AAC Week 9 picks: Memphis vs. Cincinnati & 3 more
Cincinnati’s statement win over SMU pushed the program into the national spotlight. The ninth-ranked team in America has another chance to assert its dominance over the American Athletic Conference on a packed slate of games on Halloween.
#7 Cincinnati vs. Memphis
Sat, October 31 2020, 4:00 PM
In a conference defined by pass-heavy offenses that produce a ton of points, the Bearcats are winning with defense and a quarterback that’s just as successful with his legs as his arm.
In what was supposed to be a matchup between the AAC’s top two teams last week, Cincinnati completely crushed SMU in the second half. Desmond Ridder made one big play after another in the run game, racking up 179 yards and three touchdowns on only eight carries (22.4 yards per carry). He actually had fewer passing yards, but still completed 62% of his passes and connected on a score.
Cincinnati has been in the discussion as the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six representative before, but this win actually had some folks talking about the Bearcats in the College Football Playoff. The emotional fallout from the victory gives the Tigers an opportunity to pounce.
Memphis could have been in the position Cincinnati currently finds itself, if not for a 50-yard field goal by SMU at the buzzer. Rodrigues Clark is the AAC’s leading rusher, averaging 105.25 yards per game. Calvin Austin III is one of only three players in the conference to average more than 100 receiving yards per game. Quarterback Brady White is second in the AAC in passing, throwing 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
The Tigers have all of the tools to be the best team in the AAC, but a lengthy COVID-19 absence early in the season prevented Memphis from ever getting into a rhythm.
Cincinnati is successful because of their ability to keep teams off-balance. The defense ranks first or second in the conference in every major statistical category. They bring pressure and get stops. Then the offense goes on long drives, preventing opponents from ever establishing any sort of offensive continuity. Memphis has enough weapons to potentially keep up, but I can’t see Cincinnati slipping up at home.
Navy vs. #22 SMU
Sat, October 31 2020, 11:30 PM
Southern Methodist Mustangs
This is the ideal spot for a SMU get-right game. The Mustang defense got their doors blown open in the second half against Cincinnati, where they were killed by Desmond Ridder on the ground. Navy’s triple-option isn’t the same kind of QB run attack that gave SMU fits. They also just don’t have talent that’s in the same stratosphere. After getting punched in the mouth a week ago, SMU punches back against the Midshipmen.
Central Florida vs. Houston
Sat, October 31 2020, 6:00 PM
Central Florida Knights
Who’s ready for a shootout in the Lone Star State? Lower those hands, folks. Josh Heupel and Dana Holgorsen both make their money by drawing up gameplans that produce a ton of passing yards and points. That’s why the total is inflated well into the 80s, even though SP+ calls for it to be 20 points lower, projecting a 63 point total. Zig where the uninformed gambler zags and take the under.
East Carolina vs. Tulsa
Sat, October 31 2020, 1:00 AM
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
East Carolina Pirates
One of three Friday night college football games this week, Vegas is giving bettors nothing easy. The Golden Hurricane are obviously a superior team and should win handily, but by three scores? East Carolina runs the ball effectively, just shy of 200 yards a game to rank fifth in the AAC. The Pirates will possess the ball long enough to prevent Tulsa from blowing this game wide open.