This article is part of our Conference Preview series.
The AAC is considered by many to be the best conference outside of the "Big Five" of the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, and Pac-12. When you are looking for the Group of Five team to make a New Year's Bowl, you look toward the AAC. If you are looking for some fantasy upside it's also a conference worth looking toward. What's good in the conference that gives us teams like UCF, Cincinnati, and more? Let's dig in!
ALL-AAC Fantasy Team
QB: Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (6)
RB: Ulysses Bentley, SMU (19)
RB: Jerome Ford, Cincinnati (24)
WR: Reggie Roberson, SMU (24)
WR: Jaylon Robinson, UCF (32)
TE: Sean Dykes, Memphis (3)
QB: Clayton Tune, Houston (14)
RB: Tyjae Spears, Tulane (35)
RB: Shamari Brooks, Tulsa (63)
WR: Nathaniel Dell, Houston (43)
WR: Josh Johnson, Tulsa (56)
TE: Christian Trahan, Houston (11)
QB: Dillon Gabriel, UCF (25)
RB: Cameron Carroll, Tulane (84)
RB: Kylan Watkins, Memphis (87)
WR: Keylon Stokes, Tulsa (64)
WR: Rashee Rice, SMU (70)
TE: Grant Calcaterra, SMU (16)
Holton Ahlers, QB, East Carolina
Ahlers has already started for three seasons at East Carolina. As a freshman for the Pirates he threw 12 touchdowns against three picks and rushed for six scores. Last year he threw 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions in only eight games, and he completed 61.3 percent of his passes. There's a ton of experience here, but there has also been production aplenty. In five games last year, Ahlers threw at least three touchdowns. There's a lot of upside here, even if he doesn't have the clear cache of weapons as some of the other quarterbacks.
Tanner Mordecai, QB, SMU
You can't blame Mordecai for not being able to grab the starting gig while at Oklahoma. Have you seen the stream of quarterbacks the Sooners have trotted out? As such, Mordecai has headed to SMU, where he is expected to step in for Shane Buechele, another Big 12 transfer. Buechele had a lot of success for the Mustangs, and Mordecai could do the same. We don't know what kind of quarterback he can be as a starter, but we know he has a lot of talent around him, and a coach in Sonny Dykes who knows how to use a QB.
Kylan Watkins, RB, Memphis
Last year was a bit of a mishmash for the Tigers are running back due to graduations and opt-outs, and the offense leaned on veteran quarterback Brady White. White is gone now, and in a more normal year Watkins could step up. He only had 81 rush attempts in 2020, but he averaged 5.4 yards per carry. He also added 23 receptions. Memphis has had a lot of success at running back recently. Could Watkins be next in line?
Isaiah Bowser, RB, UCF
Northwestern is, shall we say, not the most exciting offense. As such, Bowser's decision to transfer from the Wildcats to the Golden Knights could really benefit him. Bowser can basically step right into the lead back role for Central Florida. Sure, Josh Huepel has moved on, but he's been replaced by Gus Malzahn as head coach. Malzahn has shown the ability to use a running back well in the past.
Ryan O'Keefe, WR, UCF
There's room for more than wide receiver to excel in UCF's offense, especially with Dillon Gabriel under center. O'Keefe is in line to be second on the depth chart behind Jaylon Robinson. While O'Keefe only had 20 catches in 2020, he turned those into 391 yards and three touchdowns. Against Memphis he had four catches for 175 yards, which shows his potential. Two of UCF's top three receivers from 2020 are gone, so there are definitely targets available.
Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati
It's rare to be able to recommend a tight end as a sleeper in fantasy college football. Heck, it's often hard to recommend a tight end. The AAC is maybe the best conference for tight ends, though. Desmond Ridder is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference, so one of his receiving targets should be included. We're going with Whyle, who was a touchdown target in 2020. He had 28 catches, but six of them went for touchdowns. In a normal year, and with that experience under his belt, he should be in a better place.
Clayton Tune, QB, Houston
I think Tune will be fine, but I'm not completely sold on him based on his current stock. Dana Holgerson has not had the success with the Cougars many expected. Tune has been with the team for three seasons but never played in more than eight games in a year. He had 10 interceptions in eight games last season and nine in seven games in 2019. Maybe Tune puts it all together in 2021, but I'm hesitant to buy in entirely.
D'Wan Mathis, QB, Temple
You might see Mathis and think, "Hey he was a Georgia recruit, he has to be good!" Don't just assume that's the case. He couldn't beat out Stetson Bennett for the Bulldogs and had to transfer for a reason. Mathis appeared in three games in 2020 and completed 40 percent of his passes. There's a lot less talent around him as well. Mathis will have less competition playing for the Owls, but that doesn't make him any better.
Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
Spears got a bit of action in 2019 as a freshman, but only enough to maintain his redshirt status. They wanted to work him in more in 2020, but then he tore his ACL after only three games. Spears is expected to be healthy now, but we don't know where he will be after such a serious injury. There's also Cameron Carroll around to take carries. I don't know if Tulane will work Spears too hard early on, and that could hamper his numbers.
Isaac Ruoss, RB, Navy
Some fantasy players look at a team running the triple option and think it'll benefit their fantasy squad to have a back from that attack. In reality, it often doesn't work out as you would expect. The problem is that the wealth gets shared in the triple option. Think of how often the quarterback keeps the ball. Ruoss might be on top of the depth chart for the Midshipmen, but that doesn't mean he will be a bell-cow. Plus, he only appeared in two games in 2020, and Navy seems to be on a bit of a downswing.
Josh Johnson, WR, Tulsa
Johnson decided to return to Tulsa for one more season after having six touchdowns in 2020. That was a big jump for him, as he had only one touchdown in 2019 in 11 games. Touchdowns can be unreliable, and Johnson is also dealing with Keylon Stokes for targets. On top of that, Tulsa is breaking in a new starting quarterback, which means even more mystery.
Javon Ivory, WR, Memphis
Ivory ended his redshirt freshman season with seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. That's impressive, but it was also against Florida Atlantic. Not every game will be that easy. He had as many games without a catch as games with a touchdown (three). I trust Memphis' top receiver Calvin Austin because he's a proven commodity. Ivory is not, and Memphis is saying goodbye to Brady White and hello to transfer Grant Gunnell, which means uncertainty under center for the Tigers for the first time in a while.