And now there are two… undefeated teams that is. Week 9 saw Temple lose a heartbreaker to a national power while Memphis struggled to get things going against a conference opponent. Is Houston the real class of the conference… we still dont know that yet. One thing we do know, beyond those three teams the rest of the conference is a huge toss up with a few teams fighting to become bowl-eligible while others are just trying to salvage its season.
Cincinnati Bearcats 5-3 (2-2)
If you thought last week’s record-breaking performance was big, the Bearcat offense took it a step further in the 52-7 victory over UCF. Not only did the team set a new record with 726 total yards but starting quarterback Gunner Kiel was a perfect 15-of-15 for 319 yards and five touchdowns. Yes, UCF is a dumpster fire right now but no one in the league has looked this efficient. Johnny Holton (three catches for 146 yards) and Chris Moore (three catches for 108 yards) took advantage of the Knights inability to stop the big play as they put up gaudy yard-per-catch averages of 48.7 and 36.0 respectively.
East Carolina Pirates 4-5 (2-3)
The struggles with the Pirates continued in the 31-13 loss to UConn as it seems the issues the team was having at quarterback has spilled over to the defense as allowed 404 total yards while allowing the Huskies offense to convert 50% third-down conversions. Offensively the back and forth between quarterbacks Blake Kemp and James Summers is starting to backfire as both struggled on Saturday. Summers started the game but only generated 87 yards of passing offense, but Kemp didn’t fare much better as he had three passes intercepted. Once again the lack of faith in the rush offense is mind boggling as Marquez Grayson ( nine carries for 87 yards) and Chris Hairston (12 carries 66 yards) performed well in their limited opportunities.
Temple Owls 7-1 (4-0)
The Owls showed a lot of fight but came up short in the 24-20 loss to Notre Dame in prime time. Many “experts” didn’t give Temple much of a shot due to the lack of athletes but early on Temple showed that it was ready to embody the fighter spirit of Rocky Balboa. The stats were lopsided (467 total yards to 295 total yards) but gritty play from the Temple defense led by Tyler Matakevich’s 13 tackles and one interception kept the nation’s 8th ranked defense focus despite the yard deficit. While it wasn’t up to the standards many fans are used to, quarterback P.J Walker (13-of-30 for 188 yards) and running back Jahad Thomas (21 carries for 82 yards) did enough to keep the team in the game until the very end.
UConn Huskies 4-5 (2-3)
Unlike the ECU offense that failed to give its running back carries, the UConn offense found the hot-performing player and utilized him a lot. Arkeel Newsome’s 25 carries for 179 yards and two touchdowns sparked the Huskies to a convincing 31-13 victory over ECU and got the team two games closer to being bowl eligible. While quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (12-of-21 for 185 yards) was steady for most of the game, it was a 90-yard touchdown run by Newsome in the third quarter gave UConn the cushion it needed to secure the victory. The Huskie defense continued its opportunistic plays as it had three interceptions — including two from cornerback Jamar Summers.
USF Bulls 4-4 (2-2)
You can’t score if you don’t have the ball, and in the 29-17 loss to Navy the Bulls were on the wrong side of a keep away game played by the Midshipmen offense. 44 plays and 20:47 is not enough time to generate a consistent offense, but that’s all the Bulls had to work with. In the short time, they did have the ball quarterback Quinton Flowers showed more growth as a quarterback as he completed 12-20 passes for 208 yards. Unfortunately, USF struggled to establish a run game as Marlon Mack (10 carries for 29 yards) struggled to get anything going.
UCF Golden Knights 0-9 (0-5)
It is safe to say that the Knights have mailed in this season after the 52-7 loss at the hands of the Cincinnati Bearcats. To say the team performed poorly would be a gross understatement as it only tallied 313 total yards while allowing Cincinnati to run up 726 yards. C.J. Jones seemed to be the only UCF player that continued to fight through the embarrassing loss as he rushed for 123 yards and scored the team’s only touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Houston Cougars 8-0 (4-0)
The Cougars stepped out of conference to face an SEC foe albeit a bad one in Vanderbilt, but still a quality non-conference opponent and in the process showed that it is not only perhaps the best team in the AAC but one of the best teams in the nation with the 34-0 victory. The offense gets all the attention, and its hard not to recognize the talent that Greg Ward Jr. (254 total yards and two touchdowns) and Kenneth Farrow (16 carries 82 yards) possess but if the Cougars are going to end up in a high-profile bowl game, it will be because of its defense. It limited the Commodores to 141 total yards and forced four turnovers. The linebacker duo of Elandon Roberts (14 tackles .5 sack) and Steven Taylor (12 tackles) led the way for a team that has held its three previous opponents under 10 points.
