What should have been a good day for the league with Memphis getting in the win column, Houston remaining undefeated, Rutgers’ comeback win over Arkansas and Louisville’s romp turned tragic when three freshmen members of Cincinnati’s good-looking Bearcat team got into an accident driving back from their road game.
Ben Flick sadly lost his life in the accident.
Flick, along with his two teammates, were redshirting this year but each were unique talents in their own way. Hopefully the two survivors, Mark Barr and Javon Harrison, will be able to make a full and speedy recovery. As for Flick, he was a load of a lineman already at 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds. He was a standout in his native Miami. None of the players were driving and the name of the man behind the wheel has yet to be released. All of us at Gamedayr have our hearts out to Bearcats Nation as they work through this tragedy.
There is no easy way to do this so let’s transition abruptly to what happened on the field. As I mentioned above, it was a banner day for the young AAC. With Louisville and Rutgers leaving the league next year, two newcomers helped the league’s cause moving forward. Cincinnati’s win show this league might have some more juice than people give them credit for. Central Florida, the second best team to UL, was idle.
Hopefully this isn’t your first time check out a stock report, but if it is, the above chart depicts the power rankings of the league. The buying/holding/selling stock in a team is relative to preseason expectations, making a better bowl, or surprising the league and competing for a division title. Just because I’m buying a lot of stock in a team doesn’t mean I think they are better than the first place team. Now that we are all in sync, let’s get after it!
Louisville – The Cardinals are the most complete team in the league and have one of the best players in the nation in Teddy Bridgewater. They are probably the best-coached team in the league too. That’s a pretty good trifecta to have. Week four grade: A
Rutgers – They haven’t played a bad game yet, even with the loss at Fresno State. Their comeback against Arkansas was very impressive. For anyone who missed it, Arkansas scored midway through the third quarter to make it 24-7. The Knights rallied behind junior QB Gary Nova to win, 28-24. Week four grade: A+ (despite the turnovers and no rushing, the comeback was that impressive)
UCF – Idle
Cincinnati – I know they are 3-1 but a this remains a strange team to get a read on. They get blown out by Illinois, quarterback Munchie Legaux goes down with injury and against a pretty bad looking Miami (OH) team, they are shut out for all but five minutes of the game, scoring twice in the final five to win 14-0? I want to see the team that rolled Purdue 42-7 more consistently than what we are getting. They have the bye and after the passing of a teammate, it couldn’t have come at a better time for them to get right mentally. Week four grade: C-
Houston – Is there a stranger undefeated team out there? After crushing FCS Southern, the Cougars have outscored FBS teams by a combined 14 points en route to a 3-0 start. I know Rice is a huge rival and we can throw out the record books in games like that, but the five-point win wasn’t that flashy – especially considering the game should have been over once UH went up 31-13. Deontay Greenberry continues to be a revelation. He is a must-see wideout. He snagged six balls for 146 yards (24.3 avg) with a long of 61 and a score against the Owls. What a force. Week four grade: B+
SMU – I’m about done with this team but something keeps reeling me back in. I think it is the schedule. Their first four games of the year included games against Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU. Now throw in a good Rutgers team and four of the first five are pretty rough. If they can get rolling, they avoid Louisville and play host to UCF. I think they can make waves in the second half of the year. The problem is they haven’t been scoring enough. After a very solid season last year, Garrett Gilbert has been a little up and down thus far, putting together a QBR above 50 only once in three games. I think if he can work through this slump to start the year and the schedule lightens up, we’ll see the Mustangs get going. Week four grade: F
Connecticut – Is Connecticut improved or is Michigan overrated? Is UConn unlucky or is Michigan lucky? Whatever happened Saturday night, the Huskies dropped the game and are now 0-3 with all the losses coming in Storrs. Say what you will about Michigan being overrated or sleepwalking or whatever, the fact of the matter is UConn didn’t help their cause. Despite forcing four turnovers, they gave one away. They had 30 more penalty yards than Michigan. The Huskies rushed for 1.9 yards a carry on 25 tries for a brutal 47-yard total. They completed just 50-percent of their passes. Chandler Whitmer had a QBR of … 7.5! UConn had just 12 first downs. The Huskies were 1/11 on third down. UConn was outgained by Michigan and had the ball for 11 minutes and 30 seconds less than Michigan. If you ignore the score and just take into account the raw data of the game, Connecticut was in fact lucky to be in a position to win. Week four grade: D-
Memphis – Those pesky Tigers were at it again, this time breaking through and getting a win in impressive fashion against Arkansas State. The defense played great, holding the Red Wolves to just 255 yards and seven points. The Tigers’ offense, meanwhile, had a fantastic day rushing the ball, piling up 329 yards, 7.3 avg and three scores as a team. Marquis Watford and Brandon Hayes did the heavy lifting in that department. If Memphis can duplicate this type of game going forward, I think they could snag a few league wins. Perhaps when they host SMU and Temple or when they hit the road to USF and UConn. They also have an FCS team left on their slate. For a program that fell on hard times during the last few coaches, the building blocks finally are in place. Week four grade: A
USF – Idle (thankfully)
Temple – Idle (thankfully)
Buy That Kid Dinner (if the NCAA allowed it)
Gary Nova (QB, Rutgers) – Okay, okay, Bridewater had better stats and Greenberry was fantastic and Memphis’ backs were probably better too. But … I’m going with Nova. First of all he was hammered against Eastern Michigan and was listed as probable after undergoing concussion tests. Just getting back on the field was pretty impressive. Then he through a first quarter pick six. He also ended with a 28.5 QBR so, you know, there is that. But look between the lines. 22/43, 346 yards, 3 TDS. The strike on 4th and 12 to bring Rutgers to within 3 was awesome.
Louisville D – I don’t know the next time I will see a performance like this. The UL defense shut FIU down, completely:
2 First downs
1/13 on third
30 total yards
27 passing yards
3.0 yards per pass
3 rushing yards
34 rushing attempts
0.1 yards per rush
Amazingly, UL only forced one turnover and FIU had more time of possession. When you are up 38-0 at half and go on to win 72-0, you know the bench was flooded pretty early so hats off to the starters as well as the reserves for keeping the day going. Amazing.
Janarion Grant (PR, Rutgers) – Four returns, 106 yards, 26.5 avg and a long of 58. The 58-yarder was housed and a 47-yarder set up Rutgers at the Razorbacks’ 33. Six plays later the Knights took the lead. Instant offense right there.
Dunce of the week:
Strictly speaking, this is more of a Sun Belt DotW, but can we all please take a look at those numbers FIU put up again? My favorite – by far – is the 0.1 average per run. There are 36 inches in a yard so FIU averaged 3.6 inches a rush. They do say it is a game of inches, right?