We spoke about tiers in our latest AAC edition of the Underdog Pawdcast, and this week features multiple games featuring three “top” tier teams against three teams from the “middle” tiers. Memphis travels to Houston, UCF heads to Annapolis to face Navy, USF travels West to New Orleans to take on Tulane. Those three matchups could have a major impact in shaping the AAC conference race, but could also shake up the tiers in a major way if upsets occur.
P6 Pick’em Records- Joe: 47-9 Joey: 48-8
Game of the Week
#25 Memphis at Houston (Houston -3, Thursday 7:00pm CT)
At the beginning of the year, we pegged this game as the key game in determining the AAC West race. That still is the case despite Houston’s struggles. Unless Tulsa makes a serious run at the division title, Houston can still win out and win the West. That fact alone gives this game more importance. Memphis is already in control over their destiny, and a win over the Cougars would be another big step in wining the division.
Lost in the focus on Houston’s offensive struggles is their ability to keep teams off the scoreboard. While the defense isn’t where it was in terms of yardage allowed last year, the Cougars only allow 21 points per game. That number should also be lower considering the number of short fields the offense puts them in to defend. With every opponent focusing and negating Ed Oliver’s production, players like Matthew Adams and D’Juan Hines have stepped up behind him. Safeties Khalil Williams and Garrett Davis also continue to excel, but the defense can’t do it by themselves. Something needs to change offensively, because the Cougars have been painful to watch. Two players who continue to thrive in spite of the overall struggles are Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar, and you can bet Memphis will locate them before every play.
Memphis’ problem is on the other side of the ball unlike the Cougars. Their defense was reason for concern, but injuries and youthful replacements were major contributing factors to that. The Tigers endured numerous injuries at the beginning of the year, forcing younger players to step in and receive valuable reps. Now, those reps have turned into experience and we saw a preview of the results those reps produced. Forcing five turnovers allowed Memphis’ offense to play on a short field, and do enough to keep the game out of reach. This will be the best offense that Houston faces all year, and the long list of weapons for the Tigers continues to grow. The aforementioned Williams and Davis will have their hands full with Tigers receiver Anthony Miller, who continues to expose secondaries across the conference.
Joe: Houston 31 - Memphis 30
Joey: Memphis 35 Houston 32
The Rest of the AAC
Tulsa at UConn (Tulsa -6, Saturday 11:00am CT)
Coming off a huge upset, Tulsa looks to turn this game into a winning streak. They face a UConn team that is struggling defensively, but has been thriving on offense (at least until last week). Will the two quarterback system of Luke Skipper and Chad President continue to work? We will see on Saturday.
Joe: Tulsa 38 - UConn 20
Joey: Tulsa 28 UConn 25
Temple at Army (Army -6, Saturday 11:00am CT)
Army just won its second game this year without completing a pass. Temple lost their last game in which they outgained their opponent by over 200 yards. The Owls’ rush defense better be prepared for their toughest test yet against a triple option offense that clearly is effective enough to abandon the pass. One dimensional offenses aren’t always the easiest to defend.
Joe: Army 34 - Temple 23
Joey: Army 38 Temple 28
#20 UCF at Navy (UCF -7.5, Saturday 2:30pm CT)
Navy had five turnovers and only lost by three. It’s doubtful that they can repeat that performance, and they will have their hands full with another powerful offense. The Midshipmen struggled to create stops defensively, and UCF won’t be any easier than Memphis was to control. If Zach Abey can limit his mistakes, this could be an upset that we didn’t see coming. Navy pulled off the upset against #6 Houston last year at home, so it’s not out of the question.
Joe: UCF 48 - Navy 24
Joey: UCF 45 Navy 28
SMU at Cincinnati (SMU -8, Saturday 3:00pm CT)
There are so many questions for both of these teams. Which Cincinnati offense will show up? Can SMU’s defense contain an opposing offense? Will this game even be close? The winner between the Bearcats offense and Mustangs defense will go a long way in determining the outcome of this one.
Joe: SMU 38 - Cincinnati 17
Joey: SMU 49 Cincinnati 20
#16 USF at Tulane (USF -11.5, Saturday 6:00pm CT)
USF’s defense has shown immense improvement under Charlie Strong, and that is a big reason why they could go undefeated. It seems that the Bulls no longer need to outscore teams with offense alone, and that takes tremendous pressure off of their offense. This will be a unique test, as Tulane’s triple option attack will be a new look that Strong’s defense has yet to face. The home team is coming off of a loss to an improved FIU team, so you can bet they will be out to redeem themselves. How much that impacts this game remains to be seen.
Joe: USF 45 - Tulane 24
Joey: USF 33 Tulane 27
BYU at ECU (BYU -5.5, Saturday 6:00pm CT)
This could be a breakout game for either side, though we are leaning towards BYU’s chances. The Cougars are in a position that is surprising, but also wasn’t out of the question in the preseason. A tough independent schedule has led to losses against multiple Power 5 teams. ECU’s hoping that the Cougars lack confidence, and that their offense can surprise the BYU defense.
Joe: BYU 38 - ECU 21
Joey: BYU 35 ECU 23