Week 15 Conference Notes: American Athletic Conference

THIS WEEK IN THE AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

THIS WEEK
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11
Navy vs. Army 3 p.m.
Television: CBS
Series: Navy leads, 61-53-7
Last Meeting: Dec. 12, 2020 (Army, 15-0)

 

BOWL SEASON

MONDAY, DECEMBER 20
MYRTLE BEACH BOWL
Tulsa vs. Old Dominion……………………………………….2:30 p.m.
Series: First meeting

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 23
UNION HOME MORTGAGE GASPARILLA BOWL
UCF vs. Florida……………………………………………………………. 7 p.m.
Series: Florida leads, 2-0
Last Meeting: Sept. 9, 2006 (Florida, 42-0)

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24
EASYPOST HAWAII BOWL
Memphis vs. Hawaii…………………………………………………..8 p.m.
Series: First meeting

MONDAY, DECEMBER 27
MILITARY BOWL presented by Peraton
East Carolina vs. Boston College…………………….2:30 p.m.
Series: First meeting

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 28
TICKETSMARTER BIRMINGHAM BOWL
Houston vs. Auburn …………………………………………………….Noon
Series: Auburn leads, 5-1
Last Meeting: Oct. 27, 1973 (Auburn, 7-0)

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 29
WASABI FENWAY BOWL
SMU vs. Virginia…………………………………………………………11 a.m.
Series: First meeting

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF SEMIFINAL
GOODYEAR COTTON BOWL
Cincinnati vs. Alabama……………………………………….3:30 p.m.
Series: Alabama leads, 5-0
Last Meeting: Nov. 17, 1990 (Alabama, 45-7)

 

AMERICAN NOTEBOOK 

Glass Ceiling
Cincinnati became the first American Athletic Conference team to reach the College Football Playoff when the Bearcats were No. 4 in the final CFP ranking.

One And Only …
Cincinnati finished the regular season as the nation’s only unbeaten team (13-0).

… But Not The Only One
The American Athletic Conference has had an undefeated team entering Bowl Season in four of the last five seasons (UCF in 2017 and 2018; Cincinnati in 2020 and 2021).

Variety Show
The American Athletic Conference is the only Division I conference that had a team in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Final Four (Houston) and in the 2021 College Football Playoff (Cincinnati).

Mark Your Calendars
Cincinnati’s selection to the CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl marks the seventh time in the nine-year history of The American that the league has had a team in a Bowl Championship Series or CFP New Year’s Six bowl.

The American in BCS/New Year’s Six Bowls
2013 UCF 52, Baylor 42 (Fiesta Bowl)
2015 Houston 38, Florida State 24 (Peach Bowl)
2017 UCF 34, Auburn 27 (Peach Bowl)
2018 LSU 40, UCF 32 (Fiesta Bowl)
2019 Penn State 53, Memphis 39 (Cotton Bowl)
2020 Georgia 24, Cincinnati 21 (Peach Bowl)

Magnificent Seven
Seven of The American’s 11 teams will play in Bowl Season in 2021. American Athletic Conference teams will face three opponents from the SEC in bowl games. The American has two bowl games against the ACC and one each against the Mountain West and Conference USA.

Cream Of The Crop
Houston and Cincinnati, the two teams that competed in this year’s American Athletic Conference Championship, had a combined record of 23-1 entering Championship Week. The only other FBS championship game in which the teams had a similar record is the SEC (Georgia and Alabama).

Combined Records of FBS Conference Championship Participants
23-1 American Cincinnati, Houston
SEC Georgia, Alabama
21-3 Big Ten Michigan, Iowa
Big 12 Oklahoma State, Baylor
Sun Belt Appalachian State, Louisiana
20-4 ACC Pitt, Wake Forest
Mountain West Utah State, San Diego State
19-5 Conference USA UTSA, Western Kentucky
Pac-12 Oregon, Utah
15-9 MAC Kent State, Northern Illinois

We’re Streaking!
Cincinnati’s 13-game winning streak is the longest active streak in FBS football. The Bearcats have gone 22-1 in the last two seasons.

Bullies

Cincinnati has won 38 consecutive games against unranked teams.

Consistency
Cincinnati has been ranked in 41 consecutive national polls, dating to the rankings of Oct. 6, 2019.

Variety Show
Nine of the 11 American Athletic Conference schools have been ranked in the top 25 since the 2018 season.

