I am entirely convinced that the American Athletic Conference will never be normal.
In a week that featured a unique slate of games — including five games against Power 5 opponents — the AAC did what they do best and caused an incredible amount of chaos. Seriously, starting with the Iron Skillet Battle between SMU and TCU to the nightcap of Rice and Houston, there was not a sense of normality throughout the week.
Overall, AAC teams finished with six wins and five losses, a figure that’s partly skewed by a conference game between East Carolina and Navy.
With that being said, here are your winners and losers from week 4 action in the AAC.
The Big Winner: Navy
I’d like to start this section off with a poem that I wrote following Navy’s 23-20 victory over East Carolina:
Roses are red;
Violets are blue;
The Midshipmen won;
Respect our troops.
It certainly was not pretty for the Midshipmen but pretty losses aren’t better than ugly wins and above everything else, Navy desperately needed to get their first win of the season on the board.
Trust me, it wasn’t pretty for Navy.
The Midshipmen averaged just 2.9 yards per carry, had to throw the ball 10 times, and allowed East Carolina to convert 7 of their 15 third downs throughout the game. They also needed double overtime and a missed field goal by East Carolina in the second overtime to win but man, it should feel good for Navy.
The reaction when WE WON!! pic.twitter.com/ETLgp2t54T— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) September 25, 2022
The Big Loser: SMU’s defense
In the Battle for the Iron Skillet, SMU’s offense looked good. They looked really good.
The Mustangs scored 34 points, threw for 372 yards, and even saw a breakout performance from wide receiver Jake Bailey, who hauled in 8 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown. While SMU was not good on the ground, Velton Gardner did have a 22-yard run.
The defense? Not as good.
SMU allowed 487 yards of offense, including 9.9 yards per pass from quarterback Max Duggan, who finished the game with 278 yards and three touchdowns.
On the ground, TCU also had runs of both 63 and 35 yards, all while running back Kendre Miller finished with 142 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
EMARI DEMERCADO CALLED GAME THE SKILLET IS COMING HOME TO FORT WORTH pic.twitter.com/D25pbdU6GF— RIFF RAM (@RiffRamTCU) September 24, 2022
The poor defensive performance marks SMU’s second poor showing on defense after the Mustangs allowed 439 yards of total offense to Maryland a week prior.
While there’s still time for SMU to turn their defensive shortcomings around, the time is running out and the fact of the matter is that, right now, SMU’s defense might be the thing that holds Rhett Lashlee and the Mustangs back.
Winner: Cincinnati’s passing attack
Cincinnati’s passing attack was a question mark for the Bearcats heading into the season.
Not only did they lose quarterback Desmond Ridder but the Bearcats also lost their most productive wide receiver in Alec Pierce. As a result, Cincinnati entered their fall camp with an open quarterback competition and the lack of a no. 1 target.
That’s no longer the case.
While he’s had his moments through Cincinnati’s first three games, Ben Bryant’s performance against Indiana was the culmination of everything. Bryant finished the night with 354 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, both season highs for the Eastern Michigan transfer.
It’s also hard to look past wide receiver Tyler Scott’s performance. Scott finished the game with 10 receptions for 185 yards and 3 touchdowns, improving upon his 119-yard performance against Miami (OH).
While the AAC might be wide open, the development of Bryant and Scott might be the aspect that helps push Cincinnati over the edge.
Loser: USF’s momentum
Had it not been for a bad snap on third down, it’s entirely possible that USF finds a way to beat the Florida Gators on the road. Alas, it wasn’t enough as the Gators narrowly avoided defeat.
Still, USF’s victory might have been the closest thing to a moral victory a college program could have had.
Despite the moral victory, USF needed to build upon it with a strong showing against Louisville.
Well, that didn’t happen.
In fact, Louisville had no problem with USF, pulling away with a 41-3 victory.
The problems for USF were all over the place in this game too. Not only did they have just 158 yards of total offense but they also allowed Malik Cunningham to take over the game with 299 yards from scrimmage and 4 total touchdowns.
The loss pushes USF to 1-3 on the year and so far, it has not looked good in year three of Jeff Scott’s tenure.
Although Scott took over a program in the midst of a rebuild, it’s time for there to be results on the football field and it’s time for USF to find some victories in the standings.
Winner: Stan Drayton
Temple head coach Stan Drayton earned his first win against an FBS opponent with a 28-0 victory over UMass.
While it was a game that Temple needed to win, it’s still good to see the strong second half and for Temple to get the win.
There’s still a long way to go for Temple in this rebuild, there is no question that a win can do wonders for a team that needed a roster rebuild but also a culture rebuild like Temple did.
Loser: UCF’s offensive consistency
UCF won the game and it wasn’t ever close but the Knights still did not find a way to put it all together on offense.
The Knights finished with 333 yards, including 284 yards rushing but there was no passing game for UCF in their 27-10 victory over Georgia Tech.
John Rhys Plumlee completed 8 of his 16 passes for 49 yards and an interception and they also struggled to get some of their best playmakers (like Ryan O’Keefe) throughout the game.
After four games, UCF is 3-1 and they’ve had some moments of a consistent offense but still, they haven’t been able to put it all together and that will need to change as the Knights enter conference play.