Memphis Tigers 8-0 (4-0)
After spotting Tulane 13 points in the first quarter, the Memphis offensive woke up and scored the next 41 points on its way to a dominating 41-13 victory over the Green Wave. On Saturday, it was the run game that took most of the spotlight as 10 rushers, led by Doroland Dorceus and his 45 yards on 10 carries, combined for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Paxton Lynch continued his steady play with a ho-hum 343 yards and one touchdown. The only concern you could nitpick at was him throwing the ball 42 times. It was good to see how the Tigers would react to trailing in a game, but many of their fans would rather not face that predicament the rest of the season.
Navy Midshipmen 6-1 (4-0)
Navy did a great job of keeping the ball out of the hands of the USF duo of Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack in the 29-17 victory. In addition to the 22 first downs gained the Midshipmen tallied 444 total yards and dominated the time of possession by almost 19 minutes. Chris Swain (131 yards on 23 carries) Dishan Romine (6 carries 115 yards) and Keenan Reynolds (117 yards on 26 carries) led a dominating rushing performance that has only been slowed by Notre Dame on the season. Surprisingly this was the first time that Navy had three runners hit the 100-yard plateau in the same game and in addition to that record being set, Reynolds is one touchdown away from breaking the NCAA record for most rush touchdowns in a career.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane 4-4 (1-3)
The best way to end a losing streak is to face a team that is struggling more than you; that’s exactly what happened in the 40-31 victory over SMU as Tulsa ended a two-game losing streak. Even though they got the win, it was not pretty as Tulsa barely outplayed SMU statistically 419-406. Quarterback Dane Evans passed for 240 yards but did not have any touchdowns. The scoring came from the run game as D’Angelo Brewer scored one touchdown on his way to an 119-yard performance and Zach Langer scored three times and ran for 35 yards. Receiver Justin Hobbs took advantage of the poor pass defense as he caught seven balls for 150 yards.
SMU Mustangs 1-7 (0-4)
The growing pains of rebuilding a program continued for the Mustangs as they lost a tough one to Tulsa 40-31. Despite being having to share time with Darrel Colbert Jr., quarterback Matt Davis is still progressing as a passer and had a quality game throwing for 236 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite receiver Cortland Sutton had another monster game with eight catches and 165 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately the run game was non-existent as the team combined for only 84 yards on 32 carries. The defense did not help the cause as it did not force any turnovers and allowed 419 total yards.
Tulane Green Wave 2-6 (1-4)
Down to its third quarterback the Green Wave gave the Tigers an early scare but were eventually overtken by Memphis 41-13. Senior Jordy Joseph was forced into action after injuries to Tanner Lee and Devin Powell. Joseph did well the first two drives — including an 11 minute opening drive — but eventually the lack of talent at the position proved to be too much. Dontrell Hilliard was the star of the Tulane offense as he rushed for 97 yards on 19 carries and had two touchdowns — including 43-yard run to give Tulane a 13-0 lead.
Sports Q&A AAC Player of the Week:
Gunner Kiel Quarterback Cincinnati: It is one thing to throw for over 300 yards, its another thing to only need 15 passes to accomplish it. Kiel came out of high school as the No 1 rated quarterback prospect and since transferring to Cincinnati has shown flashes of that elite talent but on Saturday it was the first time many were able to witness how really good he could be — if he can stay healthy.
Game of Week 10:
Cincinnati vs. Houston
The Bearcats have been up and down this season — thanks to injuries at key positions — but with the return of Gunner Kiel, they are primed for an upset of a Houston team that has a January 1 bowl in its sights. The key for the Cougars to remain undefeated is maintaining a good run-pass balance for the offense. As talented as a run option Greg Ward Jr is, the Cougars offense is just as dangerous with the ball in the hands of Kenneth Farrow. Because of the mulitple options that Houston will have offensively, I think they will be able to get the job done against an improving Bearcat team… but it wont be easy. Houston 41 Cincinnati 37