UCF extended its winning streak to 18 games with a 48-20 victory over SMU on Saturday night. The Knights (5-0, 2-0 AAC) are up to No. 10 in this week’s AP Poll and will get a tough road test this week against Memphis. Before we look ahead, let’s look at this past weekend in the AAC.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (6-0, 2-0 AAC) remained unbeaten on Saturday with a 37-21 home win over Tulane. After the Green Wave got within 17-14 in the second quarter, Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder extended the lead back to 10 with a 28-yard touchdown run just 41 seconds before halftime. Early in the third quarter, he put the game away with a 15-yard touchdown pass. The freshman finished 15-of-25 for 174 yards and two touchdowns while running for 65 and one. Michael Warren II rushed for 123 yards and a score on 18 carries. The Bearcats are now No. 25 in the AP Poll. Up Next: at Temple (Oct. 20)
Temple: The Owls (3-3, 2-0 AAC) rolled to their second straight conference game on Saturday, beating East Carolina 49-6. Anthony Russo threw two touchdowns in the first quarter before Temple scored three more times in the second. Ryquell Armstead ran for a touchdown before Isaiah Wright returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown and caught a 19-yard score from Russo. The Pirates slowed the Owls down a little bit in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to stage a comeback. Russo threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns in the win, while the Temple defense held ECU to 196 total yards. Up Next: at Navy
South Florida: The Bulls (5-0, 1-0 AAC) used a 28-point third quarter to get some separation from UMass in a 58-42 road win on Saturday. The Minutemen trailed just 20-14 at halftime, but South Florida stormed out of the locker room with three straight touchdowns. Jordan Cronkrite was the go-to guy for the Bulls, running for 302 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The offense put up 574 yards, but it was a puzzling outing for the defense. UMass put up 486 yards and 42 points, but South Florida’s defense still forced five turnovers. The Bulls are now No. 23 in the AP Poll. Up Next: at Tulsa (Thursday)
East Carolina: The Pirates (2-3, 0-2 AAC) stumbled to a 49-6 loss on Saturday against Temple. The Owls stormed out to a 28-0 lead and ECU never recovered. Quarterback Reid Herring threw for just 112 yards as part of the offense’s 196-yard effort. Jake Verity connected on two field goals (one from 29, one from 42) for the Pirates’ only points of the afternoon. The defense struggled to slow down Temple’s offense, but did force a turnover. Up Next: vs. Houston
UConn: The Huskies (1-5, 0-3 AAC) continued to struggle on Saturday, losing 55-14 at Memphis. UConn was within 13-7 after one quarter, but the Tigers put up 28 straight points in the second quarter to pull away. Quarterback David Pindell completed 22 of his 37 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice. The UConn defense allowed 634 yards. Up Next: at No. 23 South Florida (Oct. 20)
Houston: The Cougars (4-1, 1-0 AAC) struggled for much of their Thursday night matchup against Tulsa, but turned a 26-17 fourth-quarter deficit into a 41-26 home win. Quarterback D’Eriq King ran for a 61-yard touchdown with 12:30 left to get Houston within 26-24. That served as a much-needed spark, as a 33-yard field goal gave them the lead less than five minutes later. King threw two more touchdowns in the quarter to put the Golden Hurricane away. He finished his night with 282 total yards and five total touchdowns. Up Next: at East Carolina
Navy: The Midshipmen (2-3, 1-1 AAC) finished with just 178 yards in Saturday’s 35-7 road loss at Air Force. Navy took a 7-0 lead on a two-yard touchdown run by Garret Lewis in the second quarter, but the Falcons came back to score 35 unanswered points for a blowout victory. The Air Force defense held Navy to just 49 yards passing and 129 yards rushing. Malcolm Perry was the top rusher for the Midshipmen with 54 yards on 19 carries. Up Next: vs. Temple
SMU: The Mustangs (2-4, 1-1 AAC) led then-No. 12 UCF 3-0 after one drive, but they couldn’t keep up in a 48-20 loss. Freshman quarterback William Brown ended up being replaced for much of the game by previous starter Ben Hicks. The junior completed 15 of his 23 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, but the SMU defense was no match for UCF’s high-powered offense. The Mustangs were outgained 541-320 in the loss. Up Next: at Tulane (Oct. 20)
Tulane: After a big win over Memphis last week, the Green Wave (2-4, 1-1 AAC) found themselves back in the loss column on Saturday. They were outscored 21-7 in the second quarter and eventually fell 37-21 at Cincinnati. Jonathan Banks and Justin McMillan split time at quarterback in the first half before McMillan took over for the second half. He finished the day with 130 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-26 passing. Overall, Tulane was outgained 446-266. Up Next: vs. SMU (Oct. 20)
Memphis: The Tigers (4-2, 1-2 AAC) rebounded from last week’s loss to win 55-14 against UConn on Saturday. After a slow start got them out to a 13-7 lead after one quarter, they scored four straight touchdowns to put the Huskies away. Quarterback Brady White was efficient, completing 16 of his 18 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown. But it was Memphis’ backfield that took over the game. Darrell Henderson ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. Patrick Taylor Jr. wasn’t far behind, going for 161 yards and three scores on 11 carries. Up Next: vs. No. 10 UCF
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (1-4, 0-2 AAC) lost a 26-17 fourth-quarter lead on Thursday night against Houston and eventually fell 41-26. Getting outscored 24-3 in the final 15 minutes didn’t help Tulsa, but the first three quarters went awfully well. Freshman quarterback Seth Boomer made his collegiate debut, throwing for 227 yards and a touchdown on 13-of-31 passing. He threw one interception, but was helped by Corey Taylor II, who ran for 152 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. Up Next: vs. No. 23 South Florida (Thursday)
What does this all mean for UCF?
Cincinnati and South Florida remained undefeated this week, which gives the top three teams in the AAC East a combined record of 16-0. Temple improved to 2-0 in conference play as well, which gives UCF another team to pay attention to for the next few weeks. The Knights will have a tough month of November as they face the Owls, Bearcats and Bulls in a four-week span. The division is up for grabs, though UCF is still the favorite. But it certainly won’t be an easy run to the conference title game.
The AAC West is another story. Houston nearly got upset at home by Tulsa on Thursday night, but regardless, the Cougars still have the best shot at winning their division. Navy doesn’t look like it will put up much of a fight and Tulane suffered a letdown this week, so all signs point to Houston as the favorite.
The bigger news for UCF after this weekend is that it now has a couple of ranked opponents on its remaining schedule. With Cincinnati coming in at No. 25 and South Florida getting in at No. 23, the Knights will most likely be facing at least one ranked team in the regular season. The Bearcats and Bulls meet on Nov. 10, so the loser may fall out of the top 25. But the winner would give UCF its first ranked opponent of the 2018 season.
This is all assuming that these teams stay perfect, but neither has shown many signs of faltering so far this season. South Florida could get a test from Houston, but if the Cougars pull off the victory, that likely gives them a good shot at being ranked as they enter a potential AAC Championship matchup with UCF.
The Knights, of course, control their own destiny as far as the “Group of Five” bid for a New Year’s Six bowl game goes. Boise State, previously a contender for the bid, dropped its second game of the season on Saturday. At this point, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the AAC’s winner will end up playing in a big bowl game.