Week 1 American Athletic Conference Roundup
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Go ahead and add Temple to the mix of American contenders
In the short history of American Athletic Conference football, Saturday was the pinnacle of the league’s existence. And Temple helped make it all possible with a stunning deconstruction of Penn State.
The American went 8-0 on Saturday, with the Owls carrying the conference banner at the Linc in Philadelphia. They shoved around Penn State, a Big Ten team that owns the state of Pennsylvania as well as this series, last losing to Temple in 1941.
On Saturday afternoon, though, roles were reversed. The Owl D, which just might be the best among Group of Five programs, held the Lions to nine first downs, 180 total yards and no points over the final 51 minutes. It also sacked Christian Hackenberg 10 times with a constant flow of pressure from the first two levels.
Temple is for real. And if Jahad Thomas runs the way he did against Penn State and QB P.J. Walker manages games without mistakes, there’s no cap to how high the Owls can ascend in the conference. Unrelenting defense. Disciplined running game. Unremarkable passing attack. Think poor-man’s ‘Bama.
From the league that produced tri-champs, Memphis, Cincinnati and UCF, in 2014, Temple must now be added into the muddled mix of contenders. The Knights have already fallen to Florida International, and the Tigers lost a lot of key defensive personnel from a year ago.
And that leaves the Bearcats, which happen to host the Owls this Saturday. Win at Nippert Stadium, Temple, and you become more than the league frontrunner—you’re a threat to Boise State’s quest for a second straight Big Six bowl bid.
Temple gave Penn State a black eye in Week 1. In the process, it also helped give a much-needed identity to a conference still smarting from recent defections to the Big Ten and the ACC.
UCF: The ground game
Florida International has underrated talent on defense, sure, but the Knights’ offensive performance on opening night was utterly atrocious. UCF managed just 46 rushing yards on 30 carries, despite getting a decent effort out of QB Justin Holman. It’ll be a long season in Orlando if the Knights can’t fix the running game—and the O-line.
SMU: QB Matt Davis
While Baylor put a hurting on SMU, 56-21, the Mustangs hung with the Bears for a half, which is something. Plus, Davis took another important step to being the kind of playmaker new head coach Chad Morris can build an offensive around. Without much support, Davis went 16-of-23 for 166 yards, two touchdowns and two picks, adding 115 yards on the ground.
Tulsa: The offense is off and running
Head coach Philip Montgomery promised a fast-paced, high-scoring attack when he was hired away from Baylor. So far, so good for the Golden Hurricane, which rolled up 618 yards and six touchdowns in the 47-44 overtime win against Florida Atlantic. The D needs a ton of work, but Tulsa can revel for now in the passing of Dane Evans and the complementary ground game of Zack Langer and D’Angelo Brewer.
East Carolina: RB Chris Hairston
If not for the running of Hairston on Saturday, the Pirates might not have survived the visit from FCS Towson. Blake Kemp, a backup before Kurt Benkert was injured in August, struggled to make plays through the air and failed to throw to throw a touchdown pass. Enter Hairston, a patient senior who helped bail out ECU with 154 yards and all four of the team’s touchdowns on only 18 carries.
South Florida: The quarterbacks
Fingers are crossed around Tampa that Saturday’s output from the quarterbacks, starter Quinton Flowers and backup Steven Bench, was a harbinger of things to come. The fact that Florida A&M was on the other side of the ball matters little considering how putrid USF has been at the position in recent years. Flowers and Bench combined for a tight 20-of-26 for 281 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. And top targets, TE Elkanah Dillon and WR D’Ernest Johnson, are still young and improving.
Tulane: The defense
It’s only one game—and it was versus the ACC’s Duke—but the Green Wave’s dreams of rebounding from last season are already in jeopardy. Tulane was trucked at home by the Blue Devils, allowing 530 yards at home to a team with a first-time starting quarterback. LB Nico Marley was a guided missile, as usual, but the rest of the D was toothless, failing to register a sack.
American Athletic Player of the Week
Temple LB Tyler Matakevich notched team highs with seven tackles and three sacks in the upset of Penn State.
American Athletic Best Game of the Week
Tulsa 47, Florida Atlantic 44 OT
American Athletic Conference Rankings After Week 1
American Athletic East
1. Temple (1-0)
2. Cincinnati (1-0)
3. East Carolina (1-0)
4. UCF (0-1)
5. South Florida (1-0)
6. Connecticut (1-0)
American Athletic West
1. Houston (1-0)
2. Navy (1-0)
3. Memphis (1-0)
4. SMU (0-1)
5. Tulsa (1-0)
6. Tulane (0-1)
American Athletic Conference Scores & Picks: How’d We Do?
American Athletic Conference Predictions, Week 1: Straight Up 9-2, Against The Spread: 1-3
FIU 15, at UCF 14
Line: UCF -17, o/u: 46.5, Prediction: UCF 30, Florida International 17
Connecticut 20, Villanova 15
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: Connecticut 24, Villanova 21
Baylor 56, SMU 21
Line: Baylor -36, o/u: 74, Prediction: Baylor 52, SMU 10
Navy 48, Colgate 10
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: Navy 52, Colgate 14
Tulsa 47, Florida Atlantic 44 OT
Line: Tulsa -7, o/u: 62.5, Prediction: Tulsa 34, Florida Atlantic 24
Temple 27, Penn State 10
Line: Penn State -7, o/u: 39, Prediction: Penn State 28, Temple 17
East Carolina 28, Towson 20
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: East Carolina 31, Towson 23
Memphis 63, Missouri State 7
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: Memphis 55, Missouri State 10
South Florida 51, Florida A&M 3
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: South Florida 35, Florida A&M 21
Cincinnati 52, Alabama A&M 10 ESPN3
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: Cincinnati 62, Alabama A&M 7
Houston 52, Tennessee Tech 24
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: Houston 52, Tennessee Tech 7