Let me say, I love this sport.
As I sat on my couch watching college football, my eyes were instantly glued to the AAC games, and for a good reason. From Temple finding the secret sauce (more on that later) to the SMU game, the AAC had a lot of fun.
While most of the games had their moments, we still have to pick and choose winners and losers for the week. Here are some of the major storylines that stand out from the AAC’s action for week ten.
Winner: People who love offense
Okay, I didn’t just watch football on Saturday. I also watched some college basketball because there was a unique early-season conference matchup between SMU and Houston.
Nevermind. That was a football game.
If you watched the game, you’d probably understand my confusion because this game was the definition of a shootout, with a combined 140 points, 1,352 yards, and four different wide receivers over 100 receiving yards.
In the end, though, it was SMU coming away with a 77-63 victory over Houston. While multiple offensive players came away with solid games, SMU QB Tanner Mordecai led the way with 10 total touchdowns — 9 passing, and 1 rushing.
This sort of offensive output from SMU isn’t maintainable every week but it doesn’t have to be. What this game shows, though, is that SMU’s offense has the ceiling to be one of the best in college football under Rhett Lashlee.
Rock bottom. That’s where USF is right now.
The administration has attempted to solve this problem with the firing of Jeff Scott but who knows if that will solve all of this team’s problems. What we do know is that this program needs any good news it can get because they need a facelift.
On Saturday, USF lost 54-28 to a Temple program that is currently undergoing one of the biggest facelifts in college football.
While neither team has been good this season, the reality is that their seasons have gone in different ways. One team was expected to put it all together this season and find a way back into the mix in the American. The other team was coming off of a 3-9 season and replaced their head coach in the off-season.
As of today? The latter (Temple) has triple the number of wins that the former does.
Admittingly, there is a lot to like about the USF job but there are also a lot of questions to answer for any head coach who is taking this program over.
Winner: Edward Saydee
I like to praise good individual performances in this column, especially when they happen to guys who normally won’t get the love.
Edward Saydee, this is for you.
Saydee ran all over the USF defense, finishing the game with 279 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. The sophomore running back also finished with 69 receiving yards on the ground, pushing Saydee over 300 yards from scrimmage.
Whew, buddy, that’s a lot of yards.
Saydee finished the night with an EPA of 16.69, meaning that he accounted for over two touchdowns worth of points by himself. While that number would be really good for any quarterback performance, it’s even better for a running back.
As we mentioned previously, Temple is undergoing a facelift and, right now, that means finding pieces for its future core. If Saydee can build off of this incredibly encouraging performance, there’s a good chance he’s part of that core.
Loser: Memphis’ Finishing
Memphis had a chance to derail UCF’s season last week, provided they won the game.
Well... they didn’t do that.
While Memphis kept it close, they fell just short of picking up a victory, losing 35-28 on their home turf.
While the loss is discouraging in itself, the way they lost is even more discouraging. Memphis entered halftime down a touchdown and entered the fourth quarter tied after scoring the lone touchdown in the third quarter.
Then, it all fell apart for Memphis. In the fourth quarter, Mikey Keene connected with Kobe Hudson and Javon Baker to put UCF up 14 points and take Memphis out of the game.
These sorts of games are becoming all too common for Memphis. They’ll often find a way to keep it close but struggle to find ways to close games and come away with a win. They’re currently 4-5 on the season, but it feels like they could be an 8-win team if they found ways to close games out.
Winner: The AAC’s chances at a New Year’s 6 bowl
The future is now! Sort of.
Since both Tulane and UCF came away with victories in week 10, the matchup between the two in week 11 likely has some added weight to it — booking the Group of 5’s spot in the New Year’s Six.
The two teams are the only Group of 5 programs ranked in the latest College Football Playoff and AP Top 25 Poll, meaning that whoever wins this game (and the AAC Championship game in December) will likely book their spot in one of the premier bowl games.
Although UCF won’t be a part of the American for much longer, holding the Group of 5 spot is a major development for the AAC. It’s expected that they’ll start going toe-to-toe with the Sun Belt beginning next year to hold the title of premier Group of 5 conference, and this is would be another piece in the upcoming arms race.