 29 yards in the second half

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Tim Rebowe (LSU ‘87)
38-30, seventh season

Nicholls went 4-3 in its spring season as the Colonels won their first three games before dropping three of the last four … This year’s season-opener against Memphis is the first of back-to-back games against FBS opponents for Nicholls, which faces Louisiana in Week 2 … The Colonels, who are ranked No. 23 in the AFCA FCS preseason coaches’ poll, have 22 starters returning, including all 11 players on offense … QB Lindsey Scott threw for 1,684 yards and 18 touchdowns with seven interceptions in the abbreviated spring season … Scott was the leading rusher with 557 yards and six touchdowns on the ground as well … WR Dai’Jean Dixon had team highs with 35 receptions, 514 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches … Dixon joins OG P.J. Burkhalter as FCS preseason All-America selections.

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Ryan Silverfield (Hamden-Sydney ‘03)
8-6, second season at Memphis

Memphis continued its most successful stretch in program history as the Tigers went 8-3 last season … The Tigers capped Ryan Silverfield’s first season as head coach with a 25-10 win against Florida Atlantic in the Montgomery Bowl … Memphis returns 16 starters from last year, but will need to replace veteran QB Brady White, who had a school-record 10,690 passing yards in his career … QB Grant Gunnell, a transfer from Arizona who started seven games with the Wildcats is expected to take over … The top four leading rushers from last year return, as does WR Calvin Austin III, an all-conference receiver who had 1,053 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games … The defensive leader is S Quindell Johnson, who earned second-team all-conference honors and led the Tigers with 81 tackles and three interceptions.


Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000/FieldTurf)
Dallas, Texas

Saturday’s game will be the second meeting between SMU and Abilene Christian, but only the first meeting in the last 96 years … The only previous matchup was Oct.
3, 1925, when the Mustangs scored a 52-7 victory at Fair Park Stadium in Dallas … SMU holds a 70-28-7 all-time record against teams that are not current FBS members.

0-0, 0-0 WAC
Head Coach
Adam Dorrel (Northwest Missouri State ‘98)
14-26, fifth season at Abilene Christian
90-34, 11th season as collegiate head coach

Abilene Christian was limited to six games in the 2020 season as the Wildcats went 1-5 against a schedule that included three FBS opponents … ACU was one of only 15 FCS schools to play a fall schedule in 2020 … Abilene Christian begins its first season as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, which resumes operation as an FCS league this year … ACU was projected to finish fifth in the WAC preseason poll … QB Payton Mansell, a transfer from Iowa, completed 104 of 167 passes for 1,237 yards and five touchdowns against four interceptions last season … The top receivers are WR Lionell McConnell, who had 36 catches for 366 yards, and WR Kobe Clark, who had 26 catches for 362 yards and a team-high four touchdowns … RB Jeremiah Dobbins had 227 yards and five rushing TDs.

0-0, 0-0 American
Head Coach
Sonny Dykes (Texas Tech ‘93)
22-14, fourth season at SMU
63-59, 11th season as collegiate head coach

SMU has gone a combined 17-6 in the last two seasons after the Mustangs finished 7-3 in 2020 … SMU was ranked as high as No. 16 in the Associated Press poll last year … SMU was 7-1 to start last season, but looks to snap a two-game slide entering 2021 … The Mustangs will have a new signal-caller this season as either QB Tanner Mordecai, a transfer from Oklahoma, or freshman QB Preston Stone gets the Opening Day start … RB Ulysses Bentley IV was The American’s offensive rookie of the year in 2020 after he rushed for 913 yards and 11 touchdowns on 170 carries … WR Reggie Roberson Jr. was limited to four games, but still had 22 catches for 474 yards and five touchdowns … K Blake Mazza was a Lou Groza Award finalist at Washington State in 2019.

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