Week three of the AAC is in the books and allow me to introduce you to our new overlords... the Tulane Green Wave?
Not only does Tulane have really cool uniforms and one of the best looking logos in college football but they also walked into Manhattan, Kan., and grinded out a 17-10 road win against Kansas State.
The victory makes Tulane the only undefeated team in the AAC — seriously, Tulane is 3-0 — and really opens up the parity in the conference. While the teams like Houston and Cincinnati will likely find themselves at the top of the conference, it’s clear that there isn’t a clear favorite in the league, unless someone separates themselves.
Outside of Tulane, AAC teams went 5-4 in action, with just Cincinnati, Memphis, and UCF picking up victories against fellow FBS opponents. Tulsa and East Carolina also picked up victories against FCS opposition.
On the other side of the coin, USF, Houston, SMU, and Temple did not come away with wins.
Here are your winners and losers from week 3.
The Big Winner: Tulane
It’s almost fitting that New Orleans is called The Big Easy because man, it was easy for Tulane in their upset victory over Kansas State.
Although the win probability was very much on the side of Kansas State up until the end of the game, Tulane did what good teams do and found a way to win, even if Tulane didn’t take the lead until under five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
While Tulane did not particularly play well, it’s time to give credit where credit is due, and right now, that credit is on Tulane head coach Willie Fritz.
Not only did Fritz’s defense hold Kansas State to -0.18 expected points added per play but the Wildcats were particularly poor when it came to running the football, finishing in the 10th percentile for EPA per rush, according to Game on Paper.
Tulane's defense had Kansas State in a blender. Good on the Green Wave. pic.twitter.com/OhSbIOi2DN— Kevin Fielder (@TheKevinFielder) September 19, 2022
The strong defensive showing was only part of Fritz’s coaching masterclass because when it mattered most, Fritz got risky. Facing a 4th and 1 with about two minutes remaining in the game, Fritz kept his offense on the field despite being backed up to their own 25.
The result? Well, just see for yourself.
Sing your songs and ride the wave Tulane, you deserve it.
K-STATE WAVE SURF!!! ♂️ pic.twitter.com/Iu6WMxrYlJ— Tulane Football (@GreenWaveFB) September 17, 2022
The Biggest Loser: Houston, we have a problem
The pun in the header is supposed to be funny but it’s entirely true because, following Houston’s loss to Kansas, there needs to be a conversation about the Houston Cougars and where they currently stand.
Yes, Houston’s losses against Texas Tech and Kansas aren’t particularly embarrassing — both teams seem to be relatively strong this season — but some major problems have sort of begun to uncover.
The Houston offense has normally been pretty explosive but in the game against Kansas, that explosiveness sort of disappeared.
Game on Paper data put Houston at just two explosive plays, putting their explosive play rate at 3% (4th percentile). Those problems are compounded when you consider that Houston had 10 penalties for 73 yards.
One of the biggest things to watch for Houston as the season continues is if anyone can step up alongside wide receiver Tank Dell.
Dell is one of the best playmakers in the nation but his 19% usage rate on passing plays paints the picture that this team is a one-man show at times. It’s not that they don’t have talent — Joseph Manjack has had some quality plays — but there needs to be more consistency from those around Dell.
Winner: John Rhys Plumlee
Following his disappointing showing against Louisville, UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee really needed a massive showing against FAU.
Boy, did he.
The Ole Miss transfer finished the night with 460 yards from scrimmage (339 passing, 121 rushing) and three touchdowns, leading UCF to a convincing 40-14 road win against FAU.
Plumlee still wasn’t perfect — his interception was a throw he’d likely want back — but all things considered, getting a performance like this, especially with the 339 yards through the air, is what he and UCF needed heading into the start of the schedule.
If UCF can clean up the first-half mistakes, this Knights team has the potential to be special and so much of that success will start with Plumlee’s dual-threat ability on offense.
Also, let’s give credit to Plumlee for putting together a highlight reel-worthy play, which included him trying to look more like Michael Jordan than a football player. It probably worried his coaches but the rule of cool will always prevail.
Loser: SMU’s run game
The good news: SMU running back Tre Siggers finished the night with 86 yards rushing.
The bad news: It wasn’t highly efficient.
In SMU’s 34-27 loss to Maryland, Siggers led the way for SMU with 86 rushing yards on 19 carries, which averages out to 4.5 yards per carry. That would normally be okay but Siggers’ longest run was just 13 yards and, well, SMU just was not highly efficient on the ground.
As a team, SMU averaged 3.5 yards per attempt, finishing with 151 yards on 42 carries. According to Game on Paper, Their EPA on rushes was also a poor -9.11, a figure that cowards in fear to the 9.99 EPA that Maryland had on rushes.
While it isn’t time to panic over the course of the entire season, SMU’s running game is going to be something to keep an eye on because Tanner Mordecai won’t be able to do it by himself over the course of an entire season.
USF didn’t win the game but let’s take a moral victory from their game against Florida: they looked pretty dang good.
USF went into The Swamp and exchanged punches with a ranked Florida team that just two weeks ago, found a way to beat a good Utah team in this same venue.
While the Bulls would like to have the end of their final drive back, they did a couple things really good and, with just over 5 minutes remaining in the game, even held a lead over Florida!
Credit to running back Brian Battie, who finished with 150 yards and a touchdown on just 17 carries. Not only did Battie draw a start but he did a good job in taking over the lead role following an injury to Jaren Mangham.
While winning the game could have propelled USF to a different solar system when it came to confidence and buzz around the program, it’s encouraging to see Jeff Scott and the Bulls walk into a rowdy environment and play a close-to-complete game against a good football team.