The Louisville Cardinals were the favorites to win the American Athletic Conference prior to the season, but a Central Florida Knights upset of the Cardinals in week five of the regular season ensured that the Knights would be in the driver’s seat from that point on. Nothing has changed as the Knights have just about locked up a conference title.
Not much was expected of the Southern Methodist Mustangs this season as they began the year as an underdog and haven’t done much to prove otherwise. In fact, SMU is not yet bowl eligible and a win against Central Florida will change that — but that’s easier said than done.
Central Florida has been the surprise team of the AAC in its first season as an existing conference. The Knights weren’t expected to contend in Louisville’s conference — that’s how many people looked at it — but they are on the verge of a title and a BCS bowl berth. Blake Bortles has been a great leader at quarterback for the Knights and he is one of the main reasons they are looking at an 11-win season, passing for 3,038 yards and 22 touchdowns. Rannell Hall leads all wide outs with 49 catches for 729 yards and three scores. Storm Johnson has been great on the ground this season, rushing for 978 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Mustangs have a 5-6 record this season and face a must-win against Central Florida, but that’s quite the tall task. Although they have a losing record, the Mustangs have one of the best passing attacks in the nation, ranking seventh out of all college football teams behind the strong arm of Garrett Gilbert. The senior quarterback has passed for 3,528 yards and 21 touchdowns on the year with just seven interceptions, connecting with Jeremy Johnson a team-high 108 times for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns. Keenan Holman isn’t too far behind with 61 catches for 946 yards and eight scores. The rushing attack is barely there, ranking 116th in the nation in rushing yards per game.
Defensively, the Knights have had one of the best defenses in the conference this season, ranking 17th in points allowed and 18th in yards allowed per game. The Mustangs haven’t been nearly as impressive, ranking 104th in points allowed and a mediocre ranking of 76th in yards allowed per game.
Central Florida will be traveling to Southern Methodist to take on the Mustangs at 12 p.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 7. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Central Florida 35, SMU 21
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.