UCF clicked on offense and defense in its final tune-up before the War on I-4, beating Temple 45-19. The Knights (10-0, 7-0 AAC) are now No. 15 in the College Football Playoff Rankings and 13 in the AP Poll. They return to Spectrum Stadium on Friday afternoon to host rival USF for the right to go to the AAC Championship Game. Before we get there, what else went down around the AAC in week 12?
USF: The Bulls (9-1, 6-1 AAC) needed a late stop to beat Tulsa 27-20. They got out to a 21-7 lead, but the second half was one to forget as they were outworked by a two-win Tulsa team. Senior Quinton Flowers completed just 39 percent of his passes, but threw for 142 yards and two touchdowns. He added 119 yards on the ground on his senior night. Up Next: at No. 15 UCF (Nov. 24)
Temple: The Owls (5-6, 3-4 AAC) were thoroughly dominated by No. 15 UCF, losing 45-19. The defending conference champions got out to a quick start, but eventually fell behind quickly due to offensive struggles and the Knights’ potent offense. Temple turned the ball over five times, but junior David Hood did run for 81 yards on just 12 carries. Up Next: at Tulsa
UConn: In non-conference action, the Huskies (3-8, 2-5 AAC) fell 39-16 to Boston College. A 39-0 scoring run by the Eagles from the second to the fourth quarter was too much for UConn to handle. Freshman Kevin Mensah ran for 115 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the loss. The Huskies outgained the Eagles 412-385. Up Next: at Cincinnati
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (3-8, 1-6 AAC) continued their disappointing season on Saturday with a 48-20 loss to lowly East Carolina. Junior Hayden Moore aired it out for three touchdowns, but the defense gave up 578 yards of offense to the Pirates. Cincinnati has lost seven of its last eight games. Up Next: vs. UConn
East Carolina: The Pirates (3-8, 2-5 AAC) snapped a two-game losing streak on Saturday, beating Cincinnati 48-20. The effort was led by junior Gardner Minshew, who threw for 444 yards and four touchdowns. ECU got out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back, putting up 578 total yards. The Pirates took advantage of 10 Cincinnati penalties in the win. Up Next: at No. 20 Memphis
Memphis: The Tigers (9-1, 6-1 AAC) clinched the AAC West with a 66-45 win over SMU on Saturday afternoon. Seniors Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller connected for 163 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore Darrell Henderson put up 147 yards and two touchdowns on 10 touches. Memphis put up 664 yards of total offense. Up Next: vs. East Carolina
Houston: A two-game winning streak came to an end for the Cougars (6-4, 4-3 AAC) as they fell 20-17 to Tulane. Sophomore D’Eriq King threw for 225 yards, but did more damage with his legs. He ran for 141 yards and 10 touchdowns on 10 attempts. Houston took a 17-13 lead with 6:50 left, but quickly gave up a touchdown to the Green Wave with 6:13 to go. The Cougars outgained the Green Wave 445-417 in the loss. Up Next: vs. Navy (Nov. 24)
Navy: The Midshipmen (6-4, 4-3 AAC) put up a great fight at No. 8 Notre Dame, but fell late by a score of 24-17. Navy had the game tied at 17 into the fourth quarter, but a touchdown by the with 11:49 left and then some tough defense ended the upset attempt. Junior Zach Abey rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, while adding a touchdown through the air. Up Next: at Houston (Nov. 24)
SMU: Offense wasn’t hard to come by for the Mustangs (6-5, 3-4 AAC) on Saturday, but defense was in a 66-45 loss to No. 21 Memphis. Sophomore Ben Hicks threw for four touchdowns, two of which went to junior Trey Quinn. Sophomore Xavier Jones carried things on the ground, finishing the day with 175 yards and two touchdowns on 20 rushes. Unfortunately for SMU, the defense couldn’t find an answer for a tough Memphis offense. The Tigers put up 333 rushing yards and 331 passing. Up Next: vs. Tulane
Tulane: The Green Wave (5-6, 3-4 AAC) won their second straight on Saturday, taking down Houston 20-17. Juniors Jonathan Banks and Terren Encalade had a huge day, connecting eight times for 186 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown was the game-winner with 6:13 left, going for 64 yards. The score came less than a minute after the Cougars took a 17-13 lead. Up Next: at SMU
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (2-9, 1-6 AAC) nearly pulled off a road upset of USF, but instead fell 27-20. Senior D’Angelo Brewer rushed for 163 yards on 34 carries. Tulsa trailed 21-7 after one quarter, but came roaring back in the second quarter to cut the game to 24-17. A field goal cut the game to one score late in the fourth, but the offense couldn’t manage to finish off the comeback. Up Next: vs. Temple
What does this all mean for UCF?
Yet another weekend in the AAC is over, but nothing really changed. In the AAC West, Memphis clinched its spot in the conference title game on Dec. 2. The only team in the division that is officially eliminated from bowl eligibility is Tulsa, though the Golden Hurricane did give USF a tough fight on Thursday. Tulane kept its bowl hopes alive with an unexpected win over Houston, but the Green Wave will need a win over SMU next week to make sure they can play in the postseason. But as far as the top of the division goes, it was always going to be Memphis getting a shot at the conference championship.
The AAC East will come down to Black Friday, as expected. UCF and USF meet on Friday afternoon in the biggest game in War on I-4 history. The winner moves on to face Memphis on Dec. 2 for the AAC title and a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game. The Knights and Bulls have been on a collision course all year, and that rivalry showdown is finally set to unfold. The entire rest of the division will miss out on bowl season if Temple can’t come up with a win over Tulsa next week. But if the Owls can clinch a bowl berth, bowl season will feature seven (or eight, if Tulane wins) AAC teams.