UCF extended its winning streak to 17 games on Saturday with a 45-14 win over Pitt. The Knights (4-0, 1-0 AAC) moved up a spot to No. 12 in this week’s AP Poll and get back into conference play this Saturday against SMU. Before we get there, let’s take a look at what else went down around the AAC in week five.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (5-0, 1-0 AAC) remained undefeated on Saturday with a 49-7 win at UConn. The Huskies opened up the game with an early touchdown to take a 7-0 lead, but Cincinnati went on to score the final 49 points. Quarterback Desmond Ridder threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-26 passing to lead the way. He also rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Michael Warren II did a solid job of complementing the passing game by totaling 106 yards and two scores on the ground, needing just 13 carries to do so. The Bearcat defense allowed just 266 yards on the day. Up Next: vs. Tulane
South Florida: The Bulls (4-0, 1-0 AAC) were off this week. Up Next: at UMass
Temple: The Owls (2-3, 1-0 AAC) saw their two-game winning streak end on Saturday with a 45-35 loss at Boston College. The Eagles took a 31-21 lead into halftime, but Temple bounced back. After allowing a field goal to make it 38-21, two rushing touchdowns by Ryquell Armstead brought the game to 38-35. However, Boston College added a late touchdown to put the game away. The Owls put up 452 yards to the Eagles’ 423, thanks in large part to Armstead’s 171 rushing yards (and four scores). Up Next: vs. East Carolina
East Carolina: The Pirates (2-2, 0-1 AAC) came back for a dramatic 37-35 win against Old Dominion on Saturday. They trailed 35-28 halfway through the fourth quarter, but a touchdown with 5:22 left brought ECU within 35-34. Jake Verity had his extra point attempt blocked, but he got another shot with 46 seconds left. He converted a 38-yard field goal to give his team a 37-35 lead that it held on to the rest of the way. Quarterback Reid Herring threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. Up Next: at Temple
UConn: The Huskies (1-4, 0-2 AAC) scored the opening touchdown against Cincinnati, but went on to lose 49-7. Quarterback David Pindell found Kyle Buss for a five-yard touchdown about two minutes into the game, but the defense faltered in what turned out to be a long afternoon and evening. The Bearcats put up those 49 points on 659 yards of offense and held possession for 36:55 to UConn’s 23:05. Pindell finished the day nine-of-23 for 125 yards and the touchdown before former UCF commit Marvin Washington came in to throw for 56 yards and an interception on five-of-13 passing. Up Next: at Memphis
SMU: The Mustangs (2-3, 1-0 AAC) eased their way to a 63-27 win over Houston Baptist on Saturday. Quarterback William Brown, who started over Ben Hicks, threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Three other quarterbacks got time, with Hicks and Jamie Sackville both throwing for touchdowns. Braeden West added 69 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The game was never in doubt, with SMU up 21-3 after one quarter and 35-10 at halftime. The ‘Stangs have now won two straight after an 0-3 start. Up Next: at No. 12 UCF
Tulane: The Green Wave (2-3, 1-0) pulled off a shocker on Friday night, beating preseason AAC West favorite Memphis by a score of 40-24. Tulane had a comfortable lead for much of the game, going into the locker room at halftime with a 17-7 lead. The lead grew to 40-14 by the 8:56 mark in the fourth quarter after a safety and two rushing touchdowns. The Tigers made the score a little more respectable late in the fourth, but it was still a statement win for the Wave. Darius Bradwell ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns, while Corey Dauphine went for 87 and two. Up Next: at Cincinnati
Navy: The Midshipmen (2-2, 1-1 AAC) were off this week. Up Next: at Air Force
Houston: The Cougars (3-1, 0-0 AAC) were off this week. Up Next: vs. Tulsa (Thursday)
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (1-3, 0-1 AAC) was off this week. Up Next: at Houston (Thursday)
Memphis: The Tigers (3-2, 0-2 AAC) find themselves in an unexpected place just five games into the season. In the preseason, they were favorites to repeat as division champions. Now, they sit at 0-2 in conference play after Friday’s 40-24 loss at Tulane. A 16-0 run by Tulane to start the fourth quarter put Memphis away. Quarterback Brady White threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns, but completed just 14 of his 30 passes. The Tiger defense allowed 496 yards while the offense put up just 277. Up Next: vs. UConn
What does this all mean for UCF?
For all of the worry about the Knights’ strength of schedule in the first few weeks, there seems to be a bit of a revival as of late. The teams on their non-conference slate haven’t done much to help strength of schedule, but the AAC, and the AAC East in particular, is more than helping out. There are three undefeated teams in the division, with UCF being one of them.
That could make the month of November daunting. Games with Temple and Navy to start the month may be tricky in their own right, but then the Knights have to play host to Cincinnati (currently 5-0) before traveling down I-4 to take on South Florida (currently 4-0). That won’t be too easy for Josh Heupel and his team, but if things work out, it would be an impressive run for the defending champions.
UCF still has to be the favorite in the AAC East, considering it hasn’t showed anything to say otherwise. But the Bearcats and Bulls are right behind with a chance to unseat the Knights. It was only two years ago that a South Florida team with a 7-1 AAC record missed out on the title game because of a loss to Temple, who was also 7-1 but held the tie-breaker.
The AAC West is Houston’s to lose, though Tulane showed that it could be in the mix. It’s also too early to count Navy out, but an 0-2 start to AAC play is probably enough to put Memphis on the outside of contention.