Rejection Letters
East Carolina CB Ja’Quan McMillian enters the postseason as the NCAA FBS leader in passes defended (1.8 per game).

Encore
Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder became the second player to repeat as The American’s Offensive Player of the Year, joining former UCF QB McKenzie Milton (2017, 2018).

Encore
Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder became the second player to repeat as The American’s Offensive Player of the Year, joining former UCF QB McKenzie Milton (2017, 2018).

Keeping Up With Jones
Houston CB Marcus Jones, who is the 2021 American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Year, is the national leader in both four special teams touchdowns. Jones has two TDs on kickoff returns and two on punt returns.

Point Production
SMU QB Tanner Mordecai set the American Athletic Conference’s single-season record with 39 touchdown passes. Mordecai broke the old mark of 38, set by former Memphis QB Riley Ferguson.

Murderers’ Row
Navy has played the third-toughest schedule nationally according to the NCAA’s strength-of-schedule rating. Eleven of the Midshipmen’s 12 opponents in 2021 are playing in bowl games.

Been There, Done That
Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell was chosen as the 2021 Home Depot Coach of the Year, becoming the second American Athletic Coach in five years to win that honor. Former UCF coach Scott Frost was the 2017 winner.

Cue The Punt Team
Houston leads the nation in third down defense. The Cougars have held opponents to 25.6-percent efficiency on third down (44 of 172).

Got It Covered

Cincinnati enters Bowl Season as the national leader in pass efficiency defense (100.47). The Bearcats have limited opponents to a 53.5% completion rate and have allowed only 10 passing touchdowns.

Monitoring
A look at where current American Athletic Conference players rank on the league’s career charts:

Career Passing Yards
1. 10,782 Dane Evans, Tulsa (2014-16)
2. 10,690 Brady White, Memphis (2018-20)
3. 10,668 Phillip Walker, Temple (2013-16)
4. 10,219 Holton Ahlers, East Carolina (2018-21)
5. 10,095 Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (2018-21)

Career Touchdown Passes
1. 90 Brady White, Memphis (2018-20)
2. 87 Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (2018-21)
3. 80 Dane Evans, Tulsa (2014-16)

Career Rushing Yards
1. 4,359 Malcolm Perry, Navy (2016-19)
2. 3,917 D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa (2014-17)
3. 3,672 Quinton Flowers, South Florida (2014-17)
4. 3,622 Shamari Brooks, Tulsa (2017-19, 2021)

Career Total Offense
1. 12,280 Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (2018-21)
2. 11,802 Quinton Flowers, South Florida (2014-17)
3. 11,481 Holton Ahlers, East Carolina (2018-21)

Career Touchdown Responsibility
1. 117 Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (2018-21)
2. 112 Quinton Flowers, South Florida (2014-17)
3. 97 Brady White, Memphis (2018-20)
4. 92 McKenzie Milton, UCF (2016-18)
5. 91 Greg Ward Jr., Houston (2013-16)
6. 89 Dane Evans, Tulsa (2014-16)
7. 88 Holton Ahlers, East Carolina (2018-21)

 

TALKING POINTS

UCF
8-4, 5-3 American
@UCF_Football
Last: Beat South Florida, 17-13
Next: Dec. 23 vs. Florida (ESPN)
American Ranks
Total Offense………………………….399.6 ………………….. 7th
Total Defense………………………….368.7 …………………..4th
Scoring Offense ………………………. 32.2 …………………..4th
Scoring Defense ……………………….25.2 …………………..4th
• UCF closed the regular season with five wins in its last six games after the victory against South Florida in the War on I-4.
• DE Big Kat Bryant was chosen to The American’s all-conference first team. The Knights had seven players named to the league’s all-conference teams.
• UCF went 7-0 at home in 2021 and has gone 30-2 at The Bounce House since the start of the 2017 season.
• The Knights are 49-12 in their last 60 games, trailing only Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Georgia and Clemson in that
stretch.
• UCF will play in a bowl game for the sixth consecutive season with the Knights’ selection to the Gasparilla Bowl.

