10. Despite USF’s obvious strength and favorable path, we’re picking a slight upset: Houston will win the American. Houston is capable of beating USF in the regular season, but even if it loses that game, it’s not hard to envision a scenario where the Cougars get revenge in the conference title game. Yes, losing Tom Herman is big, and the transition to Major Applewhite (promoted from offensive coordinator) might not go perfectly. After all, last year’s highly touted team beat Oklahoma and Louisville but still finished with four losses, capped by a blowout loss to San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Rumors of Herman’s impending exit hovered around the team all season, though, and distractions will certainly be reduced in 2017. Plus, we know this team is loaded with talent, by AAC standards, talent that allowed it to beat both the Sooners and Cardinals by double digits last year. DT Ed Oliver, a five-star recruit, is our No. 1 ranked player nationally, at any position. The QB is likely to be Kyle Allen, a five-star recruit who started 14 games and showed promise at Texas A&M before transferring. He has Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar to throw to, and Houston’s run game will improve with a more experienced line and, hopefully, a healthier Duke Catalon. There are holes to fill in the back seven on defense – not to mention losing coordinator Todd Orlando – in addition to rebuilding the pass rush around Oliver, but this is a talented team capable of beating both Power Five opponents (Arizona, Texas Tech) and making another run at 10 wins and a major bowl. USF is a worthy choice as champion, but Houston and Memphis are capable of challenging the Bulls. We’ll go with the Cougars to do what they were supposed to last year and return to the top.