American Athletic Conference News: Houston picked over Cincinnati as Favorite in 2022 American Football Preseason Media Poll

(courtesy Houston Athletics)

Thu, Jul 28, 2022

IRVING, Texas – Only one point separates the top two teams in the 2022 American Athletic Conference preseason media poll as the Houston Cougars edged the Cincinnati Bearcats as The American’s preseason favorite.

Houston received seven of a possible 24 first-place votes to finish with 243 points in the poll, while Cincinnati was second at 242 points, despite the Bearcats’ receiving 10 first-place votes. UCF had seven first-place votes and was third with 225 points.

Houston and Cincinnati were a combined 16-0 in regular-season conference games last season before the Bearcats took a 35-20 win against the Cougars in the 2022 American Athletic Conference Championship Game.

Houston, which was ranked No. 17 in the final national polls of 2021, was tabbed as the favorite in The American for the first time since 2016 after the Cougars went 8-0 in conference play and 12-2 overall, capped by a 17-13 win against Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl. Head coach Dana Holgorsen’s squad will be led by veteran quarterback Clayton Tune, who threw for 3,546 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2021, and wide receiver Nathaniel Dell, who led The American in receptions (90), receiving yards (1,329) and touchdown catches (12) last season.

Cincinnati made history last season as the first team from The American to reach the College Football Playoff as the Bearcats won their first 13 games of the year before falling to Alabama in the CFP semifinals. The Bearcats finished the season ranked No. 4 nationally, but Luke Fickell’s squad will need to offset the loss of an American Athletic Conference-record nine players who were selected in the NFL Draft, trailing only Georgia and LSU nationally. Linebacker Deshawn Pace, a 2022 Butkus Award candidate, is expected to be the stalwart of the Bearcats’ defense after his 94-tackle season last year.

UCF, which has won a conference-record four American Athletic Conference titles, is expected be in the hunt once again in head coach Gus Malzahn’s second season in Orlando. The Knights went 9-4 last season, winning six of their final seven games, including a 29-17 victory against Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl.

SMU was fourth with 187 points as first-year head coach Rhett Lashlee will have quarterback Tanner Mordecai back in the fold. Mordecai set an American Athletic conference record with 39 touchdown passes in 2021.

Memphis, which has had eight consecutive seasons at .500 or better, edged East Carolina for fifth in the preseason poll. The Tigers will be led by quarterback Seth Henigan, an FWAA Freshman All-America who threw for more than 3,300 yards as a rookie. The Pirates, who won five of their last six to close the 2021 season, will feature fifth-year starting quarterback Holton Ahlers and standout running back Keaton Mitchell.

The American is coming off an historic season in 2021, highlighted by Cincinnati’s appearance in the College Football Playoff. It marked the sixth time in eight seasons of the CFP era that The American was represented in the New Year’s Six. Seven American Athletic Conference teams were selected for bowl games, while conference teams were a combined 3-1 in postseason games that were played.

The American also had three NCAA Consensus All-America selections (South Florida running back/return specialist Brian Battie, Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner, Houston cornerback/return specialist Marcus Jones), trailing only the SEC and Big Ten among FBS conferences. The American had the winners of the Paul Hornung Award (Jones), the Jim Thorpe Award (Cincinnati cornerback Coby Bryant) and the consensus National Coach of the Year (Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell), and matched its best showing in the NFL Draft with 19 players selected in 2022.

2022 American Athletic Conference Preseason Media Poll

  Team (First-Place Votes)Points
 1.Houston (7)243
 2.Cincinnati (10)242
 3.UCF (7)225
 4.SMU187
 5.Memphis162
 6.East Carolina157
 7.Tulane115
 8.Tulsa93
 9.South Florida71
 10.Navy61
 11.Temple28

Preseason Poll Notes

The favorite in the American Athletic Conference preseason media poll has ended up winning the conference title three times in the league’s first eight seasons:

 YearFavoriteConference FinishChampion
 2013Louisville2ndUCF
 2014Cincinnatit-1stUCF, Cincinnati, Memphis
 2015Cincinnatit-3rd EastHouston
 2016Houstont-3rd WestTemple
 2017South Floridat-2nd EastUCF
 2018UCF1st EastUCF
 2019UCF2nd EastMemphis
 2020UCFt-3rdCincinnati
 2021Cincinnatit-1stCincinnati

