The AAC season continues to churn out several intriguing storylines. Week 11 is no exception to the rule. A couple of teams can play spoiler for the conference’s contenders. Surprise bowl contenders such as Charlotte and Temple also try to continue Cinderella runs.
Here are the top storylines for Week 11.
Unbeaten Conference Records At Stake in the Lone Star State
While Tulane remains the only AAC team in the College Football Playoff rankings, there are still two other teams with unblemished conference records. SMU (7-2, 5-0) and UTSA (6-3, 5-0) will put their unbeaten AAC records at stake against in-state rivals this weekend.
SMU will play North Texas (3-6, 1-4) in a battle for Metroplex supremacy. QBs Preston Stone and Chandler Rogers provide one of the best quarterback matchups of the weekend. Both have over 2300 yards passing and 21 touchdowns while only throwing 8 combined interceptions. North Texas nearly beat three of the AAC’s best teams earlier this season. The emotions of playing a fellow metroplex school — and of leaving for a better conference — could get the Mean Green the upset they narrowly missed earlier in the year.
A few hours away, UTSA hosts Rice (4-5, 2-3). After early season slips, UTSA controls their destiny for a conference title in their first year in the AAC. While the offense gets most of the attention for the Roadrunners, the team boast one of the nation’s best pass rushers in LB Trey Moore, who has 12 sacks, and one of the best pass defenders in DB Kam Alexander, who has 11 pass breakups. Despite their star power on offense and defense, UTSA will have quite the test with Rice.
Just like North Texas, the Owls nearly upset multiple league frontrunners earlier in the year. The Owls have listed QB JT Daniels as the starter after an injury forced him out of last week’s close loss to SMU. Daniels and UTSA QB Frank Harris are two of college football’s elder statesmen, with Daniels racking up six years of eligibility and Harris having seven.
Time to get in the game and VOTE! #PonyUpDallas-like your QB’s photo on @daveyobrien official accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The QBs leading the fan vote will receive bonus Selection Committee votes as we decide our National Quarterback of the Year! #DaveyQBs pic.twitter.com/3HXOawoWjV— Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award (@daveyobrien) October 31, 2023
Young Superstar Quarterbacks Duel in Tampa
Earlier this week, we boldly stated USF’s (4-5, 2-3) QB Byrum Brown could be a future sleeper Heisman candidate. The freshman sensation is having an electric year with over 2200 passing yards, 600 rushing yards, and 25 total touchdowns. His latest masterpiece saw him pass for 357 yards and 5 touchdowns while adding 100 yards on the ground.
Opposing him is the other young AAC quarterback phenom, EJ Warner of Temple (3-6, 1-4). After a 3,000-yard freshman season, his sophomore effort is just as impressive. Warner averages over 300 yards/game through the air for the Owls. After nearly a month off, he returned from injury with a magnificent 402-yard and four-touchdown effort against Navy.
A win this week keeps Temple’s slim bowl hopes alive. That would force USF into panic mode. The Bulls would fall to 4-6 following such a loss and would have to beat UTSA and Charlotte to reach their first bowl since 2018.
Bottom Tier Teams Look to Pull Upsets
The biggest story of week 10 was Tulane’s near-loss to 1-7 East Carolina. The Pirates (1-8, 0-5) now look to salvage the season on the road against Florida Atlantic (4-5, 3-2). However, to upset the Owls they must stop WR LaJohntay Wester. Wester is a Biletnikoff candidate with 87 receptions and 1004 yards through 9 games.
Tulane continues to play to the level of inferior opposition, so an upset loss to Tulsa seems plausible. Somehow, they also remain the New Year’s Six frontrunners, coming in at #23 in the College Football Playoff rankings. However, they must not look ahead to their Black Friday showdown with UTSA when a spot in the conference championship game is at stake.
QB Michael Pratt must continue his consistent season, maintaining that 15-3 TD-to-INT ratio. It helps that RB Makhi Hughes’ streak of five straight 100-yard games proves the Green Wave run game hasn’t lost a step since the departure of RB Tyjae Spears.
Could the fourth quarterback be the charm for Navy (3-5, 2-3)? Seasoned veteran QB Xavier Arline made his first start of the year and produced a gritty 30-carry, 97-yard performance for the Mids. Arline also had a career-high 124 passing yards, despite Navy’s two-touchdown loss to Temple. The Midshipmen have a must-win game against UAB (3-6, 2-3) this week. Both teams will be playing for their bowl prospects. A win against UAB allows the Midshipmen to avoid having to beat SMU to make the postseason. However, the Blazers showed flashes of real ability in their win over former AAC title contender Florida Atlantic.
Believe it or not, Charlotte (3-6, 2-3) is still in the bowl hunt as well. However, they face a tall task this week when they’ll host Memphis (7-2, 4-1). QB Trexler Ivey showed why he is the 49ers’ quarterback of the future after a 17-point comeback win over Tulsa last week. However, Memphis also needs to win this game to keep their AAC title hopes alive and set the stage for their clash with SMU next week.
Help us 𝐏𝐀𝐂𝐊 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐃𝐎𝐌𝐄 on Saturday for the annual Military Appreciation Game. UTSA and Rice will face off at 6:30 p.m. at the Alamodome in a nationally televised AAC matchup on ESPNU.#210TriangleOfToughness #LetsGo210 | #BirdsUp 🤙https://t.co/8gi5pxGNvZ— UTSA Football 🏈 (@UTSAFTBL) November 9, 2023