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All Aboard the Memphis Bandwagon: AAC Week Five Picks

Week Five presents a lackluster slate, at best, but there's some gold to be found in mediocrity if you can make it to 7:30 p.m.

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USF at Wisconsin (-34) — Noon — ESPNU

The first-ever meeting between these two teams won't be pretty to watch. Wisconsin is coming off a ridiculous 644-yard, eight-touchdown rushing performance against Bowling Green, and will surely stick with their ground attack against a USF team that was helpless against North Carolina State — another team that likes to run the ball almost exclusively — allowing 315 yards on 53 carries. And don’t expect USF’s offense to keep up in a shootout — the Bulls are averaging 3.5 yards per play against FBS opponents this season.

USF - 13
Wisconsin - 55

TCU (-32) at SMU — Noon — CBS Sports Network

It's a battle for the The Iron Skillet, and one that should be forgettable from the opening kickoff. TCU’s defense came into the season with extra hype, and though there’s a small sample size, the Frogs’ manhandling of Minnesota and a strong FCS-Samford program (3.04 yards per play through two games) has matched the expectation. SMU’s situation looks like it will go from bad to worse. The Mustangs have the worst offense in the country (2.98 yards per play, one touchdown in 2014). It shouldn’t take but a few early scores for the Frogs, who are averaging 491 yards in their two games, to put this one out of reach. TCU better make sure the back door is locked come the fourth quarter though.

TCU - 48
SMU - 17

Tulane at Rutgers (-12) — Noon — ESPNews

First off, Tulane is the AAC team in this matchup, not Rutgers. I know it’s hard to adapt, but it’s necessary to survival. As for the newcomers to the American, there’s really not much to say about them right now. They might be the league’s bellwether — they’re not exceptional in anything, but really don’t show any deficiencies either. As of today, all other teams should be judged in relation to Tulane. The Green Wave also have the strange distinction of being No. 83 nationally in both offense and defensive yards per play (they’re giving up a little more than a foot more per play defensively than offensively.) Rutgers is, well, you know Rutgers. Gary Nova, in his 24th year of eligibility, will make or break the game for the Knights — a statement should scare your wallet back into your pocket. Seeing as it’s a nooner on the road, the pick is Rutgers — but hopefully we find out who Tulane really is this week.

Tulane - 24
Rutgers - 31

Temple (-6) at UConn — 4 p.m. — ESPNews

Since their improbable win over Vanderbilt Week One, Temple has done little to capitalize on the momentum. Frankly, it’s not surprising, because if not for being plus-five in turnovers in that game, Temple 's numbers show a non-impressive performance. The Owls’ offense looks lackluster, averaging only 4.53 yards per play. Much remains to be seen from the defense. Are they the unit that allowed 517 yards to Navy in a loss or held Delaware State to 93? Sadly, they won’t get much of a test in UConn, who is coming off one of the saddest performances in recent college football history. The Huskies were only able to muster 36 offensive plays against USF last Friday, gaining 145 yards in the process. This is a UConn team that was only able to gain 223 yards on Stony Brook (their only win of the season). They’re averaging 61 rushing yards per game and less than 190 yards through the air.  Is Temple the team that can help the Huskies snap out of their malaise? I doubt it. This should game should not be watched under any circumstances.

Temple - 27
UConn - 19

Cincinnati at Ohio State (-16) — 6 p.m. — Big Ten Network

Kent State proved a nice whipping boy for Ohio State after the embarrassing home loss to Virginia Tech, and the Buckeyes will look to carry that momentum into the Ohio State Championship. Cincinnati’s strange two-bye-weeks-to-start schedule means this is the Bearcats’ third game, and they come in boasting some potent offensive numbers with Gunner Kiel  — remember him? — under center (10 TDs, 65 percent passing). Ohio State is by no means a national title contender, we found that out against VaTech, but they are among the most talented teams in the nation. Problems lie in the offensive line and an inexperienced quarterback, leaving them upset prone. But not to Cincinnati. Despite Tommy Tuberville’s defensive acumen, the Bearcats have looked lackluster at best on that side of the ball, having allowed 563 yards to Toledo and 364 yards to a decidedly terrible Miami-Ohio team. If DE's Terrell Hartsfield (2 sacks) and Brad Harrah (2.5) can get to J.T. Barrett, the Bearcats have a chance to keep it close, but I don’t think the Bearcat’s secondary will keep the Buckeyes honest — and that will be the difference. The fourth quarter should be interesting in Las Vegas.

Cincinnati - 24
Ohio State - 41

Memphis at Ole Miss (-21) — 7:30 p.m. — FSN

Memphis is one of the best stories of the 2014 season, and I’m going to take a bold stance and say that I think it’s about to get a lot better. The Tigers look terrifically outmanned in this contest, as the line would suggest, but with almost no travel and minimal expectations, I think they can pull off the upset at Ole Miss. The close contest at UCLA was no joke — Memphis might not be the most talented team in the AAC, but they’re exceptionally coached. Remember the name Justin Fuente, he’ll be at a Power Five school next year. The upset will require help from Ole Miss, and I expect it’ll come from Bo Wallace, who has four interceptions this season and has been known to make a poor decision on occasion during his time in Oxford. Pair that with Memphis’ defensive line — one of the best in the country, seriously — led by Tank Jakes and Martin Ifedi (who could return to the lineup Saturday after a leg injury knocked him out in Week One), and the Tigers should force a few of those mistakes. Offensively, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch is good enough to not loose the game for the Tigers, whose running back committee should have success against a Rebels squad that allowed 193 rushing yards to an overmatched Louisiana-Lafayette last week. There’s also some strange voodoo with this game, as Ole Miss has now moved into the Top-10 of the AP poll and have Alabama looming next. The clinical term is “looking ahead”, and if Ole Miss does it they could find the an unkind present Saturday.

Memphis - 35
Ole Miss - 30

Texas State at Tulsa (-3) — 8 p.m. — ESPNews

Texas State has a good offense, led by quarterback Tyler Jones and running back Robert Lowe. I can’t find anything that Tulsa is good at. They were blown out by FAU, after all. This is a coin-flip game, but you have to go with the team who has shown anything at all. Perhaps a shootout is in the books.

Texas State - 42
Tulsa - 37