Despite swoon, USF still alive for AAC East title

Any hope of a division crown hinges on USF winning out and hoping UCF loses to Navy or Cincinnati
Published Nov. 5, 2018

While conventional logic suggests the Bulls' conference title hopes have vanished, math doesn't.

Despite consecutive embarrassing defeats, serious questions about team leadership, a spate of injuries and upcoming back-to-back road trips in potentially frigid weather, USF (7-2, 3-2) remains in the hunt for the American Athletic Conference's East Division.

And rest assured, Charlie Strong has reiterated that statistical fact to his team in the wake of its 41-15 loss Saturday to Tulane.

"Within this conference …you can't really say that teams are so much head-and-shoulders above other teams," Strong said Monday, pointing to SMU's 45-31 upset Saturday of Houston.

"You catch 'em on any given day, anything can happen. I told our guys, 'We just keep playing. It's still November, and so much can happen in November that you never know.'"

The Bulls enter Saturday night's game at Cincinnati two games behind division leader UCF (8-0, 5-0), and one behind both the Bearcats (8-1, 4-1) and Temple (5-4, 4-1). But USF still must play the Knights, Bearcats and Owls, so hope lingers.

But any such hope hinges on the Bulls winning out, and hoping UCF drops one of its two other remaining league games (home contests vs. Navy and Cincinnati).

If that occurs, USF is the East champion under any scenario, according to AAC tiebreaker guidelines.

If the Bulls and Knights finish tied for first in the East with two conference losses each, USF wins the title via prevailing in the head-to-head matchup.

A three-way tie also favors USF. Let's say the Bulls win out, Cincinnati upsets the Knights on Nov. 17 and defeats East Carolina a week later, and UCF takes care of business this Saturday against Navy. That would leave all three with teams with 6-2 conference marks. USF wins because it would've defeated UCF and Cincy.

Even a four-way deadlock among USF, UCF, Cincinnati and Temple (yes, it's possible) favors USF, because the Bulls would have beaten the other three.

"You've got three games to go play, and they're all conference games," Strong said. "So you don't ever think the season is getting away because you never know what's gonna happen."