Louisville Gives New Conference Title Contender
For a newly-branded league still in the midst of transition, it’s not a bad way to debut: The American Athletic Conference (nee: Big East) can make a name for itself immediately if Louisville lives up to expectations.
Still riding the wave of an eye-opening Sugar Bowl victory over Florida to end last year, the Cardinals return a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and plenty of other veteran talent.
Coach Charlie Strong’s team will try to ride a preseason Top 10 ranking all the way into the big games — perhaps the biggest — at the end of the season.
Yep, the new AAC — at least for one year — will have something the old Big East lacked for most of its recent existence: A national title contender.
The rest of the conference will be chasing the Cardinals, most notably Big East holdovers Rutgers, Cincinnati and Connecticut, as well as newcomer UCF, whose dynamic offense will be led by returning 3,000-yard passer Blake Bortles. Houston, Memphis and SMU are the other new additions in the 10-team league.
But more change is on the way. Rutgers leaves for the Big Ten in 2014, and Louisville heads to the ACC that same year. East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa will then be added as replacements, with Navy joining for football only in 2015.
|OFFENSE – FIRST TEAM||OFFENSE – SECOND TEAM|
|QB||Teddy Bridgewater||Jr.||Louisville||QB||Blake Bortles||Jr.||UCF|
|RB||Lyle McCombs||Jr.||Connecticut||RB||Dominique Brown||Jr.||Louisville|
|RB||Charles Sims||Sr.||Houston||RB||Brandon Hayes||Sr.||Memphis|
|WR||Brandon Coleman||Jr.||Rutgers||WR||Breshad Perriman||So.||UCF|
|WR||DeVante Parker||Jr.||Louisville||WR||Anthony McClung||Sr.||Cincinnati|
|TE||Gerald Christian||Jr.||Louisville||TE||Alan Cross||So.||Memphis|
|C||Jake Smith||Jr.||Louisville||C||Austin Reiter||Jr.||USF|
|OL||Austen Bujnoch||Sr.||Cincinnati||OL||Jamon Brown||Jr.||Louisville|
|OL||Jimmy Bennett||Sr.||Connecticut||OL||Antwan Lowery||Sr.||Rutgers|
|OL||Eric Lefeld||Jr.||Cincinnati||OL||Torrian Wilson||Jr.||UCF|
|OL||Kaleb Johnson||Jr.||Rutgers||OL||Ben Gottschalk||Sr.||SMU|
|AP||Ralph D. Abernathy IV||Jr.||Cincinnati||AP||J.J. Worton||Jr.||UCF|
|K||John Wallace||So.||Louisville||K||Tony Miliano||Jr.||Cincinnati|
|DEFENSE – FIRST TEAM||DEFENSE – SECOND TEAM|
|DL||Shamar Stephen||Sr.||Connecticut||DL||Aaron Lynch||So.||USF|
|DL||Jamil Merrell||Sr.||Rutgers||DL||Terry Redden||Jr.||Memphis|
|DL||Marcus Smith||Sr.||Louisville||DL||Levi Brown||Sr.||Temple|
|DL||E.J. Dunston||Sr.||UCF||DL||Tevin Mims||Sr.||USF|
|LB||Yawin Smallwood||Jr.||Connecticut||LB||Greg Blair||Sr.||Cincinnati|
|LB||DeDe Lattimore||Sr.||USF||LB||Derrick Mathews||Jr.||Houston|
|LB||Preston Brown||Sr.||Louisville||LB||Tyler Matakevich||So.||Temple|
|DB||Hakeem Smith||Sr.||Louisville||DB||Lonnie Ballentine||Sr.||Memphis|
|DB||Kenneth Acker||Sr.||SMU||DB||Lorenzo Waters||Jr.||Rutgers|
|DB||Calvin Pryor||Jr.||Louisville||DB||Deven Drane||Sr.||Cincinnati|
|DB||Clayton Geathers||Jr.||UCF||DB||Zach McMillian||Sr.||Houston|
|P||Richie Leone||Sr.||Houston||P||Cole Wagner||Sr.||Connecticut|