Top NCAAF Pick: Memphis to Win AAC (+800) at Caesars Sportsbook
There was a time when college football had the same “Big Six” conferences that they do in basketball. That time ended 10 years ago when the non-football members of the Big East divorced themselves from the other teams – and took the name of the conference with them, leaving the rest scrambling to form the American Athletic Conference.
To be fair, the AAC has occasionally played better football than, say, the Pac-12. But it’s mostly been FBS-average at best, and things are likely to get worse in 2023 after their latest re-alignment.
Profiting from all this: the Tulane Green Wave. The reigning conference champions are back on top of the NCAAF futures market as +240 AAC title favorites at Caesars Sportsbook, and they deserve their status heading into the new campaign.
As usual, we’re not recommending you bet on said favorites. The value with college football odds for future markets is usually further down the list; in this case, we’re going with the No. 5 favorites at most online sportsbooks, the Memphis Tigers (+800 at Caesars).
New Kids In Town
To understand the AAC in 2023, we have to start with their latest roster shuffle. Three more original members have left: Cincinnati, Houston, and Central Florida. According to the Simple Rating System at Sports Reference, those were the best teams in the AAC last year aside from Tulane, and were all in the AP Top 25 rankings at one point.
- Tulane: plus-11.53 SRS
- Cincinnati: plus-5.85
- UCF: plus-5.74
- Houston: plus-3.80
Now that those three teams have bolted for the Big 12, the AAC has six new members who are ready to play some football: Texas-San Antonio, Florida Atlantic, Alabama-Birmingham, North Texas, Rice, and Charlotte, all formerly of Conference USA. Here’s how those six teams fared last year:
- UTSA: plus-5.36 SRS
- UAB: minus-0.98
- North Texas: minus-2.71
- Florida Atlantic: minus-6.44
- Rice: minus-9.45
- Charlotte: minus-16.23
Keep in mind that Conference USA ranked ninth out of the 10 FBS conferences last year at Sports Reference, ahead of only the MAC – and now the AAC is about to absorb six of their teams, none of which is expected to make much noise in 2023.
What About UTSA?
Okay, the Roadrunners are technically the +290 second-favorites at Caesars behind Tulane, but they’re No. 3 at most locations behind SMU (+320 at Caesars). There’s even a chance they’ll win nine games this year, given their extremely soft schedule.
Sadly for UTSA, their season finale, on Week 13, is at Tulane. And they have road games against Houston (Sept. 2) and Tennessee (Sept. 23) that are very likely to trip them up. Despite all those other, lesser Conference USA refugees jumping on board, the AAC remains a step or three above what C-USA football had in store for the Roadrunners last year.
Tulane, or Memphis?
There’s no question that Tulane is the best of what remains, especially after they beat the USC Trojans (-1) 46-45 at the Cotton Bowl. Head coach Willie Fritz has this program in very good shape to repeat its successes from 2022 – although he does have to replenish the receiving corps in front of senior QB Michael Pratt.
You could certainly make an argument that the Green Wave is the right choice for your college football picks, given their considerable strength on the offensive line – easily their best feature. They are well on their way to 10 regular-season wins, with only Ole Miss (Sept. 9) at home and East Carolina (Nov. 4) on the road as serious problems.
Having said all that, the Memphis Tigers will pay out more than three times as much as the Green Wave should they win the AAC. The betting public may expect SMU (plus-3.69 SRS last year) to be Tulane’s top contender, but Memphis (plus-4.14) outperformed the Mustangs in 2022, and there isn’t much to choose from between the two in 2023.
That’s why we’re putting the value team in our college football picks. Ryan Silverfield took over from Mike Norvell (now with Florida State) as Memphis’ head coach just before the 2019 Cotton Bowl, then spent the next three years building the Tigers back up.
The 2023 campaign will be pivotal for Silverfield. He’s got an undervalued quarterback in Seth Henigan, playing in a high-quality backfield behind a stout offensive line; the Memphis run defense should be fearsome as well, and perhaps most importantly, they get to host Tulane on October 13. Bet accordingly.
NCAAF Pick: Memphis to Win AAC (+800) at Caesars Sportsbook