Central Florida not only won the American Athletic Conference last season but also defeated Auburn, 34-27, to win the Peach Bowl and complete a 13-0 season.

The team decided to hold a parade even though the Knights weren't invited to the College Football Playoff.

After turning the program around in two years, coach Scott Frost departed for Nebraska, and Josh Heupel, the former Heisman runner-up at Oklahoma and most recently the offensive coordinator at Missouri, took over.

Heupel is known for orchestrating high-scoring offenses and has inherited a good conductor, junior quarterback McKenzie Milton, who threw 37 touchdown passes last season.

So even though the Knights lost several key players, including cornerback Mike Hughes, a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, they were the preseason pick in the media poll to defend their AAC title.

Can Temple make up ground on the two Florida AAC powers, UCF and South Florida? Last year, Temple finished third and suffered convincing losses to both teams.

South Florida is a difficult team to gauge. The Bulls, who were the preseason choice to win the AAC title in 2017, must replace all-everything quarterback Quinton Flowers. Monday, USF coach Charlie Strong said in a media teleconference that he had picked his starting quarterback and told the individual, but he wasn't about to announce it to the public.

"It was a tough decision" was all Strong said.

The candidates are junior Brett Kean, last year's backup; sophomore Chris Oladorkun, a dual threat, and Blake Barnett, a 6-foot-5, 217-pound graduate transfer from Arizona State who has two years of eligibility.

In 2016, Flowers was the AAC offensive player of the year. Last year, it was Milton.

In fact, another storyline for the AAC is how many top players it has returning. The AAC is the only Division I conference that has its offensive, defensive, and special-teams players of the year back. Besides Milton, the offensive player of the year in 2017, Houston junior defensive tackle Ed Oliver was the defensive POY and Tony Pollard of Memphis was the special-teams POY.

While Central Florida is a solid favorite in the AAC East, the scramble for the West title appears much more uncertain. Memphis was the West Division winner last season, and the Tigers have been picked to repeat. But Navy and Houston also figure to contend seriously.

Malcolm Perry, who played receiver most of the season but was outstanding at quarterback during Navy's 14-13 loss to Army at Lincoln Financial Field, will start the season at quarterback. He rushed for 250 yards and a 68-yard score vs. Army, and if he can stay healthy, Perry will be among the most dynamic players in the AAC. Senior Zach Abey, last year's starting quarterback for most of the season, rushed for 1,413 yards and 19 touchdowns. Coach Ken Niumatalolo said Monday that Perry would be his starting quarterback and there would be packages for Abby, who will also play receiver.