All-Time Preseason Media Polls

2021

      Team                Points

1.    Cincinnati (22)    262

2.   UCF (2)                241

3.   SMU                    188

4.   Houston              181

5.   Memphis             168

6.   Tulsa                   153

7.    Tulane                 153

8.   East Carolina       85

      Navy                     85

10. Temple                 46

11.  South Florida       43

2020

      Team                Points

1.    UCF (10)              204

2.   Cincinnati (7)       201

3.   Memphis (2)        192

4.   SMU                    146

5.   Navy (1)               125

6.   Tulane                 118

7.    Houston              114

8.   Temple                88

9.   Tulsa                    49

10. East Carolina       42

11.  South Florida        41

2019

American Championship

      Team                Points

      UCF                      12

      Cincinnati             8

      Memphis               6

      Houston                4

East Division

      Team                Points

1.    UCF (19)              169

2.   Cincinnati (11)     157

3.   South Florida       107

4.   Temple                101

5.   East Carolina       66

6.   UConn                  30

West Division

      Team                Points

1.    Memphis (15)      165

2.   Houston (14)       162

3.   Tulane                 108

4.   SMU (1)                87

5.   Navy                     70

6.   Tulsa                    38

2018

American Championship

      Team                Points

      UCF                      19

      Memphis               7

      South Florida        3

      Houston                1

East Division

      Team                Points

1.    UCF (25)              175

2.   South Florida (5) 140

3.   Temple                132

4.   Cincinnati            91

5.   UConn                  51

6.   East Carolina        41

West Division

      Team                Points

1.    Memphis (23)      171

2.   Houston (4)         146

3.   Navy (3)              129

4.   SMU                     72

5.   Tulane                 68

6.   Tulsa                    44

2017

American Championship

      Team                Points

      South Florida       26

      Houston                2

      Memphis               1

      Navy                      1

East Division

      Team                Points

1.    South Florida (30) 169

2.   UCF                     126

3.   Temple                119

4.   Cincinnati           100

5.   East Carolina       63

6.   UConn                  42

West Division

      Team                Points

1.    Memphis (22)      169

2.   Houston (6)         137

3.   Navy (1)               128

4.   Tulsa (1)              102

5.   SMU                     64

6.   Tulane                  30

2016

American Championship

      Team                Points

      Houston               27

      South Florida        2

      Temple                  1

East Division

      Team                Points

1.    South Florida (15) 164

2.   Temple (9)           144

3.   Cincinnati (6)      130

4.   UConn                  89

5.   East Carolina       55

6.   UCF                      48

West Division

      Team                Points

1.    Houston (30)      180

2.   Navy                    128

3.   Memphis             124

4.   Tulsa                    92

5.   SMU                     65

6.   Tulane                  41

2015                                       

American Championship

      Team                Points

      Cincinnati            22

      Memphis               5

      Houston                2

      UCF                       1

East Division

      Team                Points

1.    Cincinnati (29)    179

2.   UCF (1)                 135

3.   Temple                116

4.   East Carolina      105

5.   South Florida       53

6.   UConn                  42

West Division

      Team                Points

1.    Memphis (13)      153

2.   Houston (10)       149

3.   Navy (7)               148

4.   Tulane                  74

5.   SMU                     59

6.   Tulsa                    47

2014

      Team                Points

1.    Cincinnati (17)     311

2.   UCF (7)                296

3.   Houston (6)        268

4.   East Carolina      262

5.   SMU                    158

6.   South Florida       157

7.    Memphis             133

8.   Temple                105

9.   UConn                  98

      Tulane                 98

11.  Tulsa                    94

2013

      Team                Points

1.    Louisville (28)     298

2.   Cincinnati (2)       257

3.   Rutgers              240

4.   UCF                     210

5.   South Florida       155

6.   Houston              134

7.    UConn                 131

8.   SMU                    118

9.   Temple                60

10. Memphis              47

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