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AAC power rankings, Week 10

USF tailback D'Ernest Johnson finds a hole in the Navy defense during the Bulls' 52-45 victory two weekends ago.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF tailback D'Ernest Johnson finds a hole in the Navy defense during the Bulls' 52-45 victory two weekends ago.

9

November

With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, first place in the American Athletic Conference West Division will be up for grabs Saturday, when Navy hosts Tulsa.

As that key matchup -- and a wave of other important conference games -- looms, here's a look at how the league is stacking up, as voted upon by a conference-wide panel of beat reporters.

1. USF (7-2, 4-1 AAC): The Bulls got a needed bye week before embarking on a critical three-game stretch to close out the regular season. USF must win its final three games -- at Memphis, at SMU and home against rival UCF -- and hope Temple stumbles against Tulane or East Carolina to make the AAC title game. -- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times

2. Navy (6-2, 4-1): QB Will Worth led the way again as Navy upset Notre Dame, 28-27, Saturday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. Worth rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns while operating the triple-option offense to near perfection. The Midshipmen gouged the Fighting Irish for 320 rushing yards and held the ball for almost 34 minutes. Notre Dame only had six possessions in the entire game. The Midshipmen who seek their 14th consecutive home triumph when they host Tulsa on Saturday, are tied with the Golden Hurricane atop the West with 4-1 conference records. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

3. Temple (7-3, 5-1): The Owls, on a four-game win streak, are on their bye week. If they win their final two games, Nov. 19 at Tulane and Nov. 26 vs. East Carolina, they earn a second consecutive East Division title. In Friday's 21-0 win at Connecticut, Temple scored on its first three possession. Phillip Walker threw three TD passes while the Owls defense held UConn to 160 total yards. Temple running backs Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead have teamed for 1,454 rushing yards and 20 TDs. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

4. Houston (7-2, 4-2): The Cougars were able to catch a much-needed breather with their open date, allowing key players like WR Linell Bonner (shoulder), LB Tyus Bowser (orbital bone), LB Matthew Adams (shoulder) and C Will Noble (neck) to get healthy. “The open date was critical,” coach Tom Herman said. “We should be running on all cylinders.” The next two games – Saturday against Tulane and Nov. 17 against No. 5 Louisville – are at home, where the Cougars have won 13 in a row. -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle

5. Tulsa (7-2, 4-1): In a game that featured 23 penalties but no turnovers, the Hurricane disposed of East Carolina 45-24 for a third consecutive victory. Running backs James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer combined for 361 rushing yards and three TDs, and the Tulsa defense delivered a season-high seven sacks. Last year against Navy, the Midshipmen ran for 469 yards en route to a 44-21 romp. "We ain't the same football team, I promise you, as we were last year," Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

6. Memphis (6-3, 3-2): The Tigers bounced back from a tough loss against Tulsa in a big way Saturday against SMU, cruising past the Mustangs on the road, 51-7, to clinch bowl eligibility. QB Riley Ferguson was named the AAC's offensive player of the week after throwing for 287 yards and four TDs, while PK Jake Elliott received the conference's weekly special teams honors by accounting for 15 points in the victory. Memphis now faces one of the toughest tests of its season this weekend when it hosts USF. -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal

7. UCF (5-4, 3-2): Guided by senior S Drico Johnson, UCF’s defense managed to outscore Tulane during a 37-6 rout in Orlando. The Knights scored three defensive TDs –- two from Johnson and one from senior CB Shaquill Griffin. UCF turned the ball over on its first two drives before scoring 37 unanswered points and shutting the Green Wave out for three consecutive quarters. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel

8. SMU (4-5, 2-3): After consecutive wins against Houston and Tulane, the Mustangs surrendered nearly 500 yards and committed three turnovers in a 51-7 loss to Memphis on Saturday. SMU coach Chad Morris called the loss "embarrassing" and said he challenged his team to play its best game of the year against East Carolina this weekend. The Mustangs must win for any reasonable shot of making a bowl game. -- EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News

9. Cincinnati (4-5, 1-4): Coach Tommy Tuberville is under fire as the Bearcats lost for the fourth time in five games, 20-3 at home to BYU on Saturday. Afterward, postgame video captured Tuberville telling a heckler to, “Go to hell. Get a job. Get a job!” He apologized the next day on Twitter, and UC athletic director Mike Bohn expressed support for Tuberville in a separate Twitter post. On the field, UC has scored only three points in its last six quarters. Gunner Kiel remains the starting quarterback, as UC struggles with both its run game (117th nationally) and air game (90th in team passing efficiency). -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

10. East Carolina (3-6, 1-4): A week after snapping a five-game losing streak, the Pirates took another step back in Saturday's 45-24 loss at Tulsa. ECU QB Philip Nelson was pulled during a first-half offensive drought and did not return, though Coach Scottie Montgomery intimated the passer was dealing with a shoulder injury. Senior receiver Zay Jones, who had 13 catches for 209 yards against Tulsa, already has set a school and conference single-season record for catches (127).  -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector

11. Connecticut (3-7, 1-6): The Huskies made a change at quarterback last week, benching Bryant Shirreffs for freshman Donovan Williams, who sacrificed his redshirt year. They also made a change at offensive coordinator, demoting Frank Verducci and promoting running backs coach David Corley, who called the plays in a 21-0 loss to Temple. Williams was 12-of-21 for 69 yards. It was UConn's worst offensive performance of the season and only the fourth time the team has been shut out in its 15-year Division I history. The Huskies, on a bye week, have not scored a TD in the past 10 quarters. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant

12. Tulane (3-6, 0-5): Tulane has lost four in a row, and things won’t be getting any easier this week. The Green Wave take on defending AAC champ Houston for its homecoming game on Saturday. Tulane QB Glen Cuiellette had five turnovers in his team’s 37-6 loss Saturday to UCF, with three of those resulting in Knights defensive TDs. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2016 9:54am]

    

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