In terms of top half vs. bottom half, there may not be a larger gap in preseason expectations within conference divisions than the one that’s present in the AAC West. Houston, Memphis and Navy are all expected to have winning seasons and compete for the overall American championship.
And SMU, Tulane and Tulsa? Not so much.
However, when viewed as stocks, you may be surprised at which teams are being bought and sold for 2015.
In case you missed it, I went through this same exercise for the AAC East already, and I’m looking at each team’s 2014 win total and making a decision to buy, sell or hold shares of each team. The choices will be based on if I think their stock will go up, down or remain flat this season.
The basic rule I’m trying to follow is to sell high and buy low. Essentially, I’m willing to part ways with teams that were pretty successful last season and have garnered a ton of hype this spring and summer, and take a chance on underperforming teams hoping they turn it around this year.
I’ll look back at this at the end of the season and see how many “wins” I earned, which should be pretty interesting.
And with that, here’s whose stock I am buying, selling or holding in the AAC West for 2015.
Houston Cougars (2014: 8-5)
I know Houston is going to be a good team under Tom Herman’s watch, but man, this offseason hype has been insane.
I understand why people love the Cougars, but I am going to sell my shares for this season because of: 1) a lot of player turnover and a first year head coach could hold Houston back for a year; 2) there isn’t much separating the top tier of the AAC, so it’s essentially a crapshoot as to who will beat who; and 3) I believe Memphis will win the West. All of that adds up to a good, but not championship-caliber, season for the Cougs in my eyes.
Memphis Tigers (2014: 10-3)
This is probably going to be surprising to you, but I’m also going to sell my Memphis Tigers stock. Yes, I know I just said I think they will win the West; but I don’t think they can reach the 10-win mark again this year.
The 2014 season was the best in school history; it was the first time the Tigers reached a double-digit win total. Given that fact, I want to sell my Memphis shares while they are high as I expect them to take a small step back this season, even if it is technically a success.
The Tigers will win with coach Justin Fuente and Paxton Lynch leading the charge, and also because their schedule is favorable and they’ll host their stiffest opposition at home in the Liberty Bowl. With that said, there are some key defensive losses resulting in a bit drop-off, and that will be the reason they lose one or two more games than they did this past season.
Navy Midshipmen (2014: 8-5)
Navy is probably the biggest wild card of all 12 AAC teams. I can see them winning the West, but I can also see them struggling to establish themselves in such a pass-heavy, high-scoring league. The Midshipmen have a mostly favorable schedule, but trips to Notre Dame, Memphis and Houston will certainly challenge them.
So, what do I do with my Navy shares? The boring thing—hold them.
I don’t have much of a feel for how Navy is going to fare in its conference slate while running the triple-option, and because of that, I’m not able to justify selling or buying more of its stock. It seems like most people believe the Midshipmen will be a solid team, but not necessarily one that will win the AAC. This leads me to believe they have a high floor, and I personally like their ceiling, probably more than most.
SMU Mustangs (2014: 1-11)
Oh boy, I am buying all the SMU shares I can get. This is the definition of a buy-low in my book. Granted, the Mustangs have received more hype this offseason than any 1-11 team deserves–but that’s due to the rock solid hire they made in Chad Morris. Despite that, I still think their stock is low enough to be considered a buy-low.
In 2014, we were all witnesses to a truly horrific season for the Mustangs. June Jones’ impromptu resignation didn’t help matters, but honestly the first half of SMU’s schedule was brutal last year. Before hitting a more manageable road later in the year, the Ponies played Baylor, Texas A&M, TCU, ECU, Cincinnati and Memphis in six of their first seven games.
Their one win came on the final Saturday of the season in a 27-20 road victory over UConn.
Coach Morris, and the school as a whole, is all talking the talk. But is his team ready to walk the walk? Well, if I believe in what Morris is preaching, then I know his players have to after what they went through last year. Yes they will likely take it on the chin from Baylor and TCU early in the year, but can they hang with and beat the likes of North Texas, James Madison, USF, Tulsa and Tulane? Sure they can.
I’m not saying bowl eligibility is in the cards for the Mustangs this year, but I know I can find some value in their stock.
Tulane Green Wave (2014: 3-9)
Somewhere out there someone is willing to buy my Tulane shares… I hope. This season, I see some more offensive growing pains to be had before scoring is something the Green Wave can do consistently. Outside of all-purpose back Sherman Badie, I don’t see any real difference makers on that side of the ball. On top of that, we still don’t know where Tanner Lee is in his development. My guess is he’s not at the point of carrying a team without help around him.
If this were long-term stock I was talking about, I would probably buy Tulane. It has some young talent, and I do think Curtis Johnson is building some momentum in N’awlins. But my fear is that 2015 is going to be more about growing than winning for the Green Wave, so I am going to have to sell here.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2014: 2-10)
If you read my five bold predictions for the AAC in 2015 column, you already know how I feel about Tulsa. Well, at least how I feel about Tulsa when I am asked to make some bold predictions.
With just two wins to its name in 2014, I think things are actually looking up for Tulsa in 2015. The hiring of Phil Montgomery from Baylor as the head coach has been received well, as it should be considering Montgomery’s time spent guiding an impressive offense at Baylor. With key pieces like Dane Evans and Keevan Lucas in place, Montgomery should be able to build a unit that can score quickly and frequently.
While the Golden Hurricane defense was about as bad as it gets nationally and in need of taking a massive leap forward, I’m buying this team for 2015 strictly based on two opinions: 1) the offense should be even better, and 2) the defense can’t get much worse. I really don’t think five or six wins is out of the question for this team, so I will certainly buy Tulsa while I can get their shares for cheap.