Welcome back to the weekly roundup of all things AAC football. We had a very small slate of games this week, but many of them were entertaining. This could be the week where we look back and say this is where a few teams really started to turn the corner.
Three Teams Trending Up
What a turn around from Tulane. The Green Wave, in their trendy new alternate uniforms, absolutely dominated Memphis. Running backs Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine were electric, as they combined for 230 rushing yards. When they reach the edge, there was no catching them. That was not all though, as receivers Darnell Mooney and Terren Encalade were also huge as they combined for 129 receiving yards. The streak of 11 straight loses to Memphis ended in dominating fashion.
After watching ECU very closely against USF the past week, I learned that this team has improved a ton since last year. Usually beating a one-win ODU team is not all that impressive. However, this win is impressive when you consider ODU just knocked off a ranked Virginia Tech team last week. Reid Herring looked like a leader on the field, passing for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Holton Ahlers was the leading rusher for the Pirates as the backup quarterback rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown. Despite all the success on offense, ECU needed a last minute field goal to overcome ODU. Overall though, this team has grown and is no longer an easy win for AAC teams.
UCF is doing something no other AAC team has done this year. They have been the most consistent team in the league. McKenzie Milton has proved week in and week out, that he is one of the top QBs in the country. Milton passed for 328 yards and accounted for six total touchdowns in a blowout win over Pittsburgh. The defense was not to be outshined though. I’m not saying Kenny Pickett is a great quarterback by any means, but UCF’s defense was fantastic. They held Pickett to under 200 yards passing. By the end of the day, Pickett finished with a 12 QBR! While Pitt is a low level P5 team, this is still a good win. Until UCF plays Memphis, Cincinnati, and USF, expect this team to roll.
Three Teams Trending Down
This team is so tough to read. After watching this game, I wonder if Memphis will be able to live up to the pre-season hype. We all knew they could blow out Georgia State and South Alabama. However, they are currently 0-2 in conference play against teams that they should have beat. While it is not impossible to turn this season around, I have to see drastic improvement. From what I saw from the Tulane game, their offensive line is a mess (Tulane got eight (8) sacks!) and they are desperately missing Anthony Miller. Next week may help them get back on the right track, as they face off against UConn.
Speaking of UConn... The mess continues with Randy Edsall’s squad scoring a measly seven points last week. Just a year ago, they took Cincinnati to the brink. However, this year, the game was not even entertaining. On UConn’s first drive, the Huskies looked ready to play. The Bearcats could not stop David Pindell and company, as they watched UConn gain a 7-0 lead out of the gate. However, the Huskies could never regain control as Desmond Ridder shredded one of the worst pass defenses in the nation. In addition, UConn could not stop the dive play that allowed Mike Warren to eclipse 100 rushing yards. This program is an absolute mess right now, easily replacing ECU as the bottom feeder.
The defense that we thought was going to be pretty good collapsed against Boston College. The Eagles running back AJ Dillon ran over the Owls defense rushing for 161 yards. On the offensive side of the ball, Anthony Russo did not look great as the door is still open for Frank Nutile. On a positive note, Ryquell Armstead is back. One of my comeback players of the year is proving why I picked him for that preseason award. While the Owls’ performance was not horrible, they certainly are trending downward.
Players of the Week
Offensive: QB, McKenzie Milton: UCF
Defensive: DE, Nate Harvey: ECU
Special Teams: K, Jake Verity: ECU
S, Richie Grant: UCF
QB, Desmond Ridder: Cincinnati
QB, William Brown: SMU
RB, Ryquell Armstead: Temple
RB, Darius Bradwell: Tulane
Top Three Must Watch AAC Games in Week 6
Navy vs. Air Force
Can I interest you in service academy football? I thought so. Navy has had time to regroup after their heartbreaking loss to SMU two weeks ago. This game is a perfect opportunity for them to rebound and play for some pride while their at it.
Tulane vs. Cincinnati
After watching these teams last week, I think this is probably the game of the week. On one hand, Tulane pounded one of the better teams in the West. On the other, Cincinnati has now become a top three team in the conference.
ECU vs. Temple
This is a game that has huge implications in the East. If ECU wins they will have proven that they are back. After their past two performances, I think this game is winnable. For Temple, it seems like a must win as it appears there are three teams clearly ahead of them in the East. A Temple win would prove that we might have given up on them too early.
USF vs. UMass
If you want to see around 100 points scored, tune into this one. USF looks to come off their bye week healthier and more organized. I’m expecting huge things from USF this game as Bulls fans are tired of the team playing down to their opponents.