Home AAC 2021 Preseason Prediction Retrospective

AAC 2021 Preseason Prediction Retrospective

by CJ Olson

Photo courtesy of Cincinnati athletics

Another season is in the books for the American Athletic Conference.

I started logging predictions for this season as early as Jan. 26, 2021. In total, three articles were written regarding the AAC as a whole, as well as a couple more about SMU. This article will tackle the AAC predictions.

I nailed some predictions on the money, like Temple going 3-9 and head coach Rod Carey being fired. Some other predictions were not so correct, like if a Group of 5 program could ever make the College Football playoff.

Let’s dive in, team by team:

11. Temple (1-7, 3-9)

What was correct

In the Jan. 26 article, I hypothesized that a 3-9 season could be the last for Coach Carey.

For Temple, I was right on the money about its preseason win total, stating that William Hill Sportsbook’s total of three was correct: “push seems like far and away the most likely outcome”.

In all three articles, I had Temple pegged as a 3-9 team that would finish with a singular conference win.

What was incorrect

In looking back at this season, Temple beating Memphis 34-31 is one of the more confusing results. In the Feb. 19 article, Temple was given a measly 15% chance to beat the Tigers.

10. South Florida (1-7, 2-10)

What was correct

Something mentioned in the Feb. 19 article was that South Florida would be improved from 2020, but ultimately not break through.

South Florida stuck with BYU, Cincinnati, and UCF. It was much improved, even if its only FBS and conference win was over a Temple team that was 125th in the Football Power Index this season.

In the preseason win totals article, the Bulls going under three wins was the pick with a confidence of seven. Ka-ching.

What was incorrect

South Florida was projected to come in last and go winless in conference.

Credit to Coach Jeff Scott’s bunch, the Bulls did prove me wrong by finishing in second-to-last and getting one conference win.

9. Tulane (1-7, 2-10)

What was correct

I predicted Tulane would field a team in 2021.

That’s about the extent of what I got correct regarding the Green Wave.

What was incorrect

I have never been more incorrect on a team than I was with the 2021 Tulane Green Wave.

“2021 is an opportunity for Tulane fans to get excited about a 2022 AAC title run” is an actual sentence I wrote that will forever live on the internet.

I also wrote that I was “almost positive that Tulane won’t go 4-8 or worse”, and as a result, picked its preseason over of five wins with a confidence of nine – my highest confidence pick. I could not believe how little Las Vegas thought of Tulane.

8. Navy (3-5, 4-8)

What was correct

Navy beat Army in a game I gave the Midshipmen a 55% chance of winning in the preseason.

Also, with a confidence of five, I had the over of 3.5 wins for Navy.

One constant theme in all three prediction articles was that Navy would catch at least one team off guard and punch above its weight class.

Between its massive comeback against UCF, beating Army, or losing by one possession to four other AAC teams, Navy was a scrappy bunch that I expected it would be.

What was incorrect

Death, taxes, and Navy on Senior Day. I was counting on a win over East Carolina, but alas, the Pirates completed the rare task of leaving Annapolis on Senior Day with a road win.

7. Memphis (3-5, 6-6)

What was correct

After my January article had Memphis projected to finish seventh in conference at 5-7, Tigers fans had some thoughts about it.

I was accused of not knowing what I was talking about. In this specific instance, it turns out I did.

Memphis at under eight wins with a confidence of seven was my pick.

Also, my 5-7 prediction would’ve been on the money if not for demonstrably incorrect calls in Memphis’ win over Mississippi State.

What was incorrect

Wins against Mississippi State and Tulane were slightly unexpected.

6. SMU (4-4, 8-4)

What was correct

One article had SMU at 7-5 with the other having it at 9-3, so partial credit for SMU splitting the difference.

My second-most confident win total pick in the entire AAC – the over of six – hit by late October.

While I didn’t exactly predict the drama that encompassed the last few weeks – who could’ve? – there were a couple statements I’m chalking up as correct.

The first being the road schedule being so challenging. The Mustangs went 3-3 on the road.

The other statement that sticks out was about SMU’s difficulty with Tulsa’s defense. After starting hot against the Golden Hurricane, SMU slowed down before losing to Tulsa, again, 34-31.

What was incorrect

The win against UCF was surprising, since I did not give SMU much chance against UCF back in January and February.

5. Tulsa (5-3, 7-6)

What was correct

I stated that Tulsa would have a narrow edge over Memphis thanks to an extra day between games, and it would go on to beat the Tigers by one possession.

My January predictions did have the Golden Hurricane finishing 6-6, so one iteration of predictions got it right.

Another partial credit situation, one prediction had it fourth in the conference, while the other had it sixth.

What was incorrect

Thanks to Tulsa losing to UC Davis in Week 1, the over of 6.5 regular season wins did not hit. I only gave it a confidence of three, but to know an FCS loss is the difference is tough.

Given how inconsequential Tulsa’s matchup vs. Tulane ended up being, this quote is funny – “that Nov. 13 trip to Tulane is going to play a large role in whether they can separate themselves with the rest of the AAC, or finish around .500 in conference play like a lot of teams might.”

4. East Carolina (5-3, 7-5)

What was correct

The Pirates beat Charleston Southern.

I did not give enough credit to East Carolina, so that’s about it.

What was incorrect

I was expecting East Carolina to have Tulane’s season, and vice versa. If you completely re-write history and flip those two results, there’s not much here I got wrong.

With a confidence of four, I picked the under of 4.5 wins for the Pirates.

In both record projections, I had it at 3-9.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

3. UCF (5-3, 9-4)

What was correct

Not a whole lot.

UCF did lose to SMU and Cincinnati, but that’s about it. I overrated UCF too much; that was the problem.

What was incorrect

UCF’s over/under was set at 9.5, and I boldly picked the over with a confidence of six. A swing and a whiff.

No one will ever know what 2021 UCF was capable of with a completely healthy Dillon Gabriel, but my January and February predictions of UCF only losing one game were a bit ambitious.

2. Houston (8-0, 12-2)

What was correct

I accurately pointed out that Houston had an incredibly weak schedule it’d take advantage of.

I also acknowledged that Texas Tech would be the non-conference game where it could possibly stumble.

What was incorrect

By far the highest confidence pick I was incorrect about was Houston’s under of eight wins with a confidence of seven.

“The Cougars have a very easy schedule, but they just don’t seem like a nine-win team.” That’s technically correct, because it was a 12-win team, but the implication is that Houston couldn’t clear the nine-win bar. Another swing and a miss.

1. Cincinnati (8-0, 13-1)

What was correct

The over 10-win number was one I had picked pretty quickly, albeit only with a confidence of six.

What was incorrect

I did not have Cincinnati undefeated in the regular season, simply because going undefeated in consecutive regular seasons is so difficult.

Most importantly, I was certain that Cincinnati, as well as the rest of the Group of 5, would never make the College Football Playoff.

I meant to write an article on April 1 last year titled “How to Make the College Football Playoff” where the entirety of the article was, “Join a Power 5 conference. Happy April Fool’s Day.”

That would have been a great article, but oh well. Maybe next postseason iteration.


Overall, you’d have gone 5-5-1 had you taken my season win total advice, and the standings predictions were a similar level of so-so.

Will those results stop me from wildly speculating the next seven months – or at least stop me from putting my thoughts into the universe and on the internet with the conviction of fact?

Absolutely not. What else am I supposed to do with my time before the next game?