 

CINCINNATI
13-0, 8-0 American
@BearcatsFB
Last: Beat Houston, 35-20
Next: Dec. 31 vs. Alabama (ESPN)
American Ranks
Total Offense…………………………. 429.6 …………………. 2nd
Total Defense…………………………305.8 …………………. 2nd
Scoring Offense ……………………….39.2 ……………………1st
Scoring Defense ………………………. 16.1 ……………………1st
• Cincinnati became the first American Athletic Conference team to reach the College Football Playoff with its No. 4 finish in the CFP rankings.
• The Bearcats became the first team to play in three consecutive American Championship Games.
• Cincinnati has won its last 27 home games and has the second-longest homefield winning streak nationally (Clemson, 31).
• Cincinnati is 45-5 since the start of the 2018 season. The Bearcats are 26-1 all-time as a top-10 team.
• The Bearcats have won 16 straight games against American Athletic Conference opponents.

• Cincinnati had a league-record 12 players to The American’s all-conference first team.

 

EAST CAROLINA
7-5, 5-3 American
@ECUPiratesFB
Last: Lost to Cincinnati, 35-13
Next: Dec. 27 vs. Boston College (ESPN)
American Ranks
Total Offense…………………………..433.1 …………………..4th
Total Defense………………………… 394.4 …………………..6th
Scoring Offense ………………………..29.7 …………………..6th
Scoring Defense ………………………26.3 …………………..4th
• RB Keaton Mitchell and K Owen Daffer were named as first-team all-conference selections by The American’s head coaches.
• Mitchell finished the regular season as The American’s leader in rushing yards (1,132).

• QB Holton Ahlers threw for 3,126 yards and 18 touchdowns and had six rushing TDs in the regular season.
• East Carolina won four of its last five games to close the regular season.
• The Pirates have clinched their first winning season since 2014. East Carolina will play in the Military Bowl Dec. 27 against Boston College.

 

HOUSTON
11-2, 8-0 American
@UHCougarFB
Last: Lost at Cincinnati, 35-20
Next: Dec. 28 vs. Auburn (ESPN)
American Ranks
Total Offense………………………….. 415.4 …………………..6th
Total Defense………………………….297.8 ……………………1st
Scoring Offense ……………………….34.3 …………………..3rd
Scoring Defense ……………………… 20.5 …………………. 2nd
• CB Marcus Jones was named as The American’s Special Teams Player of the Year, while RB Alton McCaskill was named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
• Houston became the fourth team in American Athletic Conference history to finish 8-0 in conference games, joining UCF’s 2013, 2017 and 2018 teams.
• The Cougars have registered their ninth 10-win season in program history and their first since 2015.
• Houston went 6-0 at TDECU Stadium this season, going unbeaten at home for the first time since 2016.
• The Cougars’ eight-game conference winning streak is Houston’s longest since a 10-game stretch from 2011-12, when Houston was in Conference USA.

 

MEMPHIS
6-6, 3-5 American
@TigersAthletics
Last: Beat Tulane, 33-28
Next: Dec. 24 vs. Hawaii (ESPN)
American Ranks
Total Offense………………………….434.9 …………………..3rd
Total Defense…………………………..418.1 …………………..9th
Scoring Offense ………………………..30.1 …………………..5th
Scoring Defense ………………………29.3 ………………….. 7th
• WR Calvin Austin III a unanimous selection to The American’s all-conference first team.
• Austin led The American with 1,149 receiving yards and 95.8 yards per game.
• QB Seth Henigan passed for 3,322 yards and 25 touchdowns as a true freshman.
• LB JJ Russell had a league-high 123 tackles in the regular season.
• Memphis beat Tulane in the last day of the regular season to secure bowl eligibility for the eighth consecutive year. The Tigers will play in the EasyPost Hawaii Bowl against Hawaii.

 

NAVY
3-8, 3-5 American
@NavyAthletics
Last: Won at Temple, 38-14
Next: Dec. 11 vs. Army (CBS)
American Ranks
Total Offense…………………………. 282.6 ………………….11th
Total Defense………………………….359.1 …………………..3rd
Scoring Offense ………………………. 20.4 …………………10th
Scoring Defense ………………………29.6 …………………..8th
• LB Diego Fagot was chosen to the American Athletic Conference all-conference first team by the league’s head coaches.
• Navy has gone 28-for-28 in red zone scoring in the last nine games.
• RB Carlinos Acie had 86 rushing yards and a touchdown on 10 carries against Temple and has been the Midshipmen’s leading rusher in each of the last two games.
• Navy has gone 33-22 in the American Athletic Conference since joining the league in 2015.
• Eleven of Navy’s 12 opponents in 2021 are playing in bowl games.

• Navy will face Army Dec. 11 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Midshipmen will wear special naval-aviation themed uniforms for the annual rivalry game.

