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Winners and Losers from the AAC — Week 8

Let’s break down the biggest winners and losers from AAC action in week 8.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

From the beginning of the season, I have been workshopping the idea that the AAC was the “conference of chaos.”

Well, in the words of Taylor Swift in her new album Midnights, “I laid the groundwork, and then; just like clockwork; The dominoes cascaded in a line.”

That’s right, this is a Taylor Swift winners and losers piece because, like so many people on this internet, I was incredibly excited for Swift to release the album, and it made it my entire weekend.

Without further ado, here are the Week 8 winners and losers for the AAC.

Winner: Holton Ahlers

NCAA Football: Central Florida at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Ooooooh baby, Holton Ahlers was dealing in ECU’s victory over UCF.

Ahlers finished the game completing 30 of his 36 passes for 311 passing yards and a touchdown. The fifth-year senior also finished with a rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

According to Game On Paper, Ahlers finished with an EPA of 16.79 on his dropbacks, a number that is flat-out incredible. He also finished with a 54% success rate when throwing the ball.

We can keep making the jokes about Ahlers’ age — even if they’re not true — but it’s one thing to be experienced, and it’s another thing to be highly effective when the ball is placed in your hands.

We knew that Ahlers’ arm would be the reason ECU wins or losses a game and right now, he’s the reason why they are 5-3 and riding high on a two-game winning streak. Yeah, he’s been that good.

In the words of Taylor Swift (yeah, we are sticking with this), “a diamond’s gotta shine,” and right now, Ahlers is SHINING.

Loser: Ryan Silverfield

NCAA Football: Arkansas State at Memphis Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few weeks, Memphis had struggled in the second half. Against Houston, the Tigers blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose by one point. The following week, they lost to ECU in the 4OT.

That’s probably why it was incredibly disappointing to see the lackluster opening against Tulane, a game in which they lost by 10 points.

It’s like Memphis chose to start this game on hard mode, spotting Tulane a 35-point lead in the first half.

While they fought back in the second half to make the game competitive in the second half, coming back from such a hefty deficit is usually hard to do.

Memphis has had its moments this season, including a four-game winning streak to start the season 4-1 but, right now, they are not firing on all cylinders and it’s leading to what might be a rough end to the season.

If head coach Ryan Silverfield wants to close this season out, they’ll need to figure out some of their problems before it spirals out of control.

Winner: Tulane

Tulane v USF Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Taylor Swift said she “wanted to stay in that Lavender Haze,” but I prefer that Kelly Green Haze.

I know I sound like a broken record at this point but Tulane is really good and it requires a constant reminder because if you are not watching Tulane play football, you should be.

See, good teams find ways to win, and, right now, Tulane is finding ways to win. Whether it’s via their strong defense or their offense putting up 38 points, they’re grinding out wins, and that matters.

In front of a sold-out crowd, Tulane pulled out to a 35-point lead before going scoreless in the second half. Is that a sustainable way to win games? Absolutely not. No one wants to win games like that but sometimes, it has to happen.

Tulane has a tough road ahead — including home games against SMU and UCF; and a road game against Cincinnati — but right now, the Green Wave is riding high, and for good reason.

It’s hard to know if that’s sustainable but, to quote Lana Del Ray in Snow on the Beach, “I’m all for you like Janet.”

Loser: John Rhys Plumlee

NCAA Football: Central Florida at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a roller coaster for John Rhys Plumlee this season and his performance against ECU was a dip.

Although Plumlee finished the game with 296 passing yards, his three interceptions and 41.7 QBR leave something to be desired. According to Game on Paper, Plumlee finished with an EPA of -3.27 on dropbacks. That number equates to a NEGATIVE 0.08 EPA per drop back, which placed in the 34th percentile.

UCF faces a tough reality with Plumlee. While the Ole Miss transfer can make plays with his feet, he doesn’t exactly possess an elite arm and won’t win a lot of games with his arm. That also shouldn’t matter.

UCF has a great situation around Plumlee. He has good playmakers and an elite offensive play-caller that can help limit his limitations, which is good news for UCF. Still, it’s time to admit that he isn’t perfect, and realize that it’s okay.

To stick with the Taylor Swift comparisons, Plumlee’s ability on the ground is his sunshine, but his limitations in the air are his Midnight Rain.

Winner: Deneric Prince

Yeah, you’ve probably never heard of the name Deneric Prince.

Heading into Tulsas’ game against Temple, Pierce had played in just two games, posting just 65 rushing yards. Then, against Temple, he just went crazy.

Prince finished the game with 231 yards on 20 carries, while also adding 29 yards through the air. The former Texas A&M Aggie also found the endzone twice, including once on an 84-yard run.

Prince is an electric player with the ball in his hands and posted good numbers as a backup the last two seasons, which is why this type of performance is so exciting. He adds an extra element to the Tulsa backfield that will be an added benefit.