Cincinnati returned to form, UCF got into a ConFLiCT, Tulane woke up, and Temple kept sliding among so much more in a wild week of American Athletic Conference football.
Last week, I made the decision to rank Houston ahead of Cincinnati. The Bearcats kept having frustratingly close games, while Houston has been dominant. Well, Cincinnati seemed to figure things out and create a return to normalcy. That game from Cincinnati, hosting SMU, was far and away the most anticipated game of the week, but it was over before the first quarter was finished.
Elsewhere, ECU and Navy hooked up for the actual game of the week, with the Pirates winning on a last second kick. Houston and Memphis played a chippy game on Friday night. Meanwhile, UCF, Tulane, and Tulsa all won in blowouts.
How did all of this impact the AAC Power Rankings?
So, Cincinnati finally showed up and dominated the way that we wanted them to. That attitude, those style points, had been missing since they played UCF. It made people, including myself, doubt them. It would seem, the issue was motivation against lesser competition, though, which is its own issue. The Bearcats tore the Mustangs apart, doing everything they were supposed to do. Add Oregon losing, and this was a great weekend for Cincinnati.
Houston is going to get their shot against Cincinnati in the AAC Championship Game. Win that and they’re likely going to a New Year’s Six Game (sorry UTSA, but Houston would jump the Roadrunners in the standings). The Cougars have every ability to win that game too, with a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. They just have to stay disciplined. Against Memphis, they got out of control, particularly in the third quarter, which let the Tigers hang around.
I wanted to punish SMU and move them down in the rankings. The Mustangs have had a hard time in conference play losing to the conference’s top two teams, as well as to a frustrating Memphis team. They also dominated UCF and rolled through their out of conference play. The best way to put it, SMU has a ton of talent, but plenty of flaws too. With that being said, it might be time to have a conversation about SMU in big game situations.
ECU played what may very well have been the best AAC game of the day, beating Navy on a last second bomb from their walk-on kicker. The Pirates are now guaranteed a winning season, which was 2014. That year they went 8-5, which means the Pirates have a chance to have their best year since going 10-3 in 2013. With a couple breaks going ECU’s way, they could easily have beaten Houston, UCF, and South Carolina.
UCF took care of business, dominating UConn in the Civil ConFLiCT. They even recreated the trophy for the game. Injuries derailed UCF’s season early, but since they lost to Cincinnati, UCF has gone 4-1, Mikey Keene has shown a lot of improvement, and the defense has become a great asset for the most part. Rival USF is up next and then the bowl game. Given the new coaching staff and injuries, that means UCF is in line for a pretty good season.
Yeah, Navy’s record is awful, but they also played the hardest schedule of anyone in the conference. This is a much improved team. They had a good shot to take down ECU this week, and they’ve played several other good teams closely. It’s certainly been a frustrating season for Navy, but with Army still to play there is a good chance that they can save at least part of their season.
Tulsa, for how long and frustrating this season has been, still has a chance to become bowl eligible. They just have to go to SMU and win. That might sound difficult, but SMU won’t be playing for anything. Tulsa will be. That could swing the game. The Golden Hurricane dominated Temple this past week, and there are still hints as to how this team made the AAC Championship Game last season, just not enough.
Memphis will be playing Tulane to go to a bowl game next week, which is both much more winnable than Tulsa’s trip to SMU and much more frustrating. Memphis doesn’t feel like it should be in this situation and frustrations are boiling with Ryan Silverfield. This is a team that struggles to show up to road games and has lost its identity on the ground. Seth Henigan is an exciting young player, but there’s not much else that inspires confidence in the future at Memphis right now.
Tulane is better than their record. There is something fundamentally broken that has led to this place where they are now. On Senior Day, though, Tulane showed up and dominated USF from start to finish. It was euphoric and incredibly relieving. Roll Wave has a chance next week to ruin Memphis’ bowl hopes now. If they do that, the season would still be a massive disappointment, but it would sting a bit less. Also, don’t forget to credit the Tulane defense, who has done a 180 since the start of their season, becoming a formidable force.
USF has shown a lot of growth and development this season, on offense. The defense is an absolute disaster, though, and it makes you wonder about the future of defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. The Bulls were lost against Tulane. That just can’t happen at this point. They need to be better than that. Even that promising offense abandoned them. It was an absolute mess.
If you want to know how Temple fans feel about head coach Rod Carey, just go pick any tweet from during the game and read the comments. Wear a hazmat suit. Their 10 points against Tulsa represented their first time hitting double digits in points since they lost 34-14 to USF on October 23rd. That game against USF was also the last time Temple scored in the first half, something they didn’t manage against Tulsa. Their only other game in conference play with double digit points was their shocking win over Memphis. Seven players have entered the transfer portal so far, including starting quarterback D’Wan Mathis. Things are an absolute mess.
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