Very up and down week for the conference as a whole; there was a ton of offense, but not necessarily by everyone, and defenses in several places did not have the greatest of weeks. Everyone wanted to get into a track meet, but not everybody pulled it off. There’s a good bit to talk about, so what say we just jump right into the business?
South Florida and Houston – The Bulls more or less manhandled the Fighting Illini from whistle to whistle, as a lightning delay showed no ill effects for the USF offense and Quinton Flowers. OK sure, it took the Bulls a little bit of time to get a rhythm, but I’ll focus more on their 680 yards of offense and 47 points than I will on exactly how they got to that point.
The Cougars, meanwhile, did what they needed to do; they fired out to a 38-0 dominant halftime lead over Rice and then put it in neutral for the second half, and still managed a 38-3 win. Kyle Allen, Duke Catalon and Ed Oliver all looked impressive, we just now need to see them do it against a team that isn’t Rice.
Memphis’ passing offense – I suppose you could say I buried the lede, because Memphis taking down UCLA and Josh Rosen was the real highlight of this weekend to me, as Riley Ferguson threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns for the Tigers in order to stay ahead of the UCLA Bruins all the way until the final whistle. Anthony Miller caught nine passes for 185 yards, Joey Magnifico had another six catches for 83 yards, and two more players had only one catch but went for 40+ yards. Some of that was UCLA’s defense but it bodes well for the Tigers’ ability to get or stay ahead this season.
Tulsa’s rushing offense – D’Angelo Brewer, Shamari Brooks, and Chad President combined to run the ball 68 times for 423 yards and 6 touchdowns. You know you’ve got things clicking whenever the defense knows without a doubt that you’re probably going to run and they’re still defenseless to stop it. We’ll see if Brewer’s late-game injury is anything to be concerned about long-term, but this is good for a Tulsa team who at worst can rack up some serious ground yards and time of possession.
Defense in general – UConn, ECU, Memphis, Tulsa, Tulane, and SMU all gave up over 600 yards and UConn was the only team in that group to hold their opponent under 45 points. We know that the AAC is built on offense and shootouts, but this is a bit ridiculous. You can’t just keep your fingers crossed and hope to win a shootout every week.
Then again, these teams start playing each other soon, and I suppose there are a lot worse things that two months of 66-63 games.
Hayden Moore – It worries me that this is Luke Fickell’s best option under center. Against Austin Peay he completed 61% of his passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns – not great, but efficient. Then against Michigan, you figured that his suffering through two interceptions, 140 yards and a 38% completion rate was as much Michigan’s apparently very skilled defense as it was anything else. But for him to then manage a measly 24-for-43 for 222 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against the Miami (OH) Redhawks tells us it’s not the defense he’s facing, it’s the offense he is running. I say measly because that line is bolstered by going 6-for-8 for 75 yards and a TD on UC’s last touchdown drive. The Bearcats need to find some offense soon, or conference play is going to be a hot mess.
Penalties – USF and Illinois had 31 penalties between them. UCLA and Memphis had 21. Tulsa and Toledo had 24. Some of this was bad refereeing, but most of it was sloppy play by these AAC teams that kept their wins from being bigger, and which they need to clean up sooner rather than later so they can get out of their own damn way and get some momentum.
East Carolina and UConn – The Pirates actually managed to rack up 213 yards and 17 points on their three first-quarter drives and raced out to a 17-7 lead. Unfortunately, that one good quarter was more than undone the rest of the way, as ECU gained one yard of total offense on their next five droves, and Gardner Minshew was 0-for-6 with an interception. and what turned into a 64-17 final actually could have been worse if not for three Virginia Tech drives that stalled in the red zone in the first half.
UConn, on the other hand, tried the opposite tactic of showing up late. The Huskies managed to snag two interceptions and a sack in just over two quarters of football but still trailed 31-0 when Bryant Shirreffs finally found Hergy Mayala for a 60-yard touchdown pass in the last minute of the third quarter. Starting with that throw, Shirreffs was 11-12 for 140 yards and two touchdowns from then on – unfortunately, he was 7-of-14 for 87 yards and a touchdown prior to that touchdown bomb, which is how UConn got in that mess to begin with.
And, oh look, these two teams will play each other next weekend. On Sunday at noon Eastern, which feels very appropriate somehow,