Just as the BYU football program will be in its final year of independence this season before joining the Big 12 Conference in 2023, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will be in their final year of American Athletic Conference membership before leaving.

On Thursday, the AAC’s preseason media poll was released, and those three schools topped it.

Cincinnati made history last season when it became the first Group of Five team to ever make the College Football Playoff, but it was not picked to win the AAC this season.

That honor went to Houston, which finished last season ranked No. 17 in the country after going 12-2 (Cincinnati finished No. 4 after going 13-1, its only loss coming to Alabama in the CFP semifinals).

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Both Cincinnati and Houston went 8-0 in conference play and met in the AAC championship game, which Cincinnati won 35-20.

In Thursday’s poll, Cincinnati was picked by media to finish second behind Houston, followed by UCF.

Last season, UCF went 9-4 overall but just 5-3 in AAC play, although that was good enough for a three-way tie for second with East Carolina and Tulsa.

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