UCF survived a scare at SMU on Saturday night, escaping with a 31-24 victory. The Knights (8-0, 5-0 AAC) are now No. 12 in the Coaches Poll, 14 in the AP Poll and 18 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. They return home next week for a matchup against UConn. Before getting to that, what else went down around the AAC in week 10?
USF: The Bulls (8-1, 5-1 AAC) bounced back from last week’s loss with a 37-20 win at UConn. Senior Quinton Flowers threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns while also adding 131 yards on the ground. USF extended its 17-7 halftime lead with a huge third quarter, going on a 17-0 run. Up Next: vs. Tulsa (Nov. 16)
UConn: The Huskies (3-6, 2-4 AAC) fell 37-20 at home to USF on Saturday. Freshman Kevin Mensah rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, but the offense put up just 324 total yards. A 17-0 USF run in the third quarter ultimately crushed UConn’s comeback hopes. Up Next: at No. 14 UCF
Temple: The Owls (4-5, 2-3 AAC) pulled off a 34-26 upset of Navy on Thursday night. Junior Frank Nutile got the start at quarterback, throwing for 289 yards and four touchdowns. Temple got out to a 24-6 lead early in the third quarter before holding off a Navy comeback attempt. The win was the Owls’ first since Oct. 7. Up Next: at Cincinnati
East Carolina: The Pirates (2-7, 1-4 AAC) fell 52-27 at Houston on Saturday afternoon. Junior Gardner Minshew threw for 463 yards and three touchdowns, but a 21-0 deficit was too much for ECU to overcome. The Pirates outgained the Cougars 504-472 in the loss. Up Next: vs. Tulane
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (3-6, 1-4 AAC) snapped a five-game losing streak with a 17-16 win at Tulane. Junior Hayden Moore threw for 248 yards and a touchdown, while the defense held the Green Wave to just 328 yards of offense. The Bearcats were held scoreless in the fourth quarter, but the defense came through for the victory. Up Next: vs. Temple
Memphis: The No. 23 Tigers (8-1, 5-1 AAC) continued to roll on Friday night, blowing out Tulsa by a score of 41-14. Senior Riley Ferguson kept his impressive season going with 298 passing yards and four touchdowns, while sophomore Darrell Henderson ran for 123 yards on 14 carries. Memphis led just 21-14 at halftime, but turned it on for a 20-0 second half run. Up Next: vs. SMU (Nov. 18)
SMU: The Mustangs (6-3, 3-2 AAC) came up just short on Saturday night, falling to No. 15 UCF 31-24. Sophomore Ben Hicks threw for 283 yards and a touchdown, while the defense forced the Knights into three turnovers. Despite those three turnovers, the defense still gave up 615 total yards. Up Next: at Navy
Navy: The Midshipmen (5-3, 3-3 AAC) lost their third straight game, getting upset 34-26 on Thursday night against Temple. Junior Zach Abey didn’t get the offense going until it was too late. He threw for 111 yards on six completions, but ran for just 60 yards on 25 carries. Up Next: vs. SMU
Houston: The Cougars (6-3, 4-2 AAC) followed their upset win over USF with a 52-27 win over East Carolina Sophomore D’Eriq King followed up last week’s heroics with 330 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Senior Steven Dunbar caught six passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. A 21-0 first quarter was all Houston needed to dominate its way to a win. Up Next: at Tulane (Nov. 18)
Tulane: The Green Wave (3-6, 1-4 AAC) fell 17-16 at home to Cincinnati on Saturday. Tulane kicked a field goal in the fourth to bring the game within one, but couldn’t break through for a win. Junior Jonathan Banks rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. The loss was the team’s fourth straight. Up Next: at East Carolina
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (2-8, 1-5 AAC) continued its down year with a 41-14 loss to No. 23 Memphis. They kept things close early, trailing by just seven at halftime, but got outscored 20-0 in the second half. Senior D’Angelo Brewer rushed for 119 yards on 21 carries. Up Next: at USF (Nov. 16)
What does this all mean for UCF?
This late in the season, the contenders in both AAC divisions are already set. In the AAC West, Memphis still looks like the team to beat. The Tigers have dominated since falling to the Knights in Orlando at the end of September. Behind Memphis, though, is a very good SMU team. The Mustangs pushed the Knights to their limit and a second AAC loss means nothing as long as they continue to win. A victory over Memphis in two weeks would likely propel SMU to the conference title game. Houston and Navy are too far behind at this point, but are still going to play a bowl game. The same can’t be said for Tulsa, while Tulane needs to win out to get to that six-win mark.
Yes, the AAC East is still coming down to Black Friday. USF bounced back from its stunning loss with an easy road win over UConn, while UCF fought off the toughest test it will get before hosting the War on I-4 rivalry game. Bowl eligibility doesn’t seem too likely for UConn, East Carolina or Cincinnati, but after an upset win over Navy, Temple’s chances improved a bit. With only a few weeks left before the AAC title game, it’s clear that the easiest path to a New Year’s Six bowl game is to win out. UCF controls its own destiny, but a loss could easily derail those high hopes and open the door to USF, Memphis or possibly SMU.