Around the AAC
Cincinnati’s week 13 opponent Temple beat week 12 opponent USF. It was an ugly game on Thursday night, but Temple got a key road win in Tampa to stay mathematically alive in the AAC East race. Temple would win the AAC East with a win over Cincinnati and one more UC loss. USF is 4-5 and must go 2-1 in their final three games (against Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF) to make a bowl game.
Tulsa FINALLY got one! Remember when we all panicked because of how bad Cincinnati played against Tulsa a few weeks ago? Tulsa has gotten sooo, sooo close against a really difficult schedule all year. They hung around with Cincinnati, had SMU on the ropes (led 23-9 before losing in OT), and should have beaten Memphis. Well, on Saturday they finally closed the deal, beating UCF, thanks to 3 UCF turnovers and Tulsa backup QB Seth Boomer. The loss essentially eliminates UCF from winning the AAC East.
Last week, Cincinnati survived against East Carolina in a surprisingly close game. ECU’s offense kept chugging, putting up 51 points and 644 yards against SMU. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as they lost 59-51. ECU QB Holton Ahlers threw for 498 yards and 6 TDs and WR Tyler Snead caught 19 passes, 240 yards, and 3 TDs.
Fickell Watch 2019
Luke Fickell will be mentioned for several head coaching openings around college football. Cincinnati is 20-3 since the start of 2018 so it’s only natural. But as I have long suggested, don’t expect him to leave Cincinnati anytime soon.
That said, it’s worth monitoring some of the potential jobs that are open.
Michigan State blows 28-3 lead to Illinois
Lovie Smith has done an awesome job with the Illini, who are now 6-4 and bowl eligible. The loss, at home, blowing a major lead, drops the Spartans to 4-5 and there needs to be serious discussions in East Lansing about Mark Dantonios’ job status.
On the other side, Illinois success means Smith will no doubt retain his job. I thought this could be a spot for Cincy defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, if he made a major jump from assistant to head coach at the P5 level.
USC keeps pace in Pac-12 South
Despite being 6-4, with rumors swirling about the future of Clay Helton, I bet you didn’t know that the Trojans are still just 1 game back of Utah in the PAC-12 South. USC just poaching UC AD Mike Bohn, so it’s easy to connect Fickell to USC, though he has zero geographic ties to USC and the Trojans are likely to aim much higher (Urban Meyer). Still, until this job is filled, it will worry some people around Cincinnati.
Strength of Schedule
Miami beat Ohio in MACtion on Wednesday night and are now in first place in the MAC East. Miami is 4-1 with three games to go. Ohio is 3-2 and is essentially two games back now.
UCLA did not play. But don’t look now, the Bruins are 4-2 in PAC-12 play and actually control their own destiny to win the South division, if they can beat Utah next week.
Marshall is in position to win the C-USA East. They did not play in week 11, but if they win out against a very good Louisiana Tech team, Charlotte and FIU, because of the head-to-head tiebreaker over FAU, they will play in C-USA Championship Game.
Boise State trailed 17-10 at home against Wyoming entering the fourth quarter, but won 20-17 in overtime. Broncos are 8-1 and strength of schedule is what separates them from the group of AAC contenders. If Boise finishes 12-1 and the AAC champion is also 12-1, it is highly unlikely the Broncos would be ranked higher. However, should Cincinnati (or someone) slip up in the final few weeks, a 1-loss Boise would likely get the Cotton Bowl nod over the Bearcats. Boise’s toughest game remaining is at Utah State on 11/23.
San Diego State entered Saturday 7-1 and was also thought be a darkhorse G5 champion contender, but a 17-13 home loss to Nevada ends their Cotton Bowl dreams.
Appalachian State survived and beat their second power 5 conference team of the season, knocking off South Carolina. Beating the “team that beat Georgia” is certainly an impressive feather for the cap, even if that team is 4-6 and not very good. A loss to Georgia Southern a couple weeks ago will cost the Mountaineers their shot at the Cotton Bowl, pending chaos. The strength of Sun Belt schedule does not benefit App State and the weakness of the two P5s (South Carolina, UNC) does not benefit them either.
Louisiana Tech beat North Texas 52-17. If chaos ensures, it is far more likely that the Bulldogs would enter the picture, over App State, and possibly over Boise State. They are 8-1, rattling off 8 straight wins after a season opening loss to Texas and they play Marshall on 11/16.