State of the AAC: Mustangs rock The American with 4-0 record
With the fall of UCF, the American Athletic Conference’s perennial power over the past two seasons, to Pittsburgh Saturday evening, a new conference foe arises to push for a New Year’s Six Bowl: SMU.
SMU knocked off No. 25 TCU 41-38 in Fort Worth Saturday evening on the heels of junior quarterback Shane Buechele’s 288 yards and two touchdowns, capping the Mustang’s first 4-0 start in 35 years. Buechele’s 205 yards came between Reggie Roberson Jr. and Kyle Granson, both juniors, notching 122 and 83 yards respectively.
The defeat over the Horned Frogs was the third straight Mustang victory over an in-state opponent and the third straight game where they have scored 40 or more points. SMU has eclipsed 400 yards all four games this season.
The sole 4-0 team in the conference will strive for its second bowl appearance in three years when it opens conference play at South Florida Saturday.
As for UCF, it suffered just its second loss in 30 games as the Knights’ trip to Pittsburgh ended with a last-minute trick play to give the Panthers a 35-34 victory.
While freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel’s 338 yards were his second-most of the season, his two interceptions and 59.5 percent completion hindered the two-time defending AAC champions’ second straight Power Five victory bid.
For the first time this season, and the first time since its Fiesta Bowl loss to LSU last season, UCF was outgained by an opponent in yards, recording 423 compared to Pitt’s 439. With the loss, any hope of the Knights sneaking into the College Football Playoff are gone. UCF, 3-1, will look to return to winning ways Saturday when it hosts a struggling UConn team to commence conference play.
Temple, a streaky team this season, was brought back down to Earth Saturday afternoon via a 16-point defeat to Buffalo in New York. The Owls failed to bank off their momentum from the previous weekend’s upset victory over then No. 21 Maryland, losing to the Bulls 38-22.
Despite the rather lopsided defeat, Temple actually outgained its opponent and junior quarterback Anthony Russo threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns while completing 25 of 51 attempts. However, his three interceptions, two of which led directly to Buffalo touchdowns, overshadowed the afternoon performance. Buffalo also capitalized on a Russo fumble to setup another touchdown.
The Owl defense showcased the strengths of this team, allowing only 62 passing yards Saturday. Temple’s average of 143.7 passing yards per game is the seventh-best in the nation and second in the conference behind Memphis, the best passing defense in the land.
Temple, now 2-1, will look to bounce back and add another Power Five victory Saturday against Georgia Tech.
Elsewhere, Tulsa and ECU both picked up non-conference wins over the weekend as the former defeated Wyoming 24-21, and the latter bested William & Mary 19-7. Both teams are now 2-2. UConn was nearly blanked against Indiana 34-3, dropping to 1-2.
The marquee game of the weekend in the AAC will be Thursday night’s showdown between two unbeatens: Memphis, 3-0, and Navy, 2-0. Both teams are coming off bye weeks.