Saturday was a monumental day for UCF, first hosting College GameDay before taking down No. 24 Cincinnati, 38-13, in primetime action. With the win, the Knights (10-0, 7-0 AAC) won their division and clinched home-field advantage in the AAC Championship Game. They moved up to No. 9 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and will wrap up the regular season on Black Friday with a road game against rival South Florida. Before we get there, let’s check in on what else went down around the AAC in week 12.
Temple: The Owls (7-4, 6-1 AAC) turned a 17-0 halftime deficit into a 27-17 home win over South Florida on Saturday. Ryquell Armstead got Temple on the board for the first time with 9:41 left in the third quarter, starting a game-winning run. After two Will Mobley field goals, Isaiah Wright gave the Owls their first lead with a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown. With 1:37 left in the game, Temple locked down the win with a defensive touchdown. It wasn’t a huge day for the Owl offense, but the defense held the Bulls to just 266 yards in addition to forcing five turnovers. Up Next: at UConn
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (9-2, 5-2 AAC) were no match for No. 11 UCF on Saturday, losing 38-13 on the road. They did force a fumble in the end zone on the Knights’ first offensive play to take an early 6-0 lead, but there wasn’t much going for them from there. UCF came back to score 21 straight points to end the half. The second half was more of the same, with Cincinnati’s deficit growing to 35-6 before it finally scored an offensive touchdown with 9:22 left in the fourth. The Bearcats ran for 252 yards, but quarterback Desmond Ridder lost three fumbles and kicker Cole Smith missed two field goals (one blocked) and an extra point to stall any momentum. Next: vs. East Carolina
South Florida: The Bulls (7-4, 3-4 AAC) dropped their fourth game in a row on Saturday, blowing a 17-0 lead to lose 27-17 at Temple. Jordan Cronkrite paced South Florida early, scoring two first-half touchdowns to help build that 17-point lead. The offense faltered after that, turning the ball over five times to let the Owls come back and win. Quarterback Blake Barnett couldn’t get it done, completing 14 of his 23 passes for 82 yards and two interceptions (plus a fumble). Cronkrite was the leader for the Bulls, rushing for 83 yards and two scores on 17 carries. Up Next: vs. No. 9 UCF (Friday)
East Carolina: The Pirates (3-7, 1-6 AAC) once trailed UConn 21-14 on Saturday before coming back to win 55-21. Quarterback Holton Ahlers and kicker Jake Verity led the effort after the 11:16 mark of the second quarterback. Ahlers threw two touchdowns and ran for one to bring his total touchdowns on the day to five. He threw for 242 yards and ran for 130 to lead the charge. Verity made two field goals and all six of his extra points to help the effort. By the end of the game, the Pirates had outgained the Huskies 657-274. The East Carolina defense forced three turnovers in the win. UConn Up Next: at Cincinnati
UConn: The Huskies (1-10, 0-7 AAC) hung around early on Saturday, but lost 55-21 on the road to East Carolina. Three touchdown passes by quarterback David Pindell had UConn up 21-14 early in the second quarter, but the defense couldn’t hold up and the offense went quiet from there. The Pirates scored the final 41 points of the game and forced three total turnovers in the game. Pindell finished the game 15-of-25 for 156 yards and three touchdowns, but turned the ball over twice. Kevin Mensah ran for 88 yards on 14 carries, but the Huskies’ deficit took him out of the game. Up Next: vs. Temple
Houston: The Cougars (8-3, 5-2 AAC) earned back control of their own destiny on Thursday night with a dominant 48-17 home win over Tulane. Even without star defensive lineman Ed Oliver, Houston rolled to victory. The Green Wave never had a chance, with the Cougars taking a 31-9 lead into halftime. They kept it going in the second half to set up a win-and-in game next week. Quarterback D’Eriq King left the first half with a season-ending meniscus injury, but Patrick Carr led the way for Houston with 139 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. The Cougar defense forced four turnovers in the win. Up Next: at Memphis
Memphis: The Tigers (7-4, 4-3 AAC) kept their title hopes alive on Friday night with a 28-18 road win over SMU. After leading just 7-5 after one half and 14-12 after three quarters, Memphis scored two straight touchdowns in the fourth to put the game out of reach. A Mustang touchdown with 6:14 left wasn’t enough to make it a game again, as the Tigers had already built up enough of a lead. Quarterback Brady White threw for two touchdowns and two interceptions on 18-of-31 passing, but it was Patrick Taylor Jr. that led the way with 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Up Next: vs. Houston
SMU: The Mustangs (5-6, 3-4 AAC) killed their conference title hopes on Friday night with a 28-18 home loss to Memphis. The first half of the game was ugly, with the Tigers taking a 7-5 lead into halftime. The two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter to make it a two-point game heading into the fourth, but Memphis took it from there. The Tigers scored back-to-back touchdowns to go up 28-12. Ben Hicks threw a two-yard touchdown pass to James Proche with 6:14 left in the game, but it wasn’t enough. Hicks finished the night 29-of-55 for 344 yards and two touchdowns (to one interception). Proche was the leading receiver, catching 12 passes for 134 yards and two scores. Up Next: at Tulsa
Tulane: The Green Wave (5-6, 4-3 AAC) lost its chances at a conference title on Thursday night with a 48-17 road loss to Houston on Thursday night. Tulane never put up much of a fight, falling behind 31-9 by halftime. The second half wasn’t any kinder to the Wave, as it managed to put up just one touchdown. Quarterback Justin McMillan completed just 10 of his 20 passes for 147 yards and tossed two interceptions. His two picks made up half of Tulane’s four turnovers on the night. Up Next: vs. Navy
Navy: The Midshipmen (3-8, 2-5 AAC) snapped a seven-game losing streak on Saturday with a 37-29 home win over Tulsa. Four first-half touchdowns had Navy up 27-16 through two quarters, but the Golden Hurricane fought its way back to 30-22 early in the fourth quarter. From there, a Tre Walker touchdown run iced the game for the Midshipmen. Quarterback Zach Abey led the way with 128 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Navy outgained Tulsa 404-370 in the win. Up Next: at Tulane
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (2-9, 1-6 AAC) hung around a bit on Saturday, but eventually lost 37-29 at Navy. The offense struggled to put up points early, leading to a 27-16 halftime deficit. The defense stood strong in the third quarter and held the Midshipmen scoreless, which allowed Tulsa to get within eight after a touchdown. However, Navy came back with a 33-yard touchdown run by Tre Walker to put the game away. A late touchdown wasn’t enough to get the Golden Hurricane back in it. Shamari Brooks put up a team-high 81 rushing yards, but it was Corey Taylor II that got in the end zone three times on 15 carries. Up Next: vs. SMU
What does this all mean for UCF?
With their big win over Cincinnati, the Knights are set to play for their second straight AAC Championship on Dec. 1. The loss was the Bearcats’ second conference defeat of the year and while Temple only has one loss in AAC play, UCF owns the tiebreaker. So, even with a loss to South Florida on Friday, the Knights will host the conference title game on the first Saturday in December.
As for the AAC West, things are a lot simpler after week 12. SMU needed to win out in order to win the division, but its Friday night loss to Memphis shook things up. The Tigers now have a clear shot at playing for a conference championship. Houston ended Tulane’s hopes and gave its own aspirations a boost. This week’s game between Memphis and Houston will decide the division.
The Knights await the winner of what has been a wild race for the division crown. They beat Memphis 31-30 on the road earlier this season to extend their winning streak over the Tigers to 12, but haven’t played Houston since 2016.