By Marc Lawrence — Entering its seventh year of existence, the American Athletic Conference remains the top Group of 5 League heading into the 2020 football season. While the league has struggled in bowl games, going 16-25 SU and ATS (2-11 SUATS versus greater than .666 foes), it continues to be a breeding ground for up-and-coming head coaches, including the likes of Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Tulane’s Willie Fritz, Tulsa’s Phillip Montgomery and UCF’s Josh Heupel. Meanwhile, the 25 wins by Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo over Power Five or BCS Conference foes is still the most of all Group of Five schools. Two head coaches make their AAC debut in 2018, including Memphis’ Ryan Silverfield and USF’s Jeff Scott both of whom make their debut as a head coach at the FBS level. For insight on each team in the AAC this season, with excerpts directly from the 2020 PLAYBOOK Football Preview Guide magazine, click here.
ESPN published a report yesterday that Philip Rivers, the new Indianapolis Colts quarterback, was aggravated by all the talk that he was done. The Colts, however, don’t see a 38-year-old quarterback who is regressing. They see one who can still make the necessary throws and help lead them back to the playoffs next season for just the second time since 2014. That’s why the Colts gave Rivers a one-year, $25 million deal to replace Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback back in March. Rivers has started 224 straight games, thrown for 59,271 yards and 397 touchdowns while earning eight Pro Bowl invitations in his career. What the Colts and Rivers hope will help the quarterback is that he’s been running Frank Reich’s offensive system since 2013. Rivers went into the spring meetings knowing more than 85 percent of his coach’s system. Opponents beware: the future Hall of Famer will be playing with a large chip on his shoulder this season.
Grinding Out The Profits
2020 PLAYBOOK Football Preview Guide magazine reports: The Carolina Panthers lost its final 8 games of the season last year by an average of nearly 17 PPG. Should they do anything similar this season, it will be labeled as ‘Tanking for Trevor’ Lawrence, the next Number One pick in the 2021 NFL draft. While most pundits are betting on Jacksonville to earn the honor, new head coach Matt Rhule realizes he will have to rely heavily on his rookie class to help build the team from the ground up, something he’s done in each of his last two head coaching stays at Baylor and Temple. It took him two years to accomplish the trick with the Bears and the Owls. Ground Zero starts on defense where the Panthers became the first team since the AFL-NFL merger to select all seven picks on defense this year. Including the retirement of 7-time Pro Bowl LB Luke Kuechly, the Panthers lost 40 sacks from last year’s squad.