UCF completed its perfect regular season on Black Friday with a thrilling 49-42 War on I-4 victory over USF. The Knights (11-0, 8-0 AAC) are now ranked No. 11 in the Coaches Poll and 12 in the AP Poll. They will host Memphis in the AAC title game on Saturday, but before we get there, what else went down in the AAC on the regular season’s final weekend?
USF: The Bulls (9-2, 6-2 AAC) fell just short at No. 15 UCF on Friday night, losing 49-42. USF carried a 34-28 lead into the fourth quarter, then fell behind 42-34 before a touchdown and two-point conversion tied the game with 1:41 left. However, a 95-yard kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff put the Knights on top. Senior Quinton Flowers was the best player on the field, throwing for 503 yards and four touchdowns while adding 102 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Junior Tyre McCants caught nine passes for 227 yards and a touchdown. Bowl Eligible
Temple: The Owls (6-6, 4-4) clinched bowl eligibility on Saturday with a 44-22 win over Tulsa. Junior Frank Nutile tossed three touchdowns and Temple took advantage of a 31-13 halftime lead to pull back to .500 on the season. The Owl defense forced three turnovers and held the Golden Hurricane to under 400 yards. Bowl Eligible
East Carolina: The Pirates (3-9, 2-6 AAC) stumbled to the end of their season on Saturday with a 70-13 loss to No. 20 Memphis. Junior Gardner Minshew threw for 351 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times. The ECU defense was no match for the Tigers’ offense, giving up 49 points in the first half, 70 points overall and 635 total yards. Not Bowl Eligible
UConn: The Huskies (3-9, 2-6 AAC) lost a 22-21 heartbreaker to Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon. Junior David Pindell hit junior Hergy Mayala for a two-yard touchdown pass as time expired, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the potential game-tying extra point back 15 yards. The kick then went wide left, giving the Bearcats the win. Pindell threw for 273 yards and a touchdown, while also running for 95 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Not Bowl Eligible
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (4-8, 2-6 AAC) held on late for a 22-21 win over UConn. Junior Hayden Moore tied the game with a touchdown pass and two-point conversion with 14:42 to go, then scored on a four-yard run to take the lead with 1:28 left. The defense allowed what could have been a game-tying touchdown, but lucked out when the UConn kicker missed an extended extra point. Not Bowl Eligible
Memphis: The No. 20 Tigers (10-1, 7-1 AAC) dominated East Carolina in their final regular season game, winning 70-13. The final result was never in doubt, as Memphis got out to a 56-0 lead by the 11:35 mark of the third quarter. Senior Riley Ferguson finished with 299 passing yards and three touchdowns. Sophomores Patrick Taylor Jr. and Darrell Henderson both ran for over 120 yards and two scores. Up Next: at No. 12 UCF (AAC Championship Game on Dec. 2)
Houston: The Cougars (7-4, 5-3 AAC) finished their regular season on a strong note, beating Navy 24-14. The Midshipmen held a 14-7 lead at halftime, but Houston came fighting back with 17 unanswered points in the second half. Sophomore D’Eriq King led the way totaled 277 yards and a touchdown through the air. He also added 57 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The defense shut out Navy’s tough offense from the six-minute mark in the second quarter until the end of the game. Bowl Eligible
Navy: The Midshipmen (6-5, 4-4 AAC) lost for the fifth time in their last six games, falling 24-14 to Houston on Friday afternoon. They went up 14-7 with six minutes left in the second quarter, but failed to score again for the rest of the game. Sophomore Malcolm Perry led the way for the Navy offense, rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown. The defense allowed 380 yards to the Cougars, while the offense mustered up just 291. Up Next: vs. Army (Dec. 9)
SMU: The Mustangs (7-5, 4-4 AAC) escaped with a 41-38 win over Tulane, using a questionable goal line stand to seal the deal. After sophomore Ben Hicks found junior Trey Quinn for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 2:05 to go, it looked like the SMU defense was going to give the game away. Instead, the clock ran out on the Green Wave as the officials ruled that the offense fell just short of the goal line as time expired. Hicks threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Quinn caught six passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Bowl Eligible
Tulane: The Green Wave (5-7, 3-5 AAC) came up on the wrong end of a last-second review, which led to a 41-38 loss at SMU. Junior Jonathan Banks threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns, but was ruled short of the goal line on a run as time expired. The defense gave up a 38-34 lead with 2:05 left in the fourth.The loss most likely costs Tulane a spot in a bowl game, unless the committee needs to fill a spot with a five-win team. Not Bowl Eligible
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (2-10, 1-7 AAC) saw its dismal season come to an end with a 43-22 loss to Temple. Senior D’Angelo Brewer, as he has been all year long, was the bright spot for Tulsa on senior day. He rushed for 255 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries in the loss. The defense struggled to contain the Owls, giving up 451 yards. Three offensive turnovers also contributed to the team’s fifth straight loss. Not Bowl Eligible
What does this all mean for UCF?
Nothing else in the AAC mattered for UCF this week, as the Knights controlled their destiny. They got up 21-7 on USF, lost the lead and trailed entering the fourth quarter, but ultimately prevailed 49-42 thanks to a 95-yard kick return from junior Mike Hughes. The win clinched a perfect regular season for Scott Frost’s team, as well as a berth in the conference championship game. The Knights will host the game, with a chance to earn a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game. As for the rest of the AAC East, multiple seasons came mercifully to an end. Only UCF, USF and Temple are bowl eligible from the division.
We have known for a couple of weeks now that Memphis would represent the AAC West in the conference title game. But now with UCF beating USF, the Tigers have to travel to Orlando once again. The two teams met back on Sept. 30, with the Knights coming out on top 40-13. Houston and SMU also finished their regular seasons strong, while the rest of the division fell short. Navy still has a matchup with Army left on its regular season schedule, but regardless of the outcome, four AAC West teams will head to a bowl game. Seven teams from the AAC are bowl eligible.