Is UCF showing signs of vulnerability? | AAC football notes

UCF SMU Football
Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton (10) drops back to pass as SMU linebacker Shaine Hailey (30) defends during the first half Saturday.

Central Florida, with the nation’s best scoring offense, was solid but not dominating for the second time in three games. The unbeaten Knights held on in the American Athletic Conference game for a 31-24 win at SMU, their smallest margin of victory this season.

Could that give Temple hope when it hosts the Knights a week from Saturday at noon at Lincoln Financial Field?

It would still be a major upset if Temple did beat UCF, which is No. 18 in the most recent College Football Playoff Rankings, the highest ranked Group of Five school. If the Knights win their final three games, they will play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

UCF still leads the nation in scoring, averaging 48.5 points. On Oct. 21, the Knights also went well below their season average in a 31-21 win at Navy.

And last week, UCF had to feel fortunate to leave Dallas with a victory.

“It was a heavyweight fight; they are extremely explosive,” SMU coach Chad Morris said about UCF during Monday’s AAC media call.

In its first seven games, UCF (8-0, 5-0 AAC) committed a total of five turnovers. SMU forced the Knights into three turnovers, leading directly to 14 points.

SMU (6-3, 3-2) is among the more improved teams in the AAC. The Mustangs, who went 5-7 last year, are already bowl-eligible. SMU might have the best set of receivers in the nation in Trey Quinn (90 receptions 921 yards, seven TDs) and potential NFL first-round pick Courtland Sutton (48 receptions, 752 yards, nine TDs).

The Mustangs can’t relax because they will visit Navy on Saturday. The Midshipmen have lost three in a row, including Thursday’s 34-26 defeat to Temple at Lincoln Financial Field.

One thing to watch is SMU’s rush defense. Navy is second in the nation in rushing, averaging 346.1 yards. SMU has allowed 200 or more yards rushing in four consecutive games.

Temple moving up

The win over Navy pushed the Owls to seventh in the weekly AAC power ratings, voted on by beat writers from all the teams. The Owls were 10th last week.

Here are the latest ratings:

  1. Central Florida (8-0, 5-0)
  2. Memphis (8-1, 5-1)
  3. South Florida (8-1, 5-1)
  4. Houston (6-3, 4-2)
  5. SMU (6-3, 3-2)
  6. Navy (5-3, 3-3)
  7. Temple (4-5, 2-3)
  8. Cincinnati (3-6, 1-4)
  9. Connecticut (3-6, 2-4)
  10. Tulane (3-6, 1-4)
  11. Tulsa (2-8, 1-5)
  12. East Carolina (2-7, 1-4)

High-flying Tigers

Memphis has scored 40 or more points in four of its five AAC wins. The Tigers would win the AAC West Division with wins in their final two home games, against SMU and East Carolina.

Senior Riley Ferguson has completed 218 of 359 passes for 2,881 yards, 27 TDs and seven interceptions.

Impressive start and relief appearance

In his first start at quarterback, converted receiver D’Eriq King threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score in Houston’s 52-27 win over East Carolina.

In that game, ECU quarterback Gardner Minshew came off the bench in the Pirates’ third series and completed 52 of 68 passes for 463 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. He set an AAC single-game record for completions.

And finally …

The AAC is the only FBS conference that has three teams that are unbeaten or have only one loss: UCF (8-0), South Florida (8-1) and Memphis (8-1).

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