Around the AAC: Undefeated teams battle, ECU faces tough week
The Cougars are heading to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for their first conference match of the season and look to reset themselves after a surprising loss at home against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
The rest of the American Athletic Conference also features some interesting matchups this week. A pair of undefeated teams playing in their first conference game against each other highlight the weekend. We are already in week five of college football, and teams have either found their identity as a winning football program or have gotten lost on the way there and are desperate for a game to go their way.
As teams in the AAC begin to dive into conference play, let’s look at some of the key matchups coming Saturday that could shake things up.
UCF (2-0, Conf. 0-0) vs Memphis (3-0, Conf. 2-0)
This has to be the most exciting matchup of week five in the AAC. Coming into week five, both teams look to maintain their perfect record in Florida. Although UCF has only played in two games, they have still shown they are a team that should be taken seriously in the AAC.
UCF has beaten both Florida International and Maryland to come into the game with a 2-0 record. They will be looking to make up ground after they have had to cancel two games because of Hurricane Irma’s damaging effects in Florida.
Their offense seems to be firing on all cylinders after posting more than 1,000 total yards on offense and 15 touchdowns in each of the last two games.
Memphis has shown that they a force to be reckoned with after winning three games in a row including two conference opponents. They have shown on defense that they can take control of ballgames and have only allowed 532 yards and 27 points this season.
Memphis head coach Mike Norvell has said he likes what he has seen of the Tigers so far this season and will continue to push his team to focus on the small details of the game.
“We need to continue to work on the fundamentals,” Norvell said. “The little details and just making sure we are communicating properly. Making sure that on every single play, we’ve got 11 hats doing their job, doing it with a violent nature.”
USF (4-0, Conf. 1-0) vs East Carolina (1-3, Conf. 1-0)
After winning their first game last Saturday, ECU will be headed into a possible buzzsaw courtesy of the 18th-ranked South Florida Bulls. On the feet of multiple players including senior quarterback Quinton Flowers, they have managed to dominate opponents on the ground while ECU has struggled to find a rhythm at all this season.
The Pirates are still 1-0 in conference and are coming off a big win against UConn. Although the Bulls should be able to trample the Pirates, this game could get interesting if ECU can continue their luck going into week five.
Players to watch for include the aforementioned Bulls QB who has carried the offense to an undefeated season with 302 rushing yards and 774 passing yards. The Bulls are averaging 289 rushing yards per game while allowing just 17 points per game on defense.
Meanwhile, ECU will try to get something going after averaging only 23 points per game and allowing opposing teams to score 192 points this year.
Although this may seem like a layup for USF, both teams are coming off a win and need this conference win to make an impact in the standings.
Navy (3-0, Conf. 2-0) vs. Tulsa (1-3, Conf. 0-0)
This is yet another game with conference implications this season. Navy comes into the weekend with a perfect record while Tulsa limps into the weekend with a 1-3 record.
Although Navy has fared well by running their opponents into the ground, their one-dimensional offense can be burdensome if they give up points early and have to air out the ball.
Tulsa may be on crutches, but they are in no way out of the race for the conference title. They could get a big win on the road here and come out of Saturday with another conference win and gain momentum after beating an undefeated team.
It will all depend on whether Tulsa can get their defense to stop the running game. So far this season that hasn’t been the case for Tulsa. They have given up more than 42 points per game on the ground. They could be in for a long day if they don’t figure out a way to stop the Navy rushing attack.
Navy needs to find a balance on offense if they want to be taken seriously within the conference. They have a paltry 98.3 passing yards per game yet remain undefeated. Although they can certainly go with what has worked for them so far, they may need to reach deep into their bag of tricks and find a way to dominate teams rather than just win games this season.