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AAC notebook: UConn, USF stumble in opener

The SportsXchange

For a league cobbled together from teams bound for greener pastures and others hoping desperately to join them, the opening week of the college football season did very little to earn the AAC much respect.

A pair of schools lost badly to Football Championship Subdivision opponents. Moreover, neither was one of the newer schools that joined when the league still had the Big East name and caused the basketball schools to run screaming for the hills.

Connecticut, facing a critical year after a pair of bowl-less seasons under Paul Pasqualoni, lost to Towson 33-18 at home. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer looked like he regressed between the end of 2012 and the 2013 opener, and his coach said it looked like he was having problems seeing over the Tigers defense. Not a good sign, considering Maryland and Michigan await before the end of the month.

That wasn't even the worst loss of the opening weekend for the conference, however. In Willie Taggart's debut at South Florida, the Bulls were annihilated by McNeese State 53-21. It was the most points ever scored by an opponent at Raymond James Stadium. Moreover, it was the most points ever scored by an FCS opponent against a BCS squad in college football history.

Cincinnati helped the league save some face by stomping Purdue, looking like a team the experts rated to lightly in the preseason. Louisville closed the week with a dominating performance against Ohio, and have a serious Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Southern Methodist showed some fight in defeat against Texas Tech. Rutgers was a missed two-point conversion away from winning at Fresno State, and Temple played well against Notre Dame aside from a few defensive breakdowns, though admittedly those breakdowns separate victory from defeat.

But those losses by the Huskies and the Bulls only raise the bar when the Cardinals and Bearcats look for respect in the rankings.

FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 1 IN THE AAC:

1. Teddy Bridgewater's a name to watch in the Heisman race. The Louisville junior completed 23 of his 28 pass attempts for 355 yards and five touchdowns. He did throw one interception on a play when he misread the defense, but beyond that the Cardinals looked like the class of the conference in dominating Ohio. After one week, Louisville's the team to beat in the AAC.

2. Cincinnati might have been underrated. The Bearcats were one of those teams with a lot of questions heading into the season, but dominated from start to finish against Purdue for the lone marquee win of the first week in AAC play.

3. Connecticut is in big, big trouble. The Huskies were already dealing with an unenthusiastic fan base following two losing seasons in a row, and losing to Towson just exacerbates the process. UConn has a 16-day break between that loss and the Sept. 14 game against Maryland, and the Huskies will need every second of that time to correct what ails them.

4. He's no Bridgewater, but Garrett Gilbert might be the second-best quarterback in the league. The SMU signal-caller looked good against Texas Tech, and the Mustangs could surprise in a league that doesn't look strong.

5. Don't ever question Kyle Flood's gumption. The safe play against Fresno State in overtime was to kick the extra point and go to a second overtime. On the road, believing he had a quarterback-wide receiver combination that gave him the best chance to win, Flood bucked conventional wisdom and went for two. It didn't work, but you have to respect the decision.
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