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The Coogs won a game in which they were outperformed. There were also some dominant performances by other AAC heavyweights. Here's what Week Eight in the AAC looked like from my point of view:
UH outlasts UConn
In a game in which they were outperformed in every statistical category except turnover margin (+1), the Coogs managed to beat the Huskies 24-17. I don't give a damn how ugly it looked, but winning on the road against a conference opponent in what some may deem as a "tanking" season is still impressive to me! After dad was caught pitching a fit on the sideline, Young Holgorsen threw a 58-yard bomb that proved to be a game-winning score at the end of the 3rd quater. Now 3-4 on the season (1-2 in the AAC), they only need three more wins for bowl eligibility; something that was unfathomable a few weeks ago.
Other key results
SMU 45, Temple 21: The Mustangs stayed undefeated by totally dominmating the Owls. They outgained the Owls by 382 yards behind Shane Buechele and Reggie Roberson's unstoppable connection.
Memphis 47, Tulane 17: The Green Wave were mauled by the Tigers' Kenneth Gainwell and his record-breaking performance. Add in Brady White throwing five touchdown passes, and it was a recipe for disaster.
Cincinnati 24, Tulsa 13: The Bearcats pulled out a win to advance to 6-1 and stay ranked (#21). Had it not been for five turnovers, the Golden Hurricanes could've pulled off an upset.
Stars of the week
Shane Buechele, QB, SMU: He completed 56.6% of his passes, but threw for 457 yards and six touchdowns. His day was made easier because...
Reggie Roberson Jr., WR, SMU: ...had eight catches for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He made Buechele's job much easier because he was wide open most of the day. Great performances by both guys.
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis: Gainwell became the first Memphis Tiger ever and the first FBS player since LA Tech's Troy Edwards in 1997 to have 100+ yards rushing and 200+ yards receiving in a game. Oh, and he scored three touchdowns as well.
Games to watch this week
SMU @ UH
Tulane @ Navy
UCF @ Temple
Players to watch this week
Logan Holgorsen, UH: Perhaps it should be Clayton Tune who should be here. Either way, the quarterback play for the Coogs will be critical this week if they look to knock off the undefeated Mustangs.
Malcolm Perry, Navy: Coming off a record-setting performance they gave up to Memphis' Gainwell, will the Midshipmen's Perry be able to put up ridiculous stats as well?
Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis: Speaking of Gainwell, will he be able to repeat or come close to repeating last week's performance this week against the Golden Hurricanes?
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.