2018 AAC win total picks, predictions: Will UCF and Memphis play for it all again?

The American Athletic Conference self-proclaims that it's among college football's "Power Six" conferences. Though the College Football Playoff selection committee didn't come close to agreeing, 2017 showed the AAC had plenty of exciting, capable teams. 

This year should provide something similar. The AAC is nothing if not deep, especially in the West division. According to South Point Casino, seven of the conference's 12 teams have offseason win totals set at six or higher. Another team, Tulane, is once again right on the cusp. Heading into the season, UCF and Memphis are once again favorites to win the East and West divisions, respectively, which would set up a rematch of last season's thrilling AAC Championship Game. Keep in mind, too, that the Knights and Tigers meet in Memphis on Oct. 13 for a can't-miss game. 

But can Temple, Houston or even Navy disrupt the status quo? Continuing with our series this week, we take a stab at the Over/Under totals for each team. 

For those uninitiated on "prices," minus-odds of -120 mean you'd have to wager $120 to win $100, while plus-odds (+120) means wagering $100 would win you $120. An "EVEN" price would result in a $100 payout for a $100 wager. 

9 wins: First-year coach Josh Heupel inherits a team ready to get back to the AAC championship and compete for a New Year's Six berth. Quarterback McKenzie Milton has already established himself as one of the most prolific passers in the country. While nonconference games at North Carolina and vs. FAU are interesting, UCF is certainly good enough to win both of them. When things get interesting is the Oct. 13 game at Memphis. Then, the Knights host Temple and Navy in back-to-back weeks. One of those could be a slip-up game. Even with some upset potential late in the season, 10 to 11 wins feels about right for this team. -- Over -120, Under EVEN

4 wins:  Coach Luke Fickell's 2018 recruiting class, ranked first in the AAC by 247Sports, could make an immediate impact as the rebuild of a once proud program officially picks up more steam. The growing pains associated with that, however, could be frustrating as the Bearcats get into the meat of their conference schedule. But beyond the season opener at UCLA, there are some winnable games in the nonconference slate. Given the chances for an unforeseen upset sprinkled in, a push at four wins feels safe. Five wins isn't out of the conversation, either.  -- Over -115, Under -105

3.5 wins: Coach Randy Edsall already orchestrated a miracle by sending UConn to the Fiesta Bowl once before, but his second stint in Storrs has a long, long way to go before anything similar could be fathomed, let alone achieved. There are landmines all over this schedule from start to finish with few gimmes. If the total was three wins, you could make an argument for a push. But with even money on the over ... well ... no thanks. -- Over EVEN, Under -120

3 wins: The Pirates are coming off of a depressingly bad 3-9 effort and their leading passer, Gardner Minshew, transferred to Washington State. There's plenty of youth still littered over the two-deep and the schedule is tough. As bad as 2017 was, this year might even be a step back with coach Scottie Montgomery firmly on the hot seat. -- Over -105, Under -115 

7.5 wins: Houston has potential to be an exciting team. On top of what's returning (i.e. defensive tackle Ed Oliver) there's an intriguing crop of grad transfers entering the fold, including ex-Notre Dame cornerback Nick Watkins. If quarterback D'Eriq King takes a big step forward as a full-time starter, this offense could be something special. They'll need a signature win or two to prove themselves, but the Cougars have a high ceiling. -- Over -115, Under -105

8.5 wins: The bad news for the Tigers is the prolific quarterback-receiver combo of Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller are gone. Together, they made the offense one of college football's most potent units. The good news is this team returns practically everyone else. After thriving in track meet-type games last season, expect Memphis to find its center this time; the offense can't possibly be better and the defense should improve. Houston, as mentioned above, is the West division team du jour, but the Cougars have to go to Memphis and the Tigers host UCF as well. This team should still be the West favorite.  -- Over -120, Under EVEN

7 wins: Low key, Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry is the AAC player I'm most excited about heading into the 2018 season. If he can stay healthy -- as of late, a healthy Navy quarterback has been something akin to seeing Bigfoot in the wild -- his explosiveness is rare for his position. With key games against Memphis, Houston, Notre Dame and UCF, the first two of which are at home, there are plenty of chances to either make a statement or descend into mediocrity. Good news, though: coach Ken Niumatalolo has always improved the following season when winning eight or fewer games. At the very least this is a push, but I'm going to side with the Godfather of AAC coachesOver -110, Under -110

6 wins: The Sonny Dykes era commences in full. While Chad Morris did a good job of getting this operation off the ground, the Mustangs couldn't quite notch that big win in 2017. Can Dykes take that next step immediately? A brutal September slate makes way for a schedule with a lot of 50/50 games. Fortunately for Dykes, he doesn't have to do the same heavy lifting Morris did. Ben Hicks is an experienced quarterback now, and even though receivers Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton are gone, Dykes' offense is one that enjoys spreading the love. This is a tough call, but I see SMU closer to 5-7 than 7-5 right now. -- Over EVEN, Under -120

8.5 wins: Charlie Strong spent his first year as USF's coach enjoying a team built to win big. Year 2 invites more new faces to emerge. While there's undeniably a lot of talent for Strong to work with, there are so many holes in key spots, from quarterback to defensive line, that it's hard to know exactly where this team stands. The schedule affords a lot of breaks, but I see this group closer to 8-4 than 9-3. -- Over -120, Under EVEN

6.5 wins: -- UCF is a heavy favorite to win the East and with good reason, but Temple is gaining momentum as a trendy pick. The late-season surge with Frank Nutile in 2017 is reason for optimism. But, man, that road schedule is gruesome: at Navy, at UCF and at Houston. Even the game at UConn is like getting a crown at the dentist. Still, with Nutile and the defensive potential, the over is more appealing. Over -110, Under -110

5.5 wins: Tulane was this close to reaching bowl eligibility last year. Despite the disappointment and a 9-15 overall record, coach Willie Fritz is a proven program builder. People around the program know he's the dude. And, yet, here the Green Wave are again. The offense returns quarterback Jonathan Banks and plenty of skill guys, but the offensive line and defense are question marks. The schedule gives them few favors, too. Can Tulane edge one more win this time around? It's going to be close ... again ... but it feels like the teams ready to do it are in 2019 and beyond. And so the building process continues. -- Over -110, Under -110

4 wins: Boy, did things collapse with a quickness for Tulsa. After winning 10 games in 2016, the Golden Hurricane straight-up flipped the record and lost 10 games in 2017. The good news (or maybe the not-so-good news?) is that a lot of players are coming back. There's just a lot of underclassmen and/or inexperience. It'd be nice to see some steps forward, but this program still feels like it's a year away before being in the conversation for bowl eligibility. -- Over EVEN, Under -120
CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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