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AAC Week 7 Preview

Memphis travels to Tulane on Friday, No. 13 Houston looks to bounce back against Tulsa

NCAA Football: Temple at Memphis
Doroland Dorceus and Memphis are off to a 4-1 start under first-year coach Mike Norvell.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Navy’s thrilling 46-40 victory over No. 6 Houston was certainly the highlight of Week 6 in the American and one of the best stories—if not THE best story—nationally.

With that memorable win, the Midshipmen now control their destiny in the AAC’s West Division as they sit atop the standings with a record of 3-0.

Meanwhile, USF—the preseason favorite in the AAC East—improved to 2-0 with a 38-22 win over East Carolina and looks to be the team to beat in its division.

The biggest disappointment to date has to be Tommy Tuberville and his Cincinnati Bearcats, as they fell to 0-3 in league play after dropping a 20-9 decision at UCONN.

Navy was slated to go to East Carolina for a Thursday night match-up with the Pirates, but that game was rescheduled for November 19th due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew.

This week, there are four intra-divisional match-ups and we will take a brief look at each below.

NCAA Football: Navy at Tulane
First-year coach Willie Fritz has Tulane at 3-2 as they prepare to host the Memphis Tigers on Friday night.
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis (4-1, 1-0) @ Tulane (3-2, 0-1) (Fri, 10/14)

Benson Field at Yulman Stadium—ESPNU—8 pm

First-year head coaches Mike Norvell (Memphis) and Willie Fritz (Tulane) have their programs playing pretty good football as we come to the mid-point of the season.

The Tigers are coming off a 34-27 comeback win over Temple. The Owls led 13-0 late in the first half, but Memphis forced three turnovers and scored 27 unanswered points in the rally.

Despite the victory, Memphis did allow 445 yards through the air to Temple after surrendering 361 via the pass—624 overall—at Ole Miss.

Now, they will face the run heavy attack of the Green Wave, as Tulane has run the ball nearly 75% (263 of 351) of the time this season and is averaging 246.6 yards on the ground.

Dontrell Hilliard and Josh Rounds have combined to rush for 650 yards and nine touchdowns. The duo is averaging almost 5.5 yards per attempt.

The passing game has been a work in progress, but Terren Encalade had seven receptions for 125 yards and a score in the win over UMASS.

Glen Cuiellette, Tulane’s redshirt sophomore signal-caller, is 34-of-68.

Riley Ferguson has thrown for 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns (compared to five interceptions). Phil Mayhue, who is 6’3” and 210 pounds, has caught six balls in each of the last two games. Anthony Miller tops the team with 28 receptions for over 400 yards.

Doroland Dorceus, who averages almost seven yards per carry, has run for 346 yards and five scores.

The Memphis attack will definitely be the most potent that Tulane—which has solid defensive numbers (22.4 ppg, 309 mpg)—has seen to date. The Green Wave has generated pretty good pressure thus far (13 sacks) and will need to do so again.

Another area to keep a close eye on will be the turnover battle, as both of these clubs have been excellent at forcing their opponents into miscues. Tulane is plus eight in turnover margin while Memphis is plus seven.

Tulane’s losses were close (7-3 at WFU and 21-14 to Navy at home) and they have show significant improvement under its new leadership. Expect the Tigers, who are more well-rounded, to win a competitive contest.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at South Florida
Junior running back Marlon Mack is one of the key cogs in USF’s potent “Gulf Coast” offense.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

UCONN (3-3, 1-1) @ USF (5-1, 2-0)

Raymond James Stadium—CBS Sports Network—7 pm

The Bulls were most prognosticators preseason pick to win the East Division of the American and Willie Taggart’s club has certainly lived up to the hype so far.

USF, which went 8-5 a year ago, has one of the nation’s most potent offensive attacks. Going back to last season, the Bulls have now scored 35 or more points in ten straight games while also topping the 200-yard rushing mark in 11 consecutive contests.

Taggart has a tremendous signal-caller for his “Gulf Coast Offense” in veteran Quinton Flowers. Flowers, a true dual threat, leads the team with 498 yards rushing and has also thrown for over 1,300 yards. He’s accounted for 15 total touchdowns (4 rushing, 11 passing).

Junior Marlon Mack has run for 485 yards, eight scores and averages more than seven yards per carry. He’s complemented by fellow junior D’Ernest Johnson (277, 5.8 ypc, 4 TD).

Flowers is best at throwing the deep ball and wide receiver Rodney Adams (25-416-4) provides a bonafide deep threat.

The Bulls will have their work cut running the football this week versus a UCONN defense that is one of the nation’s best at stopping the run. The Huskies allow just 98.8 yards per game on the ground and they’ve already played Navy. They do, however, give up nearly 300 yards passing.

