Remember back in August when all the buzz was surrounding the UC football program? Unlike years past, UC was actually picked to win the conference! The coaches and experts alike picked the first ever AAC conference championship game – UC vs. Memphis with the Bearcats winning the conference out of the East division in landslide fashion. We also anticipated this result.
Welp, everyone was wrong. This Saturday the #17 Houston Cougars will face the #25 Temple Owls at noon on ABC with the Cougs favored by 6.5 points. I am picking Houston to win this one by at least 14 points and earn a trip to a coveted New Year’s Day bowl.
Unfortunately, the Bearcats lost in heartbreaking fashion by a touchdown at home against Temple in week two, followed by a questionable replay call on the road at Memphis resulting in a devastating injury to Gunner Kiel and a seven-point loss. The Bearcats also lost by a field goal in Houston in early November, sealing their fate and eliminating them from playing in the first ever AAC championship game. At 7-5 the Cats are expected to play in one of the following bowl games:
- Hawaii Bowl vs. BYU
- Independence Bowl vs. Utah State
- Boca Raton Bowl vs. Toledo or Northern Illinois
- Birmingham Bowl vs. Auburn (Tubs former team)
- Pinstripe Bowl vs. NC State
- St. Petersburg Bowl vs. Louisiana Tech or Southern Miss
- Miami Beach Bowl vs. Louisiana Tech
It’s being reported Houston has reached an agreement “in principle” to keep Tom Herman under contract and prevent him from escaping to South Carolina, among other big-time jobs opening up. His new salary will be in excess of $3 million (over double his initial contract). Quite frankly, he should be entitled to a blank check after what the quarterback whisperer did at OSU last year coupled with turning Greg Ward into a frontrunner for AAC offensive player of the year.
Meanwhile, the other coach projected to be in the conference title game, Justin Fuente, is leaving Memphis for Virginia Tech to replace legend and daber, Frank Beamer, where he will earn $3.2 million in year one of his new six year deal. That’s a huge increase from the $1.4 million he made at Memphis.
Lesson to be learned – pay up or lose your up and coming star coach. Even with Fuente leaving, who unfortunately had UC’s number over the past two years, the AAC looks to remain strong in 2016 with a rapidly rising USF program, along with Temple, Houston, Navy, and UC.
By Andy Smith