UCF remained undefeated last Thursday with a 52-40 home win over Temple, taking control of the AAC East in the process. The Knights (8-0, 5-0 AAC) fell two spots to No. 11 in both the Coaches Poll and AP Poll while remaining at No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings. They host Navy this Saturday, but before we get there, let’s check in on what else went down around the AAC in week 10.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (8-1, 4-1 AAC) ran straight through Navy on Saturday for a 42-0 home win. Cincinnati led just 7-0 after one quarter, but a 21-point second quarter led to a blowout victory. Michael Warren II led the way in the first half with two rushing touchdowns while quarterback Desmond Ridder ran for another. The lead was stretched to 28-0 on a touchdown pass from Hayden Moore to Josiah Deguara with 32 seconds left in the second quarter. Overall, the Bearcats put up 42 points on 451 yards of total offense. Navy failed to find the end zone while putting up just 171 yards of offense. Up Next: vs. South Florida
Temple: A huge 34-point outburst in the first half wasn’t enough for the Owls (5-4, 4-1 AAC) to upset No. 12 UCF on Thursday night. Despite taking a 34-28 lead into the locker room, Temple lost 52-40 to the division-leading Knights. The Owls overwhelmed the UCF defense early on as quarterback Anthony Russo accounted for four first-half touchdowns. The Knights had plenty of answers in the second half, holding Russo to one score while putting up 24 points of their own. Russo finished the night with 444 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, 46 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Ryquell Armstead ran for 142 yards on 27 carries to add to Temple’s school-record 670 yards of offense. Up Next: at Houston
South Florida: The Bulls (7-2, 3-2 AAC) lost a second straight conference game on Saturday afternoon, losing 41-15 at home to Tulane. The offense never really got going for South Florida, which led to a 27-3 halftime lead for the Green Wave. From there, the Bulls never recovered and fell behind 34-3 before trying to make it a game again. Rushing touchdowns by Johnny Ford and quarterback Blake Barnett got South Florida within 34-15, but Tulane iced the game by adding another touchdown with 1:52 to go. Barnett completed 29 of his 49 passes for 322 yards and an interception in addition to running for 51 yards and a score. Up Next: at Cincinnati
East Carolina: The Pirates (2-6, 0-5 AAC) kept things close against Memphis before falling 59-41 at home on Saturday afternoon. ECU had the game tied 31-31 with 8:45 left in the third quarter and only trailed 38-34 heading into the fourth, but three Tiger rushing touchdowns in the final 15 minutes put the game away. Quarterback Holton Ahlers had a big game, throwing for 449 yards and three touchdowns on 34-of-62 passing while also leading the team in rushing with 57 yards on 17 carries. The Pirates put up 556 yards on offense, but also allowed 639 their sixth straight conference loss. Up Next: at Tulane
UConn: The Huskies (1-8, 0-5 AAC) were dominated by Tulsa on Saturday night, losing 49-19 on the road. They held a 10-0 lead after one quarter, but fell apart from there. After leading 13-7, they allowed the Golden Hurricane to score 42 straight points. A late touchdown didn’t soften the blow of a 30-point loss to a team that was previously 1-7. Quarterback David Pindell, Uconn’s lone bright spot for much of the year, threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns (to one interception) on 14-of-28 passing. He added 150 rushing yards on 23 carries to lead the team in rushing. Kevin Mensah ran for 67 yards on 17 carries, but the Huskies just couldn’t keep up during the middle of the game. The defense allowed 638 yards in the loss. Up Next: vs. SMU
Houston: The Cougars (7-2, 4-1 AAC) were upset on Saturday night, losing 45-31 on the road to SMU. Houston was shocked from the start, with the Mustangs scoring the game’s first 17 points. After a D’Eriq King touchdown pass and a defensive score, the Cougars were within three. However, their momentum was short-lived as SMU put up two more touchdowns to take a 31-14 lead into halftime. A 17-7 run in the second half got Houston within a touchdown, but Ke’Mon Freeman scored from eight yards out to clinch the upset for the Mustangs. King finished the night with just 175 yards and two touchdowns through the air, but ran for 54 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Cougars were outgained 514-365 just one week after their blowout win over South Florida. Up Next: vs. Temple
SMU: The Mustangs (4-5, 3-2 AAC) fought their way back into contention for the AAC West title on Saturday night with a 45-31 upset win over Houston. Quarterback Ben Hicks threw two touchdown passes early on to help SMU to a 17-0 lead and remained solid throughout. Even when the Cougars fought back within 17-14 and 38-31, Hicks and the Mustangs had an answer. The junior signal-caller threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns on 28-of-43 passing. He got help from his backfield as well, with Freeman rushing for 107 yards and two scores on 20 carries. With the win, SMU is now one more Houston loss away from controlling the division late in the final month of the regular season. Up Next: at UConn
