State of the AAC: UCF, Memphis, SMU, others remain undefeated
Through three weeks of college football, five American Athletic Conference teams remain undefeated, including No. 15 UCF, Memphis and SMU, who all sit at 3-0.
The AAC’s weekend was highlighted by Temple and UCF’s wins over Power Five conference opponents. Temple stopped the high-powered offense of Maryland, defeating the Terrapins 20-17 in Philadelphia. Maryland went into the game averaging 71 points and 636.5 yards per game but recorded just 340 yards Saturday.
Owls redshirt junior quarterback Anthony Russo completed 20 of 37 attempts and 277 yards for three touchdowns. Russo has thrown for seven touchdowns through two games this season.
The headline of the game, however, was Temple’s defense, as it held Maryland redshirt junior quarterback Josh Jackson to 183 yards and just 39.5 percent completion, as well as one interception. Temple will travel to Buffalo to battle the Bulls Saturday afternoon.
UCF continued its pursuit of a chance in the College Football Playoff on Saturday when it defeated Stanford 45-27. The Cardinals were ranked as high as No. 23 in Week 2, but two-straight losses have seen them far from a spot in the Top 25.
Dillon Gabriel, the Knights’ phenom freshman quarterback, continued his great start to his collegiate career, throwing for 347 yards on 22 of 30 passing and four touchdowns. Gabriel now has nine touchdowns through three games, despite only throwing 13 passes in the Knights’ opening game.
Knights’ junior running back Greg McCrae eclipsed 100 yards for the first time this season on the heels of his 73-yard carry to set up UCF’s fifth touchdown of the game a few plays later. He finished the day with 109 yards and a touchdown, averaging 9.9 yards per carry.
UCF now has a 9 percent chance to qualify for the playoff, according to the AllState Playoff Predictor, the ninth-highest chance in the nation. The Knights will travel north to Pittsburgh to take on another Power Five opponent in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Pittsburgh Panthers, who are currently 1-2.
Like Temple and UCF, Memphis continued its winning ways, defeating South Alabama 42-6 behind another solid outing from junior quarterback Brady White. Despite only completing 12 of his 20 attempts, White still finished the afternoon with 209 yards and three touchdowns.
Inversely, Memphis had another stout defensive outing, limiting South Alabama to just 248 total yards and only nine completed passes between the Jaguars’ two quarterbacks. The Jaguars recorded just 101 rushing yards on 39 attempts, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry.
Memphis is off this upcoming weekend before opening conference play with a Sept. 26 showdown against Navy, who opened its conference slate Saturday with a 42-10 rout of East Carolina.
The Midshipmen’s victory was highlighted by the prolific outing from senior quarterback Malcolm Perry, who, despite throwing only seven passes all game, accounted for six touchdowns. In the air, Perry recorded two touchdowns on 151 yards and added another 156 yards on 24 carries for another four touchdowns.
As a whole, Navy recorded 315 yards just in rushing, while ECU notched just 222 yards, as the former improved to 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in conference play. The Pirates fell to 1-2 and 0-1 and will battle William & Mary Saturday.
SMU is the only other undefeated team left in the AAC following Saturday’s 47-17 triumph over Texas State. Two Mustangs recorded over 100 rushing yards, as freshman TJ McDaniel and senior Xavier Jones accounted for 159 and 108 yards, respectively.
The former found the end zone three times on just eight carries and averaged 19.9 yards per carry. SMU will have its toughest match of the season so far Saturday when it heads to Fort Worth to battle No. 25 TCU before opening conference play against USF Sept. 28.