By all intents and purposes, the 2022 campaign will be the final season for the American Athletic Conference under its current alignment. Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF are heading out the door for the Big 12 next year while six programs from Conference USA will be moving into the neighborhood at the same time.
Even with massive change in the air, the premier Group of Five conference is still poised to have an interesting season this fall. Here are a few games to look out for on the schedule.
Houston vs. Memphis, October 7, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
With quarterback Clayton Tune back under center, Houston enters the season as one of the favorites to win the conference and potentially grab the G5 bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game. It’ll have a nice showcase spot at future conference rival Texas Tech in September but its first true conference test will come on a Friday night in early October at Memphis.
The Tigers’ opening win total is seven and would love to play spoiler for a Cougar team they have beaten five out of the last six seasons. Weird things can happen during Friday night games in this conference and this will be one to circle on the calendar.
Cincinnati vs. UCF, October 29, Time/TV TBD
Cincinnati has ripped the mantle of the American’s top team from UCF in recent years and whooped the Knights 56-21 last season on its way to the College Football Playoff. This year’s game will be at the Bounce House in Orlando and will more than likely play a major role in the conference championship raise.
UCF will be seeking revenge for last season and will be armed with the likes of transfer quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and running back Isaiah Bowser. Meanwhile, Cincinnati will have to replace a ton of talent from last year’s playoff team but should be fine given how well Luke Fickell has recruited. This showdown between the two Big 12-bound schools should be a good one.
Memphis vs. SMU, November 26, Time/TV TBD
Keep your eye on Memphis and SMU during Thanksgiving weekend as both of these schools could emerge as conference title sleepers by the end of the season. Along with the league title race, the game will have importance with in regards to the future of the conference.
There will be a power vacuum at the top with Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF leaving and these two programs are the two likeliest candidates to fill that void. Whoever wins this game could be sending a message about who will be the new power in the league moving forward.
Once we have the final two teams, the American Conference Championship Game will be on December 3 at 4 p.m. ET from the home site of the team with the higher winning percentage in conference.