Tulane: The Green Wave (4-5, 3-2 AAC) picked up a big 41-15 road win over South Florida on Saturday. After the Bulls went up 3-0 early, Tulane scored 34 straight points on its way to a blowout victory. The backfield got the job done for the Wave, putting up 365 yards as a group. Darius Bradwell ran for 135 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, with Corey Dauphine adding 121 and two on 17 carries. Quarterback Justin McMillan ran for 45 yards and a touchdown of his own on just nine attempts. Tulane only outgained South Florida 426-424, but the defense forced three turnovers to gain some separation. Up Next: vs. East Carolina
Memphis: The Tigers (5-4, 2-3 AAC) let East Carolina hang around on Saturday afternoon before running away with a 59-41 road victory. Memphis led just 38-34 after three quarters, but the run game continued to dominate in the final quarter to put the Pirates away. Darrell Henderson ran for two scores to put the game away before Tony Pollard added another. Overall, Henderson ran for 132 yards and the two scores on 21 carries. Quarterback Brady White completed 21 of his 30 passes for 362 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 639-yard effort. Up Next: vs. Tulsa
Navy: The Midshipmen (2-7, 1-4 AAC) stumbled to another loss on Saturday, falling 42-0 on the road to Cincinnati. They managed to keep it a one-score game in the first quarter before allowing 21 points in the second quarter. With the way the Navy offense performed, the game was out of reach from the time the Bearcats’ lead was 7-0. Zach Abey finished as the team’s leading rusher, putting up just 37 yards on 28 carries. Considering the Midshipmen run the triple-option offense, a leading rusher with 37 yards isn’t going to translate to many points. The team put up just 171 total yards in its sixth straight loss. Up Next: at No. 12 UCF
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (2-7, 1-4 AAC) fell behind UConn 10-0 in the first quarter before coming back to win 49-19. Freshman quarterback Seth Boomer threw for four touchdowns despite only attempting 14 total passes and the backfield took care of the rest. Tulsa’s running backs combined for 470 yards, with Shamari Brooks picking up 151 and Corey Taylor II finishing with 133. T.K. Wilkerson barely missed the 100-yard mark, racking up 95 on just six carries. The Golden Hurricane outgained the Huskies 638-487. Up Next: at Memphis
What does this all mean for UCF?
With their win on Thursday night, the Knights took sole possession of first place in the AAC East. With one conference loss each, Temple and Cincinnati are within striking distance, though UCF now holds a head-to-head tiebreaker with Temple. South Florida’s loss damaged title hopes beyond repair, as a whole lot of chaos would have to unfold for the Bulls to jump three teams for the top spot in the division. Cincinnati, which faces South Florida this week before coming to Orlando on Nov. 17, will be UCF’s biggest threat in the division.
With all of that said, things would swing fully in the Knights’ favor with a Cincinnati loss on Saturday. If the Bearcats fall to the Bulls, UCF would have to lose two of its last three games in order to miss the AAC Championship Game. A loss on Saturday would be Cincinnati’s second conference loss, so even a Bearcat victory over the Knights wouldn’t be enough to claim the top spot. Even with a Temple win over Houston this Saturday, a South Florida victory would put UCF up big in the division standings. With a Cincinnati loss, a UCF win over Navy and even a Temple victory, the race would look like this with two games to go:
UCF (6-0 AAC)
Temple (5-1 AAC)
Cincinnati (4-2 AAC)
South Florida (4-2 AAC)
Because the Knights hold the tiebreaker over the Owls, it would take losses in the final two games to create an opportunity for someone else to claim the division. All of these “what ifs” are irrelevant if UCF continues to win anyway, but there is that chance that the rest of the teams knock each other out before the Knights even play their two biggest games of the year.
Over in the AAC West, things just got a whole lot more interesting. With SMU’s victory over Houston, the division race is suddenly open again. Because of that result, the Mustangs can now win the division if they win out and the Cougars lose one of their final three games. Here is how the schedule will unfold for both teams over the final three weeks:
Houston: vs. Temple, vs. Tulane, at Memphis
SMU: at UConn, vs. Memphis, at Tulsa
The Cougars can still win the division by winning their final three games, but one loss will put the Mustangs in control of their own destiny. As of now, the AAC Championship Game would still feature a matchup between UCF and Houston, but things could get wild very quickly.