IRVING, Texas – The Cincinnati Bearcats, who finished the 2020 season ranked No. 8 nationally, has been tabbed as the preseason favorite in the 2021 American Athletic Conference preseason media poll.
Cincinnati received 22 of a possible 24 first-place votes in the media poll to finish with 262 points. UCF had two first-place votes and was second in the poll with 241 points, ending a streak of three consecutive seasons as the favorite in The American.
The Bearcats, who have gone 31-6 since the start of the 2018 season, went 9-1 overall and 6-0 in American Athletic Conference play last season, winning the American Athletic Conference Championship Game for the first time before falling to Georgia on a last-second field goal in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Cincinnati has been ranked in 28 consecutive national polls, dating to Oct. 6, 2019, and carries a 20-game winning streak at Nippert Stadium, marking the fourth-longest active home-field winning streak in the nation (behind only Clemson, Notre Dame and Ohio State). Luke Fickell’s squad will be led by quarterback Desmond Ridder, the 2020 American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and a defense headlined by All-America cornerback Ahmad Gardner.
UCF was a clear choice of the media to reach The American Championship Game in 2021 as the Knights were second in the preseason poll. Former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn begins his first year on the Knights’ sideline, while quarterback Dillon Gabriel returns after he led the NCAA in passing (357.0 yards per game) last season. Gabriel’s career average of 314.0 passing yards per game is the best of any active player in FBS.
SMU edged Houston for the No. 3 spot in the preseason poll. The Mustangs return 18 starters from last year’s team that won seven of its first eight games and was ranked as high as No. 16 nationally. The Cougars, who were hampered by the cancellation or postponement of eight scheduled games last season, look for more stability this season behind the return of 20 starters.
The 2020 season saw The American place a team in a New Year’s Six bowl for the fifth time in the seven-year history of the College Football Playoff/New Year’s Six structure.
2021 American Athletic Conference Preseason Media Poll
|Team (First-Place Votes)||Points|
Preseason Poll Notes
The favorite in the American Athletic Conference preseason media poll has ended up winning the conference title twice in the league’s first seven seasons:
|2014||Cincinnati||t-1st||UCF, Cincinnati, Memphis|
|2017||South Florida||t-2nd East||UCF|
All-Time Preseason Media Polls
|2.||South Florida (5)||140|
|1.||South Florida (30)||169|
|1.||South Florida (15)||164|