2024 AAC Power Rankings: SMU’s Departure Opens Window for Tulane, Memphis

    SMU is out, and Army is, keeping the conference at 14 members. But which programs lead the 2024 AAC Power Rankings?

    The SMU Mustangs won the conference on their way out to the Big 12 and left the crown for a different team to don in 2024. Army takes their place in the league, joining armed forces with Navy. But who are the favorites to win the title in the 2024 AAC Power Rankings?

    2024 AAC Power Rankings

    14) Temple Owls

    The Owls haven’t won more than three games in a season since 2019, and it’s unlikely the streak ends in 2024. QB E.J. Warner left for conference rival Rice, All-AAC OT Victor Stoffell transferred to Cal, and the team’s top four tacklers are gone.

    Rutgers transfer Evan Simon, junior Forrest Brock, and redshirt freshman Tyler Douglas will battle for the QB1 role, but unless one of them is a diamond in the rough, don’t expect much from Temple this season.

    13) East Carolina Pirates

    East Carolina ended a drought of back-to-back winning campaigns in 2021-22, but the Pirates crashed through the atmosphere in 2023, going 2-10 — their worst record since 2004.

    Three transfers (Michigan State’s Katin Houser, Missouri’s Jake Garcia, and Georgia State’s Bryson Harrison) will duke it out under center, and the defense has plenty of talent in the front seven. Is that enough for a bounce-back season? Possibly, but it’s not enough to earn a higher placement in the 2024 AAC Power Rankings.

    12) Florida Atlantic Owls

    Tom Herman is a good coach, but the Owls underperformed in Year 1, posting a 4-8 record. Despite one of the easiest schedules in the country this season, it’s difficult to see FAU returning to its form under Lane Kiffin due to massive roster turnover.

    Marshall transfer Cam Fancher is the likely starter behind center, and he isn’t exactly on the same level as the departing Daniel Richardson. Making matters even less optimistic, 1,000-yard WR LaJohntay Wester is now a Colorado Buffalo, and Herman sought out the services of six transfers to overhaul the pass-catching corps.

    11) Charlotte 49ers

    First-year head coach Biff Poggi brought in 24 transfers last season, and after the 49ers went 3-9, he added 27 more. Florida QB Max Brown and Iowa State RB Cartevious Norton are the most intriguing and raise the talent floor of the offense. With nearly all of the top passing targets returning, Charlotte should be able to put up points in 2024.

    Defensively, transfers completely remake the secondary, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Al-Ma’hi Ali, Eltayeb Bushra, Anthony Rompf, and two power conference signees (Iowa State’s Treyveon McGee and Boston College’s C.J. Clinkscales) form one of the best secondaries in the conference.

    10) North Texas Mean Green

    The Mean Green lost QB Chandler Rogers, RB Ayo Adeyi, WR Ja’Mori Maclin, and 20+ players to the transfer portal after a 5-7 debut in the AAC.

    However, the roster isn’t bereft of talent, as transfer additions, including QB Chandler Morris (TCU) and RBs Juwaun Price (Syracuse) and Zach Evans (Minnesota), should mesh well with the likes of RB Ikaika Ragsdale and WRs Blair Conwright and Landon Sides.

    The offensive skill-position talent is there, but the offensive line is a question mark after HC Eric Morris signed five transfers to augment the unit. As for the defense, the bar couldn’t be lower than the conference-worst 37.1 PPG they allowed last season. An entirely new secondary can only improve that number.

    9) Tulsa Golden Hurricanes

    Four different signal-callers took snaps for Tulsa last year, but it should be the Cooper Legas show in 2024. Leading rushers Anthony Watkins and Bill Jackson are back, and UTEP transfer Jeremiah Ballard pairs nicely with Kamdyn Benjamin on the outside.

    The defensive front seven received a transfer facelift, which it needed after allowing the fourth-most points per game in the conference last year (33.8).

    8) Navy Midshipmen

    A season finale loss to Army dropped Navy to 5-7 overall and out of bowl contention in Brian Newberry’s first year. Tai Lavatai and Xavier Arline led the QB room in 2023, but Braxton Woodson and Blake Horvath will take over this season.

    They should see more success with former Mercer head coach Drew Cronic coming over to call the offensive plays after leading the Bears to their first-ever FCS playoff appearance.

