State of the AAC: Memphis recovers spot in AP poll
The battle for the American Athletic West heated up as the Memphis Tigers returned to the AP Poll this week, sliding in at No. 24, after missing the Top-25 for the past two weeks.
The Tigers (7-1, 3-1) needed every bit of their high-powered offense and missed field goal as time expired to fend off the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes’ (2-6, 0-4) upset bid, claiming a 42-41 victory in Tulsa on Saturday.
Freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell continued his remarkable season for the Tigers as he accumulated 149 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. Gainwell has rushed for 979 yards through Memphis’ eight games, the highest in the conference. He has also found the end zone 11 times, the third-best tally in the AAC.
As a team, the Tigers recorded 498 yards in Saturday’s outing. Despite the prolific offense they have to offer, they were out-gained in yards by the upset-minded Hurricanes who racked up 584 total yards.
Memphis showcased its multidimensional offense as junior quarterback Brady White completed 15 of his 25 passing attempts to record 277 yards and two touchdowns. White is first in the conference in completion percentage (69.0), yards per attempt (10.3) and tied for passing touchdowns (20). His 2,161 yards are the fourth-most in the AAC.
The biggest game for the Tigers this season (and perhaps the AAC as a whole) comes Saturday evening as they will host the undefeated and first-in-the-West No. 15 SMU Tigers (8-0, 4-0) which will be the location of ESPN’s College GameDay.
UCF (6-2, 3-1), the preseason favorite to win the conference, continued its chase of No. 17 Cincinnati (6-1, 3-0) in the AAC East as it throttled Temple (5-3, 2-2) 63-21.
The Knights outscored the Owls 35-0 in the second half to cap the victory. The Saturday night showing saw UCF record 614 yards, including 218 from freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel. The Hawaiian completed 10 of 21 attempts and notched three touchdowns. He ranks second in the conference in passing yards with 2,218 and has also earned 20 passing touchdowns.
However, the highlight of the night for the Knights was its running game, including junior running back Otis Anderson’s 205-yard outing, which saw him find the end zone and roar for a 54-yard run. As a whole, UCF recorded five rushing touchdowns, its most since its week two victory over Florida Atlantic.
UCF will head to Houston (3-5, 1-3) on Saturday.
Navy (6-1, 4-1) remained alive in the AAC West with its 41-38 defeat of Tulane (5-3, 2-2) on Saturday as freshman kicker Bijon Nichols nailed a 48-yard field goal as time expired.
The Midshipmen did what they do better than anyone in the nation and racked up 385 yards rushing. Navy averages 350.7 yards per game on the ground, the most in FBS.
Sophomore running back Jamale Carothers recorded 154 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries, while senior quarterback Malcolm Perry added another 142 rushing yards on 22 carries.
Navy will travel to UConn (2-6, 0-4) on Friday while Tulane will host Tulsa on Saturday.
Elsewhere, USF (4-4, 2-2) defeated ECU (3-5, 0-4) 45-20. The Pirates will look to upset the Bearcats on Saturday while USF will have the weekend off.