By Lucas Owens
Another week in the American Athletic Conference, another opportunity for great matchups. While the titular UCONN and UMASS game may drag down the slate a little bit, the AAC more than makes up for it with No. 16 SMU @ Houston on Thursday night, Tulane’s spread option offense visiting Navy’s triple option offense in Annapolis and UCF facing off against Temple in a game that can make or break both team’s season.
#16 SMU (-13.5) @ Houston
TDECU Stadium, Houston, Texas. Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m. CST
The two AAC Texas schools finally do battle in a Thursday night primetime clash this week, and it is a good point to just take a look at the opposite trajectories both of these programs have been on this year. SMU has been rising rapidly, now being the only undefeated team in the AAC and already bowl eligible, while Houston has a losing record that does not look like it is going to get much better as the season goes on. SMU should take hardcore revenge for what the Cougars did to them all those years while head coach Tom Herman was still with the program. I would expect them to come out swinging hard in Houston Thursday night and really prove to the country that they deserve to be in bigger conversations as the marquee game on Thursday.
Prediction: SMU 42 – 24 Houston
Tulane @ Navy (-3.5)
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Md. Saturday, October 26 at 2:30 p.m. CST
Tulane and Navy had completely opposite weeks last week, as the Green Wave suffered at the hands of Memphis, while the Midshipmen utterly destroyed USF. This game should be closer, as the two both have similar styles of play, especially this year, as Navy is experimenting with passing the ball more and Tulane is getting used to the spread option. This game will come down to the trenches, in which I would give an edge to Navy considering their consistency. So far this year, Navy has been dominating games in which they can establish their style of play and, unless Tulane suddenly shifts to running a fast paced offense, they are going to be running similar systems. Tulane should be able to keep this one close, but ultimately I believe Navy will pull away with a sound victory.
Prediction: Tulane 14 – 21 Navy
UCONN (-10.5) @ UMASS
Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Amherst, Mass. Saturday, October 26 at 2:30 p.m. CST
For the first time this year, UCONN is favored going into a game over an FBS opponent. Not only are they favored, they are favored by more than ten points. That is how rough UMASS has had it this year. Even though both teams enter at 1-6, UMASS has been recently been getting blown out by some low-level competition, while UCONN at least has been competitive in some games. This game, although the teams may not be good, is going to be a must-watch for me. Both teams will soon be independent after UCONN leaves the AAC next year, and we could see this become a rivalry of sorts, as their location and program strength both leads to a communal need for opponents. Indeed, the schools will play two more games in the next few years after this one, but how far we see that go is something to look forward to. However, I think UCONN should finally be able to get their second win and maybe even possibly somehow end up with an AAC win at some point this year.
Prediction: UCONN 35 – 24 UMASS
USF (-2) @ ECU
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, N.C. Saturday, October 26 at 2:45 p.m. CST
USF found themselves on some form of a tear after beating both UCONN and BYU in consecutive weeks, but their huge loss at Navy has brought them down a peg. ECU, similarly, was doing well before their last two games against Temple and UCF brought them to a standstill at now 3-4. This game should be a fairly even matchup, but the crux of it will most likely be how USF quarterback Jason McCloud does under pressure. Ever since he came in for injured Blake Barnett, he has been seen as the heartbeat of the team and, with how emotionally driven USF has been lately, that is going to factor in a lot. If he is put in bad situations early, USF could indeed dig themselves a hole. If they excel, they could come out to a big early lead. Their style of play is indeed very much a double-edged sword. For ECU, the game rests on the shoulders of quarterback Holton Ahlers, who has shown himself to be far more than capable in leading the Pirates this year. If he performs as he has done at his best moments this season, then ECU will get a crucial win closer to getting a long-needed bowl.
Prediction: USF 21 – 24 ECU
Memphis (-10.5) @ Tulsa
Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, Okla. Saturday, October 26 at 6:00 p.m. CST
Tulsa has been getting the short straw in terms of scheduling the past few weeks, and that does not look to be changing as they host Memphis this week. Their season has been going rapidly downhill the last three weeks and only looks to be going further this week, as they complete their four-week AAC gauntlet. Golden Hurricane quarterback Zach Smith has been having a good year, but the Memphis offense will be something else for Tulsa to contend with and it will be very hard for them to keep up. Memphis quarterback Brady White has consistently been hitting his stride more as the season goes on, while Kenneth Gainwell has been a fire for whenever the Tigers need him. I would look for Memphis to come out on top in this one decisively.
Prediction: Memphis 38 – 21 Tulsa
UCF (-10.5) @ Temple
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Penn. Saturday, October 26 at 6:00 p.m. CST
This game, while between two teams not in the lead for the AAC East, has some of the most ramifications for what happens in that division this season, as the second leg of the Cincinnati-Temple-UCF round robin. Both the Knights and the Owls have one conference loss so far, but Temple has the leg up in that they still control their own destiny if they win out. This matchup poses a unique challenge for both sides, with Temple having to fare against another high-powered offense after facing SMU and Memphis two weeks straight, while UCF faces Temple’s resoundingly tough defense. Temple’s quarterback Anthony Russo left a lot to be desired last week in Dallas, but UCF’s secondary poses probably even a bigger test for him. In the end, I think UCF will come out on top in Philadelphia.
Prediction: UCF 42 – 31 Temple
Game of the Week: UCONN @ UMASS
This is a little of an oddball, but this matchup is just so weirdly intriguing to me. Both teams have been doing very bad lately and need any sliver of hope to keep their season going. In addition, UMASS and UCONN will most likely be playing nearly every year, which makes this even more entertaining.
Thank you for checking out The Most Americ6n Preview and make sure to catch the recap this Monday.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org