Around the AAC: week one conference results and what they mean for UCF

Graphic by Sarah Kelliher

UCF opened its 2018 season with a 56-17 victory at UConn on Thursday night, which allowed them to move from No. 21 to No. 19 in this week’s AP Poll. The Knights (1-0, 1-0 AAC) have now won 14 straight games, which is the nation’s longest active winning streak. They host South Carolina State next Saturday, but before we get there, what else went down around the AAC in week one?

AAC East

South Florida: The Bulls (1-0, 0-0 AAC) started a new era on Saturday night, playing without Quinton Flowers for the first time since 2014. They didn’t miss a beat, rolling over Elon by a score of 34-14. New quarterback Blake Barnett, who spent time at Alabama and Arizona State before transferring to South Florida, finished his night 24-of-34 for 305 yards and three scores. The Bulls racked up 515 yards of offense in a tune-up for their big home matchup next week. Up Next: vs. Georgia Tech

Temple: The Owls (0-1, 0-0 AAC) got their season off to a disastrous start, losing 19-17 to Villanova. They took a 17-13 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats scored a go-ahead touchdown with 7:17 to go and Temple never responded. The Owls were outgained 405-251, getting a rough performance from quarterback Frank Nutile. The senior threw for 185 yards and a touchdown but got intercepted twice. Up Next: vs. Buffalo

Cincinnati: The Bearcats (1-0, 0-0 AAC) were one of the only AAC teams to pick up a big victory in week one, upsetting Chip Kelly and UCLA by a score of 26-17. Running back Michael Warren II was the go-to guy, rushing for 142 yards and three scores on 35 carries. Cincinnati outscored the Bruins 17-0 in the second quarter and 9-0 in the fourth to grab a solid win for second-year head coach Luke Fickell. Up Next: at Miami (OH)

UConn: The Huskies (0-1, 0-1 AAC) caught a tough break by having to host No. 21 UCF to open the season. There were no signs of an upset for Randy Edsall’s team as it fell 56-17. Despite the lopsided loss, UConn had to be encouraged by a couple of things. Quarterback David Pindell threw for 266 yards and a touchdown while adding 157 yards and a touchdown on the ground. As a team, the Huskies put up 486 yards. The problem? Their defense allowed 652. Things don’t get much easier next week. Up Next: at No. 20 Boise State

East Carolina: After having their game postponed until Sunday, the Pirates (0-1, 0-0 AAC) fell 28-23 to North Carolina A&T. It marked their second straight season-opening loss to an FCS opponent. They led 17-7 in the second quarter, but the Aggies fought their way back. Jake Verity gave ECU a 21-20 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard field goal, but a late touchdown led to a tough loss. Quarterback Reid Herring completed 37 of his 65 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions. Up Next: vs. North Carolina

AAC West

Memphis: The Tigers (1-0, 0-0 AAC) dominated Mercer in their opener, winning 66-14. They started the game with 59 straight points. Quarterback Brady White, who takes over for Riley Ferguson, threw for 358 yards and five touchdowns. He helped the offense to 752 total yards while the defense held the Bears to 174. Up Next: at Navy

Houston: The Cougars (1-0, 0-0) started slow against Rice, but overcame a 27-17 deficit to win 45-27. The offense totaled 577 yards behind D’Eriq King, who threw for 320 yards and three scores. He also added 33 rushing yards and a touchdown. Ed Oliver started his year off with a bang, picking up 13 tackles (five solo), with 3 ½ tackles for loss. Up Next: vs. Arizona

Navy: The Midshipmen (0-1, 0-0 AAC) played late Saturday night and continued the conference’s disappointing weekend with a 59-41 loss to Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors took a 28-0 lead and never allowed Navy to get back into it. Malcolm Perry ran for 108 yards and a touchdown, but the defense was lit up. Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald threw for 428 yards and six touchdowns. It was a rough opener for Navy, which has to regroup for a crucial AAC West matchup in week two. Up Next: vs. Memphis

SMU: The Mustangs (0-1, 0-0 AAC) were unsuccessful in their 2018 debut, losing 46-23 to North Texas. Ben Hicks, who no longer has the benefit of throwing to Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn, was inconsistent. He completed just 12 of his 24 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns to one interception. SMU ran for just four yards and gave up 529 yards of total offense. Up Next: vs. No. 16 TCU

Tulane: The Green Wave (0-1, 0-0 AAC) came up just short against Wake Forest on Thursday night, falling 23-17 in overtime. The defense forced three turnovers, which helped keep them in the game. Jonathan Banks threw two touchdowns to Terren Encalade, who hauled in eight total passes for 189 yards. Tulane tied the game with 3:27 left in the fourth quarter, but failed to score on its overtime possession. The Demon Deacons converted on theirs, giving them the season-opening win. Up Next: vs. Nicholls

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (1-0, 0-0 AAC) struggled their way to a 38-27 win over Central Arkansas on Saturday. The Bears had a 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter, but Tulsa came back with 14 unanswered points in less than one minute. The ground game was strong, with Shamari Brooks running for 129 yards and two touchdowns and Corey Taylor II adding 110 yards of his own. Up Next: at Texas

What does this all mean for UCF?

The Knights’ strength of schedule took a hard hit in week one. Of their eight conference opponents, only three started off the year with a win. Two of those were easy throwaway games, while Cincinnati’s was actually legitimate. UCF is the clear favorite to win the AAC East, but the rest of its division and conference losing winnable games won’t help with national perception. Of course, Josh Heupel and his team can’t control anything that goes on around the AAC. They just have to keep winning.

After one weekend, South Florida and Cincinnati look like the only two threats in UCF’s division. That could change, but that’s where it stands right now. Temple could bounce back, but there isn’t much going on to suggest that ECU and UConn will recover any time soon. In the AAC West, Memphis continues to be the favorite. Houston avoided a letdown, but wasn’t overly impressive in its win. Navy didn’t look like much of a threat and the others are even further behind. Overreactions often run rampant in week one, but it’s fair to say that opening weekend in the AAC wasn’t pretty.



About Bailey Adams 171 Articles
Bailey Adams is a senior writer covering UCF Football and Baseball for Knight Sports Now. You can follow him on Twitter at @BaileyJAdams22.