UCF won its 22nd straight game on Saturday, beating Navy at home by a score of 35-24. The Knights (9-0, 6-0 AAC) are still No. 11 in both the Coaches Poll and the AP Poll, but they moved up one spot to No. 11 in the College Football Playoff rankings this week. ESPN’s College GameDay will be in town for this Saturday’s primetime matchup against Cincinnati, but before we get there, let’s check in on what else went down around the AAC in week 11.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (9-1, 5-1 AAC) took care of business against South Florida on Saturday, picking up a 35-23 home win. The Bulls were on top early, holding a 9-7 lead after one quarter and a 16-14 advantage after two. But in the second half, Cincinnati stormed back. A 21-7 run in the third quarter sealed the victory for the home team, with Michael Warren II taking over. The sophomore ran for 151 yards and three touchdowns (all of which came in the third quarter) to lead the Bearcats. He also caught a touchdown in the first half. The victory got Cincinnati to No. 24 in the College Football Playoff rankings, which sets up a huge top 25 showdown with UCF in primetime this Saturday. Up Next: at No. 11 UCF
Temple: The Owls (6-4, 5-1 AAC) kept their division title hopes alive on Saturday with a 59-49 win at Houston. Temple led 35-14 at one point in the third quarter, but the game quickly got close again. The Cougars got within 35-28 before the Owls went on another run to extend their lead to 49-28. Houston was once again able to get within one score, but a Will Mobley field goal with 1:41 left sealed the win for Temple. Ryquell Armstead was the story of the night as the senior ran for 210 yards and six touchdowns on 30 carries. The Owl defense allowed 49 points, but did force three turnovers in the win. Up Next: vs. South Florida
South Florida: The Bulls (7-3, 3-3 AAC) dropped their third straight game on Saturday, falling 35-23 to Cincinnati on the road. Even without starting quarterback Blake Barnett, South Florida took a 16-14 lead into halftime. Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean both threw touchdown passes to build the lead, but the Bearcats fought back with 21 points in the third quarter to take the victory. The South Florida defense couldn’t hold up against a tough Cincinnati rushing attack. The Bearcats ran for 238 yards, which helped them to a 432-313 advantage in total yards. Oladokun finished the night 10-of-22 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Up Next: at Temple
East Carolina: The Pirates (2-7, 0-6 AAC) fell short of an upset of Tulane on Saturday, losing 24-18 on the road. They stayed within 14-10 after two quarters, but quickly fell behind by 11. A touchdown and two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter brought them within three points before a field goal brought the deficit back to six. From there, East Carolina couldn’t get anything else on the scoreboard. Quarterback Holton Ahlers threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns (to one interception) on 21-of-67 passing in the loss. Up Next: vs. UConn
UConn: The Huskies (1-9, 0-6 AAC) could not keep SMU out of the end zone on Saturday, which spoiled a strong offensive performance in a 62-50 home loss. UConn trailed 31-10 at halftime, but came out firing in the second half. The two teams played to an even 14-14 in the third quarter before the Huskies outscored the Mustangs 26-17 in the final quarter. The second-half effort just wasn’t enough to make up for a poor first half. Quarterback David Pindell continued to shine for UConn, throwing for 215 yards and four touchdowns while running for 184 yards and two more scores. Up Next: at East Carolina
SMU: It wasn’t impressive, but the Mustangs (5-5, 4-2 AAC) kept their division hopes alive on Saturday with a 62-50 road win over UConn. SMU took a 31-10 lead into the locker room at halftime, but there was no cruising in the second half. UConn came out hot and actually outscored SMU in the final 30 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the 21-point deficit at halftime. It was a strong all-around effort for the Mustang offense in the victory. Quarterback Ben Hicks threw for 276 yards and a touchdown, but got help from his backfield. Xavier Jones ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries while Ke’Mon Freeman put up 116 yards and three scores on 17 carries. Up Next: vs. Memphis (Friday night)
