The AAC is in for quite a finish to its regular season race. The top two teams will qualify for the American Athletic Conference Championship, and with two games remaining, four teams are in the running. They are defending champion Tulane as well as SMU, UTSA, and Memphis.
Tulane, SMU, and UTSA are 6-0 in the AAC, while Memphis is 5-1. It is the first time in league history that three teams are 6-0 with two games remaining.
Here are the final schedules for the contenders:
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Tulane: Saturday at FAU (4-6, 3-3); Nov. 24 vs. UTSA (7-3, 6-0)
SMU: Saturday at Memphis (8-2, 5-1); Nov. 25 vs. Navy (4-5, 3-3)
UTSA: Friday vs. USF (5-5, 3-3); Nov. 24 at Tulane (9-1, 6-0)
Memphis: Saturday vs. SMU (8-2, 6-0); Nov. 24 at Temple (3-7, 1-5)
Tulane Football’s Outlook
Tulane has won eight in a row since its only loss, a 37-20 defeat to Ole Miss. In that game, Tulane played without veteran quarterback Michael Pratt, who was injured.
Even though Tulane is on a big winning streak, the Green Wave have been less than dominating during that stretch. Tulane has won its last three games by a field goal or less, beating host Rice 30-28, winning at East Carolina 13-10, and defeating Tulsa this past week at home 24-22. Those three teams have a combined 9-21 overall record and are 4-14 in the AAC.
In the Tulsa win, the big play was a 100-yard kickoff return from Shedro Louis.
The objective is to win, but a nationally ranked team such as No. 17 Tulane shouldn’t be having such a difficult time against teams with losing records.
SMU Football’s Outlook
SMU is the biggest beneficiary of the schedule. Each team in the conference plays eight AAC games. This season, SMU doesn’t face either of the other two teams which are unbeaten in conference play, Tulane and UTSA.
The Mustangs have won six in a row – all against AAC competition – since a 34-17 loss to TCU. Yet none of those six wins were against a team with a current winning record.
Unlike Tulane, SMU hasn’t struggled against these AAC opponents – with one exception, a 36-31 win at Rice. The other five AAC wins have been by an average of 35.4 points.
UTSA Football’s Outlook
Of the three squads unbeaten in AAC play, UTSA is playing the best recently. The Roadrunners have won six in a row, all against AAC competition.
It must be noted, however, that five of the six wins have come against teams with losing records.
One game that could be tricky is this week when UTSA hosts South Florida. It’s a USF team that is vastly improved and one win away from being bowl-eligible. Even if USF loses to UTSA, its final game is at home against Charlotte (3-7).
Then again, that is the same Charlotte team that almost ruined Memphis’ season before losing to the visiting Tigers last week 44-38 in overtime.
App State is 2-0-1 ATS as an underdog this year.
Memphis Football’s Outlook
Like Tulane, Memphis has been playing things way too close recently.
In its last three games, Memphis has won at North Texas 45-42, beaten USF at home 59-50, and then escaped with last week’s overtime win at Charlotte.
The record of those three teams in the AAC is 6-12. The fact that Memphis has allowed an average of 43.3 points in those games is concerning.
The Memphis-SMU matchup is basically like a playoff game to get into the AAC Championship.
This season, the AAC is top heavy. Of the 14 teams, the only ones with a winning conference record are the four still in contention for the league title.
There are three teams that are 3-3 in AAC play and another seven with losing records.
Yet even those with losing records have given the contenders fits. That is just another reason why the next two weeks should be fascinating.