Monday, May 20, 2024

Around the American: Week 9

Welcome to As For Football’s newest column, Around the American. We’re going to try to catch you up on all things AAC — because we love college football! — and to help you keep Army’s weekly performances in context with the rest of the conference starting next year.

Let’s get into it.

Tulane Stays in the New Year’s Six Race, While Rice Shows They’re the “Real Deal”

Tulane’s (7-1, 4-0) encore to their feel-good 2022 Cotton Bowl run has not received anything like the recognition that it deserves. With James Madison left to languish in post-FCS Hell despite putting together a truly magical season, and apparently no one but the AFF Crew watching Liberty, Air Force remains the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six frontrunner. Unfortunately, the Green Wave own a loss — to then-#20 Ole Miss — and are probably gonna wind up on the outside looking in as a result. However, they’ve still had a truly noteworthy season in their own right. 

Still, that season has not come without a few scares. Tulane got one just this past Saturday when Rice (4-4, 2-2) came roaring back late, only to fall just short of completing the comeback. Final score: Tulane 30, Rice 28. 

Is this a trend? A week after blowing a 21-point lead against North Texas, the Green Wave nearly blew a 20-point lead to the Owls. This tendency to not close out games could come back to haunt the Green Wave in the very near future. They have tough tests coming against UTSA and possibly SMU or Memphis should one of those teams make the American Championship Championship Game.

Meanwhile, Rice Head Coach Mike Bloomgren strengthened his case for AAC Coach of the Year. The Owls continue to exceed expectations overall, and in fact, they now look to be on their way to back-to-back bowls for the first time since 2013-2014. They might even be a dark horse to win the conference overall next season.

Memphis, SMU, and UTSA Jockey for Second Place

Southern Methodist dropped 52 points in the first half on their way to a 69-10 thrashing of Tulsa this past weekend. QB Preston Stone completed 15/20 passes for 371 yards and 3 touchdowns. That gave him a nearly perfect Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 99.5. Meanwhile, UTSA QB Frank Harris shined with 395 yards and 4 touchdowns for the Roadrunners in a 41-27 win over East Carolina. Both schools stayed undefeated in league play with victories against two conference bottom feeders.

Memphis had the most trouble of these three schools, nearly squandering a 31-10 lead to North Texas before a miracle 36-yard touchdown pass from QB Seth Henigan to WR Joseph Scates bailed the Tigers out. To date, the Tigers’ only AAC loss has come against Tulane.

With four weeks to play, two games might well decide who plays in the AAC Championship Game. SMU goes to Memphis on November 18, while Tulane hosts UTSA on Black Friday. If SMU beats Memphis, and Tulane beats UTSA, the title game will be Tulane-SMU. By comparison, Memphis beating SMU, and UTSA beating Tulane creates a nightmare scenario with four teams that each own one-loss records in the conference. 

Who doesn’t love chaos?

No matter the outcome, the AAC Championship race looks set to thrill right to the finish.

Is FAU a Contender?

While Charlotte Coach Biff Poggi’s antics and subsequent suspension of multiple players stole headlines Friday night, it was Florida Atlantic who took care of business out on the field. Former Central Michigan QB Daniel Richardson continued to fill in admirably for starter Casey Thompson for the Owls. Richardson threw for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns, while WR LaJohntay Wester himself put on a clinic with 10 receptions for 149 yards and 2 of those touchdowns.

Halfway through their conference slate, FAU now sits 3-1 in conference play. Looking forward, they have games against Alabama-Birmingham (2-6, 1-3), East Carolina (1-7, 0-4), Tulane, and Rice. The Tulane match-up remains the marquee game. FAU will welcome the Green Wave on November 18. 

Friends, the Owls can earn a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Green Wave if they win out. They still might need some help, though, as a 36-10 loss to UTSA puts them at a disadvantage in any subsequent tiebreaker scenarios that might follow-on. However, if they get a little help from at least one of UTSA’s opponents, FAU could still potentially find themselves playing for the league title on December 2nd. 

Current American Conference Bowl Projections

Fenway Bowl (Boston, MA):

Memphis vs. Syracuse

Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, FL):

Tulane vs. Auburn

Cure Bowl (Orlando, FL):

USF vs. Georgia Southern

Frisco Bowl (Frisco, TX):

Rice vs. Texas State

Boca Raton Bowl (Boca Raton, FL):

FAU vs Georgia State

Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD):

Navy vs NC State

Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu, HI):

UTSA vs. Boise State

First Responder Bowl (Dallas, TX):

West Virginia vs. SMU

Got questions? Drop them below!

Cover image via @GreenWaveFB.

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