UCF Football opened the 2017 season on Thursday night with a 61-17 blowout win over FIU. The Knights improved to 1-0 ahead of next week’s conference opener against Memphis. What else went down in the AAC during opening weekend?
USF: One week after the Bulls started the season with a 42-22 win at San Jose State, they opened up their home schedule. USF struggled with Stony Brook all day, but escaped with a 31-17 win. The preseason conference favorites broke a 17-17 tie midway through the fourth quarter before putting the Seawolves away. Seniors Quinton Flowers and Darius Tice scored two touchdowns apiece. Up Next: at UConn
Temple: The defending AAC champions were beaten up in their opener at Notre Dame, falling 49-16. The Owls couldn’t keep up with the Fighting Irish at any point, allowing 606 total yards while managing just 330. Sophomore Logan Marchi completed 19 of his 35 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Up Next: vs. Villanova
Cincinnati: The Bearcats kicked off the Luke Fickell era on Thursday night with a 26-14 win over Austin Peay. Junior Hayden Moore led the way for Cincinnati, throwing for 151 yards and three touchdowns in the win. A late touchdown extended the team’s lead after the Governors cut the game to 20-14 at the start of the fourth. Up Next: at Michigan
East Carolina: ECU was a three-point underdog against James Madison, but they failed to cover that spread in a 34-14 loss. The Pirates trailed just 7-0 at halftime, but the Dukes went on a 27-7 run to put things away. James Madison had 614 total yards of offense, tearing up the East Carolina defense. Junior Derrell Scott rushed for both of the Pirates’ touchdowns. Up Next: at West Virginia
UConn: UConn managed to escape Thursday night’s game with a 27-20 win over Holy Cross after trailing 20-7 at halftime. The Huskies got 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns from freshman Nate Hopkins. The UConn defense allowed 447 yards of offense, but pitched a shutout in the second half. Up Next: vs. USF
Memphis: Despite being outscored 15-0 in the fourth quarter, the preseason AAC West favorites held on for a 37-29 win over Louisiana Monroe on Thursday night. Sophomore Darrell Henderson was the star of the game for the Tigers, carrying the ball 12 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Up Next: at UCF
Houston: Due to the ongoing struggles from Hurricane Harvey, Houston’s season opener against UTSA was postponed. Up Next: at Arizona
Navy: The Midshipmen spoiled the debut of FAU head coach Lane Kiffin on Friday night, winning 42-19 in Boca Raton. Questions about whether or not junior Zach Abey could be the next breakout Navy quarterback were answered in a big way. He threw for 110 yards and a touchdown, but more notably rushed for 235 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. Up Next: vs. Tulane
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane defense was pitiful on Thursday night against No. 10 Oklahoma State. Tulsa fell 59-24 and gave up 640 yards of offense. Sophomore Corey Taylor II ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns, but that wasn’t enough to make up for an early 21-0 deficit. Up Next: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
SMU: SMU was just one of a few teams in the AAC not to struggle in its opener, beating Stephen F. Austin 58-14. The Mustangs had a 35-0 lead just a few minutes into the second quarter, with two of the touchdowns coming from the defense. Sophomore Ben Hicks completed just nine of his 19 passes, but totaled 112 yards and two scores. SMU finished the night with 243 rushing yards. Up Next: vs. North Texas
Tulane: It was smooth sailing for the Green Wave on Saturday as they rolled to a 43-14 win over Grambling. Tulane got out to a 31-0 lead before finally giving up a touchdown in the third quarter. Junior Jonathan Banks totaled four touchdowns on the day, with three coming through the air. Up Next: at Navy
What does all of this mean for UCF?
It’s only week one, but there were near-disasters all around the AAC. UCF was the only team in its division to win handily and most of the teams in the AAC West struggled as well. It’s easy to overreact to one week of games (just ask fans of any big-time program that lost this week). But based on the opening weekend, it’s not crazy to think that the Knights have a serious chance to be one of the conference’s top teams this year. It seemed somewhat optimistic that they were picked to finish second in their division during the preseason, but after just one week that selection seems fair. It’s not time to book flights for a conference championship game or New Year’s Six bowl, but UCF might just be a little more involved in that conversation now than it was throughout the offseason.