State of the AAC: Cincinnati crushes Memphis to move to top 6 in AP, SMU gets back on track
The 2020 college football season is approaching the halfway point, in which it begins to be clear what each team’s identity and style really is and where the American Athletic Conference programs stand against each other.
This week, there was no shortage of conference play across all teams in the AAC, with the exception of South Florida.
Here’s is how the teams fared against each other this past weekend:
No. 6 Cincinnati (5-0, 3-0 AAC) vs Memphis (3-2, 2-2)
A rematch of last year’s AAC championship game took place in Cincinnati as Memphis hoped for a statement win against the undefeated Bearcats.
Cincinnati entered the game No. 7 in the AP Poll after beating the No. 18 SMU Mustangs a week ago and continued its onslaught on Saturday as it steamrolled through Memphis 49-10.
The Bearcats opened the game with a 43-yard strike from quarterback Desmond Ridder following a Memphis three and out. Memphis would go on with a 92-yard catch and run from freshman Tahj Washington to tie things up later in the quarter.
Cincinnati scored 42 points through the next three quarters, Ridder having two rushing and passing touchdowns to finish. Memphis was only able to muster up a 42-yard field goal during Cincinnati’s onslaught of points.
Ridder continued his success from last Saturday through the air and the ground, finishing with 312 yards and five touchdowns total, leading the dominant win. He was named the AAC’s offensive player of the week.
Memphis will look to bounce back against South Florida while Cincinnati will look to remain undefeated against UH.
No. 18 SMU (6-1, 3-1) vs Navy (3-4, 3-2)
SMU entered this game having only one loss to its record, and it kept it that way with a 51-37 win over Navy, despite being scoreless in the first quarter.
Navy opened the game forcing a punt and scoring on a 13-play drive that was capped off with a three-yard touchdown run by senior Nelson Smith, and another by junior Chance Warren, who finished with two on the night.
SMU’s success came from both the air and ground as senior quarterback Shane Buechele had 300 passing yards with three touchdowns in the contest while the SMU running backs had 239 rushing yards between them with 4 touchdowns.
Navy led 14-7 early but was outscored 44-3 as SMU led 51-17 during the fourth quarter. A late surge from Navy brought the game closer, but not nearly enough to make a comeback.
The Mustangs travel to Temple next week where they will look to keep their impressive season going, and Navy will be back home and try to bounce back against Tulsa.
UCF (4-2, 3-2) vs Houston (2-2, 2-1)
The Cougars were unable to slow down the red-hot UCF offense this week and lost 44-21 and also standout senior receiver Marquez Stevenson to an ankle injury in the process. While the severity is unknown, the 6-foot wideout did not return to last Saturday’s game.
Clayton Tune and the Houston offense started off slow and didn’t score a point on offense until the third quarter. Two punts and an interception on the opening three drives set the tone for the UCF defense as the Cougars were down 23-7 at the half with the only score coming off a fumble.
The Cougars’ struggles came from the offensive end for UH. Tune completed just over half of his passes and threw two interceptions in the process. The Cougars struggled to stop the run, the Knights totaled 353 rushing yards and three touchdowns between all three running-backs.
UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel had 328 passing yards along with two touchdowns to add to the dominant win as he continued his impressive season.
The Cougars now look to bounce back next week against No. 6 Cincinnati, and UCF will have the week off and look to keep their season going against Temple on Nov. 14.
Tulsa (3-1, 3-0) vs East Carolina (1-4, 1-3)
East Carolina headed to Oklahoma for a matchup against Tulsa in a game that came down to the wire. East Carolina came in off a close loss to Navy and Tulsa entered this one looking for a third straight win.
Tulsa’s senior quarterback Zach Smith struggled early and had two interceptions in the first half. Smith finished with the win with 253 passing yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Turnovers and penalties plagued both teams, each having three turnovers and over ten penalties (23 total).
Tulsa was able to turn it around in the second half, scoring touchdowns on the first two drives of the third quarter and then intercepting junior quarterback Holton Ahlers, who finished the night with 330 passing yards and three touchdowns.
The strong third quarter led to a rally, and Tulsa was able to complete the comeback and win the game off an 18-yard run by sophomore T.K Wilkerson, giving him 89 yards and his second touchdown.
Next week, Tulsa will travel to face Navy and look to stay undefeated against AAC opponents, which now sits at three wins, and East Carolina will try to get back on pace as it hosts Tulane.
Tulane (3-4, 1-4) vs Temple (1-3, 1-3)
Temple traveled to Louisiana to take on Tulane in a matchup where both sides needed a conference win. The Green Wave entered this game off a high scoring battle against UCF, which they ultimately lost, and Temple entered off a loss to Memphis.
This game was all Tulane, scoring 38 unanswered after Temple took a 3-0 lead early in the first and turned in an impressive 504 total yard performance in the win.
The running game was the key for Tulane, totaling 284 yards on the ground with two scores. Carries were split between three backs, all having over 50 yards each and sophomore Cameron Carroll and junior Amare Jones were the two to find the endzone.
Tulane dominated on both sides of the ball in a game where Temple couldn’t slow down the Green Wave offense nor find a way around their defense, making the game a near shutout.
Tulane will hope to keep things going against East Carolina next week and Temple will try to avoid three straight losses and pull off an upset against No. 18 SMU.