Despite winning the Fiesta Bowl to cap last year's historic season, the Knights received just seven out of a possible 30 first-place votes and were projected to finish No. 2 in the AAC behind conference favorite Cincinnati. The Bearcats tallied 17 first-place votes.
"I was very happy," said Torrian Wilson, an offensive lineman. "Finally UCF is getting recognition. I guess all it took was a BCS win, but pretty much I felt good about it just having our name known and people recognizing who we are and giving us the Charge On chant."
Wilson's teammate, Clayton Geathers, was less enthused about the Knights' positioning and took it as a personal challenge to prove last season's success was no fluke.
"You never want to come in second. That just shows we have to go out with a winning attitude and just prove them wrong," he said.
Ironically, Cincinnati players can relate. Adrian Witty, a defensive back, said the Bearcats have never been ranked higher than fourth place in preseason conference polls in the past five seasons.
"Being projected No. 1 is kind of different for us, but we'll take the torch," Witty said. "We'll roll with it."
The rest of the AAC teams were picked to finish in the following order: No. 3 Houston, No. 4 East Carolina, No. 5 SMU, No. 6 USF, No. 7 Memphis, No. 8 Temple, No. 9 UConn, No. 9 Tulane and No. 11 Tulsa.
A new AAC rivalry?
UCF and Cincinnati football have yet to meet since Big East evolved into the AAC in 2013 and aren't scheduled to face off this year, but Tommy Tuberville said the programs could provide a great rivalry for the league.
"It's inevitable that sooner or later we play against each other and coach against each other," Tuberville said of taking on UCF's George O'Leary. "I can't remember a time where we've come face to face on the sidelines. But we're good friends and have been in this business a long time together. George has been very good for college football. And how he's handled certain situations and going to Central Florida and having tough times and going through some problems and then doing what he did last year is amazing.
"I'm looking forward playing Central Florida. I think we're two teams destined to be pretty much a big rival game."
No plans for BYU, AAC union
Marriages usually require a formal proposal, but that hasn't stopped the occasional speculation about a potential partnership between the AAC and BYU.
While BYU is an attractive partner, the school has not shown any interest in joining the conference and commissioner Mike Aresco said the league isn't actively pursuing expansion at this time.
"If they expressed interest in our conference, and they have not done that, we would certainly listen because they're just a superb program," Aresco said. "But I really want to not do is spark any rumors, there's nothing going on. BYU said down the road, they like being independent and we'll see."
It's no secret Cincinnati might have the most eclectic roster in college football with names like Munchie Legaux, Leviticus Payne and Silverberry Mouhon. Mouhon, who has a younger brother on the team named Kevin, was named after fantasy science fiction writer A.R. Silverberry. … USF defensive tackle Todd Chandler believes the Bulls are poised for a strong season after struggling last year. "… There's more guys putting in the work on their own. Nobody has to tell them to do things. That's how you can judge progress."