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FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, file photo, Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, right, speaks with linebacker Malik Clements (4) before an NCAA college football game against Navy in Cincinnati. Nobody saw Cincinnati coming in the American Athletic Conference last year. Not even Luke Fickell, who guided the team to a seven-victory improvement in his second season as Bearcats coach. Best to expect the unexpected in the AAC. The league has been fertile ground for fast turnarounds since it rose from the ashes of the old Big East in 2013. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, file photo, Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, right, speaks with linebacker Malik Clements (4) before an NCAA college football game against Navy in Cincinnati. Nobody saw Cincinnati coming in the American Athletic Conference last year. Not even Luke Fickell, who guided the team to a seven-victory improvement in his second season as Bearcats coach. Best to expect the unexpected in the AAC. The league has been fertile ground for fast turnarounds since it rose from the ashes of the old Big East in 2013. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)|Associated Press
NCAAF

AAC College Football: Ben Geier picks FAMU at UCF, UCLA at Cincinnati, Wagner at UConn, FIU at Tulane

Games are Thursday beginning at 7 pm EDT.

Ben Geier

Ben Geier

FAMU @ 17 UCF (-47.5), 7:30 pm EDT on CBSSN

After a devastating loss to end their 25-game winning streak, the UCF Knights should have no trouble starting another one against a fellow sunshine state opponent.

The Knights are led by Coach Josh Heupel, who had big shoes to fill after Scott Frost left after the 2017 season. Heupel wasn’t afraid of the spotlight and led UCF to an undefeated regular season. The question becomes who will take the reins at quarterback with McKenzie Miltion (Sr.) out. For now, it’s Brandon Wimbush, a grad transfer from Notre Dame but it seems Dillion Gabriel (Fr.) will also be getting reps.

The Rattlers are led by Coach Willie Simmons, who is hoping to make strides in his second year with the team. But they're moving up in class and are hoping to keep the score within 50.

Pick: UCF (-47.5)

UCLA @ Cincinnati (-2.5), 7 pm EDT on ESPN

UCLA Coach Chip Kelly and Cincinnati Coach Luke Fickell garnered plenty of media attention during the 2018 season. Kelly hoped to bring the Bruins the same fast-paced offense he brought to Oregon. Fickell got his ink due to an unexpected second-year leap with the Bearcats, where they finished 11-2 and slid into the Top 25.

Statistically, the Bruins struggled on both sides of the ball finishing 98th in offense (24.6 PPG) and 106th in defense (34.1 PPG). Soph QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson had his struggles as a true freshman, but Kelly believes he is much improved and can make any throw now. Junior RB Michael Warren was the MVP for the Bearcats in 2018, finishing with over 1,000 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns – tied for 5th best in the nation.

This is going to be a very good game. Although, the Bearcats are at home don’t be surprised if the Bruins keep it close for at least a half. However, Fickell’s team seems to be much more complete and have proven they can compete on both sides of the ball.

Pick: Cincinnati (-2.5)

Wagner @ UConn (-17.5), 7 pm EDT on ESPN3

The UConn Huskies have struggled since coming over from the Big East with a record of 18-55 over the past six years. Huskies Coach Randy Edsall is in a make-or-break year with grad trasfer QB Mike Beaudy at the helm. Beaudy led the West Florida Argos to the Division II Championship game in 2017.

The Wagner Sea Hawks have also had their share of struggles. FIU graduate transfer QB Christian-Alexander Stevens ll lead Coach Jason Houghtaling's team. Houghtaling is entering his fifth season as head coach with a current record of 15-29.

Both teams are expected be bottom dwellers in their respective conferences and UConn gave up nearly 50 ppg last year so ity's hard to take them laying 17,5 against anyone, let alone a team with a proven DI QB. New Huskies defensive coordinator Lou Spanos (a former Alabama Analyst) has his work cut out for him.

Pick: Wagner (+17.5)

FIU @ Tulane (+2), 8 pm EDT on ESPN3

After two years, FIU Coach Butch Davis has turned a mediocre Panthers program into Conference USA contenders. In 2018, Davis led his team into the top fifty on both offense (34.6 PPG) and defense (25.2 PPG). He has also gone bowling in his first two seasons. Meanwhile, Tulane Coach Willie Fritz deserves praise for finally getting the Green Wave bowling for the first time since 2013.

The matchup to watch for in this game is between FIU senior QB James Morgan (26 TDs in 2018) and his offensive line versus Tulane junior defensive end Patrick Johnson, who led the Green Wave last year with 10.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss.

But I’m going to stick with old-reliable Butch Davis coming out guns blazing. (Spoiler, I have FIU winning the Conference USA title.)

Pick: FIU (-2)

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