If you’re an AAC fan, this week should have you excited, but it’s because of things going on outside of the conference. Mainly in the Big 12. Oklahoma fell to Kansas State, who just last week lost to Arkansas State. Iowa State already has a loss to Louisiana, and Texas nearly lost to a Texas Tech team that almost had to go to overtime with Houston Baptist in the previous week. There’s still a ways to go for the AAC to be included in the College Football Playoff, but the pieces outside of the conference are beginning to fall in place. They just have to do their part.
ECU will be good, but their defense must improve
There’s no shame in losing to UCF. The Knights are one of the best college football teams in the country, and they put that on full display Saturday. A promising first drive for ECU was met with 41 unanswered points by the Knights. ECU did put up 21 more points in the second half, but the outcome wasn’t ever in question. However, there’s a lot to like about the Pirates. Holton Ahlers is the real deal, and his receivers will be a solid group. It’s not a team that can contend for a conference title, but it’s a much better team than in years past. It just comes down to two things still: the running game and the defense. Ahlers was the leading rusher for the Pirates for most of the game before a few Keaton Mitchell runs put him at the top, and their defense allowed 632 yards. So it’s not a great team, but there are some positives to take from this game.
Dillon Gabriel deserves Heisman attention
Gabriel’s now 2-for-2 eclipsing 400 yards passing in his games this season. The Knights sophomore dominated his matchup with ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers Saturday, leading UCF to a 51-28 win on the road. He’s also now thrown eight touchdowns to just one interception, and is on pace to make it tough for the country to ignore his team and him much longer. It’s a weird year for college football, and there’s no reason why Gabriel doesn’t deserve Heisman attention. And I’m sure he’d trade it for UCF having a chance to make the playoff. With the Pac-12’s struggles from last year and the Big 12’s current implosion, who’s to say this team and their electric quarterback can’t make history.
Cincinnati’s defense is ready for any challenge
Cincinnati faced a unique challenge this weekend when they faced Army, but it was a test they passed with flying colors. At least, they did defensively. Time of possession was going to be a big key when the Bearcats faced the Black Knights triple option, and they nearly won that battle. Known for pulling off 10 minute scoring drives, Army’s longest drive was just over five minutes on Saturday, and their offense produced just three of their points. The Black Knights lone touchdown came on a pitch by Desmond Ridder that ended up in Jabari Moore’s hands and went the other way.
The Bearcats won’t see an offense like this again, so why is that scary? Luke Fickell’s team proved they will prepare for any team, and we saw the results. Army may not boast an explosive spread offense, but their offense requires attention to detail and a willingness to play fundamentally sound football. Cincinnati proved they can do just that, and it’s a big reason why they’re one of the best on that side of the ball.