    MORE: 2024 AAC Season Win Total Predictions

    Having Eli Heidenreich and Alex Tecza certainly makes his job easier, and Newberry will ensure the defensive side of the ball keeps up its end of the bargain.

    7) UAB Blazers

    Trent Dilfer was a controversial hire last season, and a 4-8 record in his inaugural campaign didn’t quell concerns. That said, the offense showed promise, with OC Alex Mortensen calling the plays and QB Jacob Zeno delivering on the field.

    The real issue was the sieve of a defense that allowed 31+ points to all 11 of their FBS opponents. Dilfer hopes an infusion of transfer talent, especially LB Octavious Brothers and DBs Adrian Maddox and Troy Jakubec, helps steady the unit in 2024.

    6) Army Black Knights

    If there’s one word to describe Jeff Monken’s Black Knights, it’s consistent. They’ve only suffered one losing season after his first two years with the program (2014-15), and they closed the 2023 campaign with four straight wins, including victories over Air Force and Navy for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy.

    The NCAA’s 2022 changes to the cut-block rules hurt the service academies more than anyone, and Monken attempted to counter it by bringing in two small-school coaches (Drew Thatcher and Matt Drinkall) to innovate the offense.

    MORE: 2024 AAC Football Schedule 

    The result was Army lining up in shotgun 80% of the time in 2023 — a 70% swing from the year prior.

    Yet, Monken handed the offensive keys to Cody Worley for the upcoming campaign, likely putting the shotgun splits somewhere in the middle, which should play to QB Bryson Daily and RB Kaney Udoh’s strengths.

    5) Rice Owls

    Losing J.T. Daniels to retirement and WR Luke McCaffrey to the draft hurts, but Rice returns practically everyone else. RB Dean Connors will run behind four first-teamers from 2023, and 2022 starter John Long returns after missing the season due to injury. And with former Temple passer E.J. Warner in place, the offense should maintain its momentum.

    The defense gets in on the party as well, with 14 of 16 players who saw meaningful snaps running it back.

    4) UTSA Roadrunners

    UTSA has been one of the top Group of Five teams in recent years, but HC Jeff Traylor will have to prove he can keep his squad afloat without longtime QB Frank Harris. Although Owen McCown and Eddie Lee Marburger aren’t the Roadrunner legend, McCown has flashed when on the field.

    If he can keep the offense humming, which shouldn’t be a huge ask with a strong WRs corps and a stable of RBs, UTSA should remain competitive in the AAC.

    3) South Florida Bulls

    Josh Huepel assistant, Alex Golesh, hit the ground running in his first year at USF, leading the Bulls

    to their first winning season since 2018, and it wasn’t a fluke. QB Byrum Brown exploded as a redshirt freshman, generating over 4,000 yards of offense with 37 total TDs. He’ll have his top target (Sean Atkins), backfield mate (Nay’Quan Wright), and four starting offensive linemen back in 2024, raising the team’s floor.

    The defense was inconsistent but should improve with the majority of starters returning for Year 2 of DC Todd Orlando’s system.

    2) Tulane Green Wave

    I’m as much of a Tulane fan as the next Green Waver, but moving on from a head coach (Willie Firtz) and an elite QB (Michael Pratt) in the same offseason won’t be easy for the program. Yes, Jon Sumrall is an excellent coach, as his track record at Troy proves, and Oregon transfer Ty Thompson has a four-star pedigree. But that doesn’t guarantee immediate success.

    Now, Tulane still checks in at No. 2 in the 2024 AAC Power Rankings due to its mix of returning and transfer talent and the fact Sumrall was able to retain both of his coordinators from Troy, providing familiarity and stability not common with head coach transitions. But does the Green Wave have enough to knock off the conference’s best team?

    1) Memphis Tigers

    With SMU off to the ACC and Tulane undergoing change at HC and QB, Memphis is the cream of the AAC crop. Ryan Silverfield and Co. have overhauled the offensive line and added South Carolina’s Mario Anderson to replace star RB Blake Watson.

    KEEP READING: 2024 Strength of Schedule For All 134 FBS Teams

    More importantly, QB Seth Henigan returns for his fourth year as the starter alongside his top three pass catchers from last season: Roc Taylor, Demeer Blankumsee, and Koby Drake. And of the 19 defenders who started at least one game in 2023, 12 are back, including leading tackler Chandler Martin, who recorded 94 tackles, three sacks, and two INTs a season ago.

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!

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