AAC Report Card: Bowl Season
By Jackson Wang
Result: Win, 52-42 vs. No. 6 Baylor in Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
What a season for the UCF Knights. George O’Leary has this program going in the right direction and the Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor proved it. UCF was a 17-point underdog and never trailed as Blake Bortles continuously drove the ball right over Baylor’s defense.
Result: Win, 36-9 vs. Miami in Russell Athletic Bowl
Junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater showed NFL scouts why he was ready for football on Sundays. He threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns, but wasn’t the only one turning heads. Coach Charlie Strong’s game plan to shut down the Hurricanes' offense continued to impress many big time college football programs around the country, including Texas, who would later hire him as its new coach.
Result: Loss, 29-16 vs. Notre Dame in New Era Pinstripe Bowl
No one expected Rutgers to win this game, so the loss to Notre Dame was no surprise. The Scarlet Knights were a 15 1/2-point underdog entering the matchup at Yankee Stadium, so the fact they were tied with Notre Dame at halftime was impressive. The AAC is withholding the bowl payout to Rutgers because of a legal dispute involving its departure from the conference.
Result: Loss, 41-24 vs. Vanderbilt in BBVA Compass Bowl
The Cougars' performance was a huge disappointment. With freshman quarterback John O’Korn at quarterback, along with young and talented receivers, Houston should have lit up Vanderbilt's secondary. But it seems like the younger Cougars were intimidated by the SEC defense as they fell behind 24-0 at halftime. But once Houston realized Vanderbilt is human, they put up 24 points in the third quarter to tie the game. It was good late fight by the Cougars, but they couldn’t sustain it in the fourth quarter.
Result: Loss, 39-17 vs. North Carolina in Belk Bowl
Cincinnati has played tough all year in the AAC, going 6-2 in conference play, which included an overtime loss to Louisville. But against a subpar ACC North Carolina team, the Bearcats didn’t look in sync. Quarterback Brendon Kay struggled as he completed just 43 percent of his passes. Ultimately, it was the early deficit that took Cincinnati out of the game as the Bearcats fell behind 16-0 after the first quarter and 23-3 at halftime.