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The American Athletic Conference goes through a shakeup in its second season. The cream of the crop should separate itself fairly early in the...

CBB BANNERThe American Athletic Conference goes through a shakeup in its second season. The cream of the crop should separate itself fairly early in the campaign with some true bottom-feeders in the mix.

Covers Expert Sean Murphy looks at all 11 AAC teams and give season win total picks for each heading into the 2014 campaign.

Central Florida Knights (2013: 12-1 SU, 8-5 ATS)

Season win total: 8.5

Why bet the Knights: This is where depth pays off. Yes, the Knights lose significant talent from last year’s squad, including QB Blake Bortles. But the cupboard is by no means bare. George O’Leary has built this program to last,and the Knights should find themselves at the top of the AAC heap if everything goes according to plan in 2014.

Why not bet the Knights: After a dominant 2013 campaign, the Knights are on virtually every bettor’s radar and that could mean they take a hit in the value department this season. In addition to Bortles departure, UCF loses a 1,100-yard rusher and three all-conference offensive linemen.

Season win total pick: Over 8.5

Cincinnati Bearcats (2013: 9-4 SU, 6-7 ATS)

Season win total: 7.5

Why bet the Bearcats: After getting off to a miserable start in 2013, the Bearcats will be eager to start on the right foot this year. The schedule should allow for that with three of their first four games coming at home, against beatable opponents (the lone road game comes at Ohio State). Expectations aren’t all that high this year and that could be a good thing.

Why not bet the Bearcats: The quarterback position remains a big question mark and that’s certainly not a positive. Gunner Kiel appears likely to take over the reins, but how the Notre Dame transfer will fit in this offense remains to be seen. Cincy’s defense held up well a year ago, but that had a lot to do with its rather weak schedule.

Season win total pick: Over 7.5

Connecticut Huskies (2013: 3-9 SU, 5-7 ATS)

Season win total: 3.5

Why bet the Huskies: The Paul Pasqualoni era is fading in the rear-view mirror in Storrs. Forty-one year old Bob Diaco takes over the team and things can only get better, right? After finishing last season on a high note, and with plenty of returning talent, the Huskies could make some noise – provided they can catch a few breaks here in 2014.

Why not bet the Huskies: Experience isn’t everything. This was a bad football team a year ago, so it remains to be seen whether the right pieces are in place. The defense looks good on paper but can it hold up if the offense isn’t able to consistently sustain drives?

Season win total pick: Over 3.5

Houston Cougars (2013: 8-5 SU, 10-3 ATS)

Season win total: 8.5

Why bet the Cougars: Houston is loaded with playmakers all over the field and with QB John O’Korn back in the fold after an encouraging 2013 campaign, the sky is the limit for this team offensively. The defense is loaded with returnees that are comfortable with the 4-3 scheme that will once again be employed.

Why not bet the Cougars: Simply put, the Cougars were one of the best bets in the entire nation last year – a feat that teams are rarely able to repeat. The betting marketplace will likely catch up with Houston in 2014. Will the offense be able to mix things up enough to keep defenses honest?

Season win total pick: Under 8.5

Tulane Green Wave (2013: 7-6 SU, 9-4 ATS)

Season win total: 3.5

Why bet the Green Wave: Tulane suddenly has a little momentum in its corner after reaching a bowl game last season. Head coach Curtis Johnson has turned this program around and will have his players believing that last year was no fluke.

Why not bet the Green Wave: Losing WR Ryan Grant hurts immensely. Not only is Grant gone, but there’s no sure thing at quarterback. Defensively, the Green Wave always seem to be facing an uphill battle and 2014 should be no different.

Season win total pick: Under 3.5

Memphis Tigers (2013: 3-9 SU, 6-6 ATS)

Season win total: 5.5

Why bet the Tigers: The rebuild continues in Memphis. While it wasn’t apparent on paper, the Tigers did make some positive gains in 2013, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. With a wealth of returning talent, the potential is there for Memphis to lean even more on that defense this year.

Why not bet the Tigers: There are too many question marks on offense, not just at the quarterback position, but all over the field. Maybe this is the year we start to see progress. But I believe too much is going to be asked of the Tigers ground game and they simply don’t have the horses to thrive in that regard.

Season win total pick: Under 5.5

East Carolina Pirates (2013: 10-3 SU, 7-6 ATS)

Season win total: 7.5

Why bet the Pirates: For those that have followed this program in recent years, it should come as no surprise that the offense will once again pave the way to any success. The duo of QB Shane Carden and WR Justin Hardy will be one to watch throughout the 2014 campaign.

Why not bet the Pirates: A defense that is bad at the best of times could be even worse in 2014, with only four returning starters. It’s one thing to survive on offense alone in Conference-USA, but doing so in the AAC might be a little tougher. Off a 10-win season, the Pirates won’t be flying under the radar.

Season win total pick: Over 7.5

South Florida Bulls (2013: 2-10 SU, 5-7 ATS)

Season win total: 5

Why bet the Bulls: Don’t be fooled by last year’s poor record, this is a program that is headed in the right direction under the guidance of Willie Taggart. The Bulls played their best football near the end of last season and have a roster loaded with players ready to take a big leap forward in 2014.

Why not bet the Bulls: USF is probably still a year or two away from contending for a bowl. Mike White will likely be the man for the job under center and, while he showed flashes of brilliance a year ago, he’s not the type of quarterback that can carry a team.

Season win total pick: Over 5

SMU Mustangs (2013: 5-7 SU, 6-6 ATS)

Season win total: 4

Why bet the Mustangs: After a truly mediocre 2013 campaign, the Mustangs aren’t going to grab much attention from bettors, and that’s not a bad thing. June Jones has the personnel in place to get the offense humming again, even with the departure of QB Garrett Gilbert.

Why not bet the Mustangs: SMU’s schedule can’t get much tougher, opening with back-to-back road games and closing with two of three away from home. The Mustangs first two home games will come against Texas A&M and TCU. They’re at least a year away from a breakout campaign.

Season win total pick: Over 4

Temple Owls (2013: 2-10 SU, 8-4 ATS)

Season win total: 2.5

Why bet the Owls: Quarterback P.J. Walker will only get better after showing plenty of potential in 2013. His receiving corps should be improved while the run game will remain the strength of this offense. As bad as the Owls were a year ago, they still posted a solid ATS record and a similar storyline could unfold this season.

Why not bet the Owls: I hate to oversimplify things, but the bottom line is that the Owls aren’t going to win many games. If you like hoping and praying for backdoor covers, by all means, get behind the Owls. But expectations are low for a reason again this year.

Season win total pick: Under 2.5

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2013: 3-9 SU, 3-9 ATS)

Season win total: 5.5

Why bet the Hurricane: The defense. It’s hard to believe, but this program has no choice but to hang its hat on its defense – the polar opposite of what we’ve been accustomed to seeing from the Golden Hurricane. After a down season, improvement should be in order with the pedigree for success firmly in place in Tulsa.

Why not bet the Hurricane: The offense. After going through some serious growing pains in 2013, there’s no reason to expect an immediate rebound in 2014. Losing three offensive linemen and two running backs will further stall the progress of this unit and ultimately keep the Hurricane from breaking through.

Season win total pick: Under 5.5

Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com

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