College football is of course split into two groups: Power 5 conference and then the Group of 5. The American Athletic Conference likes to think of itself more as a Power 5A, but it's easily the best league outside the Power 5. Via rankings from CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli, the toughest overall schedule in the AAC this season belongs to the Tulane Green Wave.
Casual football fans probably know very little about Tulane – it's an excellent private university located in New Orleans. Because it's so small, Tulane isn't usually very good in football, but Coach Willie Fritz has turned things around. He was mentioned for a few SEC openings this past offseason, and if the Green Wave have another good 2020 campaign, Fritz probably will be hired by a Power 5 program.
Tulane went 3-9 in each of Curtis Johnson's final two seasons before he was canned. Fritz was hired after working a near miracle at Georgia Southern, and the Green Wave went 4-8 in his first season (2016), 5-7 the next and have been 7-6 in each of the past two. Tulane also has won back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.
Fritz returns 12 starters but lost star quarterback Justin McMillan, an LSU transfer. Last year, he threw for 2,444 yards with 17 touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 745 yards and 12 scores. Senior Keon Howard should take over under center as he was the backup in 2019.
As for Tulane's schedule, the Green Wave certainly will win at home Sept. 3 vs. SE Louisiana but will be underdogs Sept. 12 at Northwestern, Sept. 19 vs. Navy and Sept. 26 at Mississippi State. The Green Wave annually play at least one Power 5 school and now get two of them; last year, they lost 24-6 at then-No. 10 Auburn and barely missed covering the 17-point spread.
Tulane had been playing in the AAC West, but there are no divisions this season because UConn left to become an independent in football – leaving 11 schools. The five best programs in the AAC are Central Florida, Cincinnati (both from former East), Memphis, Navy and SMU (from West). The Green Wave play all but the Bearcats.
At William Hill sportsbook, Tulane is a +4000 longer shot on the moneyline odds to win the conference championship game. Win totals should be out soon, but Fritz's team likely will be set at 5.5. So, if Fritz wins seven again with this schedule, well, bye-bye New Orleans.
WHICH 2020 FANTASY FOOTBALL SLEEPER SHOULD YOU SNATCH IN YOUR DRAFT? AND WHICH WR1 CANDIDATE CAN YOU WAIT ON UNTIL LATE? JOIN SPORTSLINE NOW TO GET 2020 FANTASY FOOTBALL CHEAT SHEETS FROM THE MODEL THAT WAS ALL OVER DERRICK HENRY'S HUGE SEASON, AND FIND OUT.