 

SOUTH FLORIDA
2-10, 1-7 American
@USFFootball
Last: Lost at UCF, 17-13
Next: Season complete
American Ranks
Total Offense……………………………351.1 …………………10th
Total Defense………………………….472.2 ………………….11th
Scoring Offense ………………………. 23.2 …………………..9th
Scoring Defense ……………………….34.7 …………………10th
• South Florida advanced to the 3-yard line in the closing seconds, but was unable to get the win against UCF in the annual War on I-4 matchup.
• The Bulls dropped their last five games of the season.
• South Florida’s 2021 schedule was ranked as the nation’s 12th toughest by the NCAA. The Bulls faced four nationally ranked teams.
• RB Jaren Mangham finished third in The American with 15 rushing touchdowns in 2021.
• OG Demetris Harris and LB Antonio Grier were both second-team all-conference selections. Mangham and K Spenser Shrader were honorable mention picks.

 

SMU
8-4, 4-4 American
@SMU_Football
Last: Lost to Tulsa, 34-31
Next: Dec. 29 vs. Virginia (ESPN)
American Ranks
Total Offense………………………….465.9 ……………………1st
Total Defense………………………….414.5 …………………..8th
Scoring Offense ……………………….38.4 …………………..3rd
Scoring Defense ……………………… 28.4 …………………..6th
• SMU won its first seven games of the season, but the Mustangs dropped four of their last five to close the regular season.
• QB Tanner Mordecai has an American Athletic Conference-record 39 touchdown passes this season.
• SMU has won at least eight games in two of the last three seasons.
• The Mustangs named former offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee as their new head coach after Sonny Dykes stepped down to take over at TCU.
• SMU is bowl-eligible for the fourth time in five seasons. The Mustangs will face Virginia in the inaugural Wasabi Fenway Bowl in Boston.

 

TEMPLE
3-9, 1-7 American
@Temple_FB
Last: Lost to Navy, 38-14
Next: Season complete
American Ranks
Total Offense………………………….. 287.4 …………………10th
Total Defense…………………………398.3 ………………….. 7th
Scoring Offense ………………………..16.3 ………………….11th
Scoring Defense ……………………….37.5 ………………….11th
• C C.J. Perez was chosen as an honorable mention all-conference selection. Perez started all 12 games and has made 19 consecutive starts.
• The Owls started the 2021 season with three wins in their first five games, but dropped their last seven games, all by at least 20 points.
• Temple scored at least 34 points in each of its three wins, but was held to 14 points or fewer in each of its nine losses.
• LB William Kwenkeu had 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks.
• Temple announced that Rod Carey will not return as head coach.

 

TULANE
2-10, 1-7 American
@GreenWaveFB
Last: Lost at Memphis, 33-28
Next: Season complete
American Ranks
Total Offense………………………….386.5 …………………..8th
Total Defense………………………… 429.6 …………………10th
Scoring Offense ………………………..27.6 ………………….. 7th
Scoring Defense ………………………34.0 …………………..9th
• P Ryan Wright, who led The American in punting average (47.5), was chosen to the all-conference first team.
• RB Tyjae Spears rushed for 863 yards and nine touchdowns in only nine games, including 264 yards in the season-finale against Memphis.
• C Sincere Haynesworth, LB Dorian Williams and S Macon Clark were honorable mention all-conference selections.
• DE Darius Hodges led The American with 14.5 tackles for loss.
• Tulane faced four top-25 opponents in 2021, including two that were ranked No. 2 (Oklahoma, Cincinnati).

 

TULSA
6-6, 5-3 American
@TulsaFootball
Last: Won at SMU, 34-31
Next: Dec. 20 vs. Old Dominion (ESPN)
American Ranks
Total Offense………………………….436.3 …………………..3rd
Total Defense…………………………..381.1 …………………..5th
Scoring Offense ………………………..26.1 …………………..8th
Scoring Defense ………………………. 27.4 …………………..5th
• Tulsa won its last three games of the regular season to secure bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year.
• Tulsa came from behind to win four games in the regular season and has 20 comeback wins under coach Philip Montgomery.
• The Golden Hurricane went 5-2 in its last seven games to offset a 1-4 start.
• Tulane’s schedule included three games against teams ranked in the top seven of the final Associated Press poll of the regular season (Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Ohio State).
• RB Shamari Brooks ranks second on Tulsa’s career rushing chart. Brooks has 3,622 yards, trailing only D’Angelo Brewer (3,917 yards from 2014-17).