Houston: The Cougars (7-3, 4-2 AAC) suffered another loss on Saturday, this time losing 59-49 at home to Temple. They continued to fall into holes all night long, getting behind 35-14 at one point in the third quarter before fighting back to 35-28. After the Owls went up 56-35, the Cougars once again fought back, getting within 56-49. However, a late field goal put the game out of reach. Quarterback D’Eriq King threw for 322 yards and five touchdowns (to one interception) on 28-of-46 passing, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the defense’s rough night. Three turnovers didn’t help either as Houston saw its division title hopes take a tough hit. Up Next: vs. Tulane (Thursday night)
Tulane: The Green Wave (5-5, 4-2 AAC) fought off East Carolina on Saturday to win 24-18 at home. They led 21-10 heading into the fourth quarter before the Pirates fought back with a touchdown and two-point conversion. A Merek Glover field goal extended Tulane’s lead to six with 7:35 left and the defense held on from there. Quarterback Justin McMillan completed just 12 of his 28 passes on the night, but finished with 372 yards and three touchdowns. Darnell Mooney led the way in receiving with 217 yards and two touchdowns on six catches. Up Next: at Houston (Thursday night)
Memphis: The Tigers (6-4, 3-3 AAC) rolled to a 47-21 home win over Tulsa on Saturday. A 27-0 run to start the game made things easy the rest of the way. The Golden Hurricane didn’t score until the second half and couldn’t put together enough defense to stage a comeback. Quarterback Brady White threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-20 passing while Darrell Henderson ran for 166 yards and two scores on 23 carries. Memphis outgained Tulsa 499-252 in the game. Up Next: at SMU (Friday night)
Navy: The Midshipmen (2-8, 1-5 AAC) hung around a bit at No. 12 UCF on Saturday, but fell 35-24. There was never a point when it seemed like Navy was going to have a chance to pull off the upset, as the Knights went up 21-0 by the midway mark of the second quarter. The Midshipmen worked their way within 28-17 early in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t muster up enough offense to complete a comeback. Quarterback Zach Abey led the triple-option attack with 85 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Navy put up 374 rushing yards, but allowed 497 total yards to UCF. Up Next: vs. Tulsa
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (2-8, 1-5 AAC) fell behind 27-0 at Memphis on Saturday and never recovered, going on to lose 47-21. A touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Seth Boomer finally got Tulsa on the board with 8:42 left in the third quarter, but the defense couldn’t stop a tough Tiger offense at all. Corey Taylor II added two touchdown runs for the Golden Hurricane, but there would be no comeback. Taylor finished with 117 yards and those two touchdowns. Boomer threw for just 140 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-26 passing. Up Next: at Navy
What does this all mean for UCF?
The division races in the AAC are still interesting with two weeks left in the regular season. In the AAC East, Saturday’s game between No. 11 UCF and No. 24 Cincinnati will be huge in determining the winner of the AAC East. If the Knights win, they clinch the division and a spot in the AAC Championship Game. That would give the Bearcats two conference losses and even if Temple won its remaining games, UCF owns the tiebreaker over the Owls.
However, if Cincinnati pulls off the upset and snaps UCF’s winning streak, there would then be a three-way tie for first in the division heading into the final weekend (assuming Temple takes care of South Florida). Should UCF, Cincinnati and Temple finish the season tied, tiebreakers would be in Cincinnati’s favor. For the Knights, it’s simple. A win on Saturday gets them a shot at a second straight conference title.
Things are far from simple in the AAC West. Houston’s loss to Temple on Saturday opened up a lot of possibilities for the division. If SMU wins out, it will play in the AAC Championship Game on Dec. 1. However, Houston, Tulane and Memphis are all still in play for the division title. Here are the scenarios for each team to earn a spot in the conference title game:
SMU: Clinches with two wins (vs. Memphis, at Tulsa)
Houston: Clinches with two wins (vs. Tulane, at Memphis) and an SMU loss
Tulane: Clinches with two wins (at Houston, vs. Navy) and an SMU loss
Memphis: Clinches with two wins (at SMU, vs. Houston) and two Tulane losses
The Mustangs control their own destiny with two weeks left, but there’s a lot of potential chaos on the horizon if they falter.
Both division races in the AAC are still competitive with two weeks left, which is fun for college football and stressful for the teams and their fans. There are three teams still alive in the AAC East and four in the AAC West. If the two current division leaders win out, the AAC Championship Game will feature UCF against SMU. The Knights beat the Mustangs 48-20 back on Oct. 6.