By Lucas Owens
The last few weeks have been decent in terms of games for the American Athletic Conference, with a few huge surprises, but this week is where things start to hit another level. Every team in the AAC is playing an in-conference game, and a few of them are make-or-break for one or both teams playing. There is finally the matchup between ECU and UCONN to see if UCONN can win a game in the American, or if ECU can show how good they really can play.
UCF (-6) @ Tulane
Yulman Stadium, New Orleans, La. Saturday, November 23 at 11:00 a.m. CST
UCF finally returns to play this week after a disappointing loss against Tulsa, but the road does not get easier for the Knights. The Tulane Green Wave might be in a little bit of a slump right now, losing three of their last four, but they are certainly not out of it.
Quarterback Justin McMillan feels due for a big game, which will be tough against the UCF defense, but not impossible. To win this game, the Green Wave are going to have to spread the ball around when they’re running it and slow the pace of the game down early by getting defensive stops.
The blueprint for beating the UCF fast-paced offense has been set this season, and it’s just a matter of what teams have the level of players and schemes to do so. UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel continues his good freshman campaign after a tough loss in Chapman, Oklahoma, but to not lose two in a row he will need to throw the ball down field a lot better than he has so far this year and take control of the game.
Prediction: UCF 42 – Tulane 35
ECU (-14) @ UCONN
Pratt and Whitney Stadium and Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn. Saturday, November 23 at 11:00 a.m. CST
Both teams enter the game with no conference wins, and one of them will somehow come out with one. If I was a UCONN fan, I would not get my hopes up too high for it to be the Huskies. ECU enters this game hot off two close contests with No. 19 Cincinnati and No. 25 SMU, respectively, which in the former took a last second field goal to take down the Pirates. Quarterback Holton Ahlers had been good so far this season for ECU, but the way he played in those two games was a whole different form. Then in comes a trip up to Connecticut, and it certainly feels like this one is set up for a huge game from the Sophomore quarterback.
UCONN’s defense looks burnt out right now, and their offense certainly does not look much better. ECU should finally get a well-deserved first win in the AAC with a huge game from their offense. Then the Pirates can look on to next week against Tulsa while UCONN can look to not being a team in this conference anymore.
Prediction: ECU 49 – 21 UCONN
No. 25 SMU (+3.5) @ Navy
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Md. Saturday, November 23 at 2:30 p.m. CST
I’ve been talking about this game for so long I think I’m starting to sound like a broken record. The battle for who takes Memphis’ spot if the Tigers lose a game is finally upon us, and it has storylines galore. The Midshipmen come in off a humiliating loss in South Bend, Indiana, while SMU did not seem the same two weeks ago when they faced ECU after their loss to Memphis.
This game is an old-fashioned AAC game of two teams on the cusp of being nationally prominent facing off to see who gets there. Navy’s triple option poses a humongous threat to SMU, and likewise for the SMU offense. Quarterback Malcolm Perry has never been stuffed quite as much as he was last week for Navy, so I would expect him to bounce back and have a good game.
This one will likely come down to a lot of luck and key plays, and ultimately, I think a seasoned team like Navy will have the edge in that department. However, quarterback Shane Buchele is the epitome of veteran college quarterback, so I believe SMU will have a huge win in Annapolis and continue their dream season.
Prediction: SMU 35 – Navy 32
No. 18 Memphis (-14) @ USF
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. Saturday, November 23 at 3:00 p.m. CST
This game has a surprisingly wide spread for a game I believe USF to have a very good chance of pulling off the upset in. While the Bulls have lost two in a row, their defense has been electric through both matchups. Where they have lost is how their offense has been stuffed by the opposition. However, Memphis’ defense is not on the same level as Cincinnati and Temple, so it presents an opportunity of sorts for USF. If quarterback Jordan McCloud and running back Jordan Cronkrite find a way to break through the Tigers’ defense, I could see them pulling off the upset.
That is not enough to make me want to project them winning the game, I’m just saying it is very well a possibility. However, the other option is Memphis running away with it by figuring out the USF defense, which is probably even more likely.
Prediction: Memphis 28- USF 21
Temple (+10.5) @ No. 19 Cincinnati
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio. Saturday, November 28 at 6:00 p.m. CST
With a win in this one, Cincinnati will clinch the east and find themselves in a great situation ahead of a Week 14 matchup with Memphis. If they lose they could find themselves backed up against the wall, needing to win against Memphis or UCF to not lose to even have a shot at going.
Cincinnati has been the far better team this year, mostly behind the combined strength of their defense and running attack, but the Bearcats will need a big performance by quarterback Desmond Ridder to win against a great Temple defense. Ridder did not even have 100 yards passing last week, so I would not get hopes up for him having a fantastic game this week, but he needs to do just enough for the Bearcats to win.
Temple quarterback Anthony Russo has been better than Ridder lately, but still needs improvement, as he threw for an uncharacteristic 221 yards and 164 yards against Tulane and USF, respectively. The junior quarterback has what it takes to lead Temple to an upset victory that would throw the AAC into mania, but whether that happens is yet to be seen.
Prediction: Temple 21 – 24 Cincinnati
Houston (+3) @ Tulsa
Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, Okla. Saturday, November 23 at 6:30 p.m. CST
While both these teams have no way of making a bowl unless some crazy things happen, that does not mean at all that this game is meaningless. Tulsa is coming off a huge win against UCF to end their gauntlet of horribly good opponents, while Houston is looking for some way to have a good game near the end of their season. The last time the Cougars won was against UCONN in mid-October; a team that is historically bad for the AAC.
Houston beat them by just seven.
For the first time this season, Tulsa is favored in an in-conference game. The Golden Hurricane are riding a wave off of their success against UCF, being one of two teams to bring down the Knights in the AAC in the last three years. Quarterback Zach Smith should be healthy for this game, which will be huge for Tulsa as he is currently one of the best quarterbacks in the conference with 2,567 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Houston might not be having the season they planned, but they certainly have a chance in this one. However, I think Tulsa is just too battle tested to give this one up.
Prediction: Houston 28 – 34 Tulsa
Americ6n Game of the Week: SMU @ Navy
How was I going to pick any other game? This shootout should be a lot of fun as two wildly different offensive schemes butt heads on their way to a hopeful AAC Championship game birth.
- No. 19 Cincinnati 9-1 (6-0)
- No. 18 Memphis 9-1 (5-1)
- No. 25 SMU 9-1 (5-1)
- Navy 7-2 (5-1)
- UCF 7-3 (4-2)
- Temple 7-3 (4-2)
- Tulane 6-4 (3-3)
- USF 4-6 (2-4)
- Tulsa 3-7 (1-5)
- ECU 3-7 (0-6)
- Houston 3-7 (1-5)
- UCONN 3-8 (0-6)
Thank you for checking out this preview, and make sure to look out for the recap this Monday.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org