Defensively, USF has been pretty good outside of its 55-35 loss to FSU. The Seminoles ran for more than 450 yards and ECU sought to attack with its interior game early in last week’s game.

The Huskies are averaging just over 130 yards rushing, BUT they used a 116-yard effort from Arkeel Newsome to roll up 188 yards in their 20-9 win over Cincinnati.

Bryant Shirreffs, UCONN’s quarterback, can hurt you with his legs and arm. He’s accounted for more than 1,500 yards of total offense (1,282 passing, 251 rushing).

Noel Thomas, who has 55 catches for 631 yards, is his top option in the passing game.

The 42-14 loss at Houston is the lone game in which the Huskies weren’t competitive and they had multiple deep shots in that game that they were unable to capitalize on.

If those opportunities present themselves in Tampa, they have to make good on them.

Additionally, UCONN is -5 in turnovers, as it has done a pretty good job protecting the ball, but has only forced three. That is something that will likely need to change if they are to pull the upset against the explosive Bulls.

The Bulls may see their streak of topping 35 points and 200 yards end, but expect them to win the game since Bob Diaco’s club will likely struggle to muster enough offense.

NCAA Football: Houston at Navy
Greg Ward Jr and No. 13 Houston will look to stay in the thick of the AAC West race with a win against visiting Tulsa.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa (4-1, 1-0) @ No. 13 Houston (5-1, 2-1)

TDECU Stadium—ESPN2—7 pm

Any shot that Tom Herman and his Houston Cougars had of crashing the CFB Playoff ended with their 46-40 loss at Navy last weekend. However, there’s plenty to play for as they look to repeat as AAC champs and earn another berth in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

If they plan to catch Navy in the divisional race, they can ill afford to have a letdown against an improving Tulsa team that can really score.

The Golden Hurricane (4-1, 1-0) is coming off a 43-40 overtime victory over SMU last Friday night. Philip Montgomery’s team is averaging nearly 50 points per contest during its current three-game win streak and are churning out 475 yards per game for the season.

They run it more than they throw it, but do both very successfully. Tulsa’s averages 230 on the ground and the attack has multiple weapons. D’Angelo Brewer (716 yards) and James Flanders (390 yards) are the biggest.

Quarterback Dane Evans is very experienced, but has struggled to take care of the ball better than he has at times for his team to have a shot.

Evans’ top target is Keevan Lucas, who has 36 grabs for 508 yards and five scores.

Tulsa’s explosiveness is illustrated by the fact that it has had two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers in each of the last two games.

Defensively, the Golden Hurricane are improved, but are still allowing 32 points per game and Houston’s high-octane offense is one of the nation’s best.

Greg Ward Jr. has produced close to 2,000 total yards (1,684 passing and 272 rushing), but the Heisman Trophy candidate did commit three costly turnovers in last week’s loss.

Juniors Linell Bonner (42-556-2) and Steven Dunbar (30-438-3) are his top targets.

While the Cougars did allow 300-plus yards to Navy on the ground, their defense has been solid as they are giving up just over 17 points and 270 yards. Houston has produced 18 sacks and Steven Taylor tops the team with 5.5.

As disappointing as last week was, don’t anticipate a hangover for what is a pretty mature football team. Tulsa’s defense isn’t strong enough for them to pull this upset. Take the Cougars to win by at least two or three touchdowns.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Florida International
True freshman McKenzie Milton has made an impact at quarterback for UCF.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Temple (3-3, 1-1) @ UCF (3-2, 1-0)

Bright House Networks Stadium—ESPNU—7:30 pm

The Owls suffered a frustrating 34-27 loss at Memphis a week where turnovers and red zone woes sealed their fate.

The Knights, who have won two straight, were slated to play Tulane a week ago but that game was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew.

Temple generally seeks to establish the run with Jahad Thomas, but was unable to do so at Memphis and Phillip Walker passed for a career-high 445 yards in the loss to the Tigers.

They will face a UCF defense that gave up a lot of passing yards in its win at ECU, but stuffed the run, pressured the quarterback extremely well and forced miscues in the red zone to pull away for the nice road win.

With it being Scott Frost's first season at the helm in Orlando, he's of course largely playing the personnel hand he was dealt.

With true freshman signal-caller McKenzie Milton injured, UCF played Justin Holman against the Pirates and he was a bit erratic as he missed several open receivers.

While the consistency wasn't there, the unit certainly had its moments and you can see growth.

Can the Owls rebound after a tough road loss to stay in the thick of AAC East race or will upstart UCF prove that it may be a threat to cross-state rival USF?

This should be a fourth quarter game that just may go the Knights way with it being in Orlando.