AAC Bowl Lineup and Breakdown

Tis my favorite time of the year – bowl season. I hope Santa will bring the Bearcats a W, but the American teams have also landed a slew of other bowl games, so let’s check break them down.

Military Bowl – UC vs. Virginia Tech – December 27th @ noon EDT

UC will be attending and favored in the Military Bowl. Coach Tubbs actually faced Frank Beamer and VA Tech previously in the Sugar Bowl and won in 2004. Our full breakdown and analysis is here.

Miami Beach Bowl – Memphis vs. BYU – December 22nd @ 2 pm EDT

Memphis (9-3), winners of six straight games and co-champions of the American Athletic Conference, will take on BYU (8-4). It will be the first-ever meeting between the schools.

With a Sagarin rating of 44 the Tigers will be a formidable foe for the Cougars. Memphis received votes in the final AP Top 25 poll released Sunday, and would be # 29.

Memphis has one of the better defenses in the country. The Tigers are ranked 22nd nationally in total defense. They allow just 17.1 points per game, # 5 in the country.

Memphis came out of nowhere this season, and we look for them to continue to surprise us by beating BYU in Miami in a tough defensive-oriented game.

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl – UCF vs. NC State – December 26th @ 8 pm EDT

UCF posted a 9-3 record and are co-champions of the AAC. NC State finished the year 7-5, and somehow squandered a 24-7 lead against Florida State. NC State has faced UCF twice, resulting in a 1-1 record. This will be the rubber match.

The Wolfpack is led by Florida transfer QB Jacoby Brissett, who is one of three quarterbacks in the nation with 20 or more passing touchdowns, 300 or more rushing yards, and five or fewer interceptions.

The Knights have one of the premier defenses in the country. The UCF senior class enters the bowl game with a 36-15 record, having just three conference losses in three seasons. This marks the third consecutive bowl game appearance for UCF. Let’s hope UCF is not in letdown mode after winning the BCS Fiesta Bowl against Baylor last year.

Whatever NC State does I hope they don’t unbuckle their chinstraps and let a UCF receiver sneak behind them to win the game on a Hail Mary for the second time this year.

Armed Forces Bowl – Houston vs. Pittsburgh – January 2nd @ noon EDT

Familiar face Pittsburgh (6-6) will face Houston (7-5). Converted receiver Greg Ward Jr. plays dual threat QB for the Cougars, the only AAC team to defat Memphis this season. Houston’s defense is known as “the Third Ward Defense,” and has been exceptional, ranking among the top-20 in the in points per game allowed (19.5), yards per play allowed (4.79) and total yards allowed (334.6).

Pitt sophomore running back James Conner won the ACC player of the year award, finished fourth nationally in rushing yards (1,675), and tied for second in rushing touchdowns (24), breaking Tony Dorsett’s school record for rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and points in a season. He broke the 200-yard rushing mark three different times this season.

This game really boils down to Conner against the premier Houston D. As a former UC rival, I will be heavily rooting against Pitt in this one.

Birmingham Bowl – East Carolina vs. Florida – January 3rd – 1 pm ET

ECU (8-4) is making its third consecutive bowl appearance and 20th bowl appearance overall against the Florida Gators (6-5). The Gators and Pirates are also scheduled to meet again in Gainesville during the 2015 regular season. ECU is no stranger to Birmingham, where they played regularly as members of Conference USA from 2001 until 2013.

Defensive coordinator and interim coach D.J. Durkin will coach Florida in the game.

ECU is led by future NFL player and senior QB Shane Cardin, who has thrown for 4,309 yards and 28 TDs on the year. His primary target is none other than Justin Hardy, the all-time national receptions leader, who compiled 110 catches, 1,334 yards, and nine touchdowns this year alone.

This will be a very difficult test for the Gators, who are in shambles right now without a head coach, similar to the situation the Bearcats were in during the Sugar Bowl against the Gators. We will be rooting for the Pirates to steal a W over an SEC school in this one.

By Andy Smith (Staff Writer)

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