AAC power rankings, Week 11
Only two weeks remain in the regular season, and the matchup in the American Athletic Conference championship game is all but set. Navy will clinch a spot in the contest with a win against East Carolina on Saturday, while Temple needs to simply beat the Pirates and Tulane over the next two weeks to win the East division.
Yet neither the Midshipmen nor Owls are atop this week's AAC power rankings, as voted upon by a league-wide panel of beat reporters. That honor goes to USF.
1. USF (8-2, 5-1 AAC): Behind a dazzling five-touchdown performance from QB Quinton Flowers, the Bulls did just enough to pull out a 49-42 victory at Memphis. Flowers, 24-of-29 for 263 yards, threw for two TDs and rushed for three more, including the go-ahead score with 1:22 remaining. With a career-best 210 rushing yards on 20 carries, Flowers became the first Division I signal-caller in Florida history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a single season. USF plays at SMU on Saturday at 7 p.m. — Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times
2. Temple (7-3, 5-1): The Owls had a bye week and coach Matt Rhule said his team needed the break, with many players banged up this time of year. Temple's defense has gotten progressively better; the Owls lead the AAC in scoring defense (20.4 ppg) and total defense (291.4 ypg). Senior DE Haason Reddick, who leads the AAC with 18 tackles for loss and is second with 8.5 sacks, is battling an ankle injury and Rhule says he doesn't know if he will be able to play this week. Offensively, sophomore RB Ryquell Armstead (803 rushing yards, 11 TDs) has been banged up and is also questionable. — Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer
3. Navy (7-2, 5-1): QB Will Worth rushed for 122 yards and three TDs and also passed for a score as Navy edged Tulsa, 42-40, in a matchup of teams tied atop the West Division standings. On a day in which little defense was played, a two-point conversion stop was the difference as Navy ILB Micah Thomas stopped Tulsa QB Dane Evans at the goal line. Worth then converted a fourth-and-1 situation at the end as Navy salted away the final 5 1/2 minutes. — Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group
4. Houston (8-2, 5-2): A 12-point victory against Tulane brought to the surface some existing problems and presented a new one for the Cougars. UH continued its inconsistency on offense with a season-high 11 punts and managed only 287 yards, snapping a streak of 35 consecutive games with at least 300. QB Greg Ward Jr., who has been dealing with an ankle injury, aggravated his right shoulder when he dove on a spiked ball and a defender landed on top of him late in the first half. Ward was scheduled to sit the final two quarters but was forced back into the game when backup Kyle Postma suffered a season-ending broken forearm. Now comes a prime-time Thursday matchup against third-ranked Louisville and Heisman Trophy frontrunner Lamar Jackson. — Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle
5. Tulsa (7-3, 4-2): After coming up inches short in last month's 38-31 loss at Houston, Tulsa was dealt a 42-40 defeat at Navy on Saturday in a battle for first place in the West Division. The Hurricane defense had difficulty stopping the triple option throughout the game but thought it delivered a crucial stop in the final two minutes, only to have the calls go in the Midshipmen's favor. As Tulsa shifts its focus toward reaching the 10-win mark, it visits UCF on Saturday night. — Kelly Hines, Tulsa World
6. Memphis (6-4, 3-3): Memphis’ closest game of the season resulted in arguably its toughest loss Saturday night, as an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal inside the final minute sealed a 49-42 defeat against USF. The intended receiver, Anthony Miller, said that his arm was grabbed (by CB Deatrick Nichols) on the play, a claim corroborated by a photo. The Tigers’ inability to stop Quinton Flowers played a much larger role in the loss, however. Next up for Memphis is its last road trip of the regular season, a matchup with struggling Cincinnati on Friday night. — Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal
7. UCF (6-4, 4-2): After giving up more than 700 total yards of offense to Cincinnati in 2015, UCF held the Bearcats to only a field goal in a 24-3 triumph Saturday. The Knights’ defense collected five sacks, nine tackles for loss (of 41 yards), nine pass breakups and five quarterback hurries. UCF’s victory secured bowl eligibility only one season after it finished 0-12. The Knights will advance to their seventh bowl game in 10 years. — Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel
8. SMU (5-5, 3-3): SMU is squarely in the mix to earn a bowl berth after knocking off East Carolina, 55-31 on the road. The Mustangs responded after suffering a blowout loss at the hands of Memphis the week prior with one of its best performances of the season. SMU lit up the scoreboard as Ben Hicks connected with Courtland Sutton on a number of big plays. While the defense gave up more than 30 points, it came away with three interceptions, including two pick-sixes. SMU has to either upset USF or Navy to have a shot at making the postseason for the first time since 2012. — EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News
9. Cincinnati (4-6, 1-5): Bowl eligibility is the chief remaining goal for the Bearcats, who must upset both Memphis and Tulsa to reach six wins. UC lost 24-3 at UCF last Saturday, and has fallen to 122nd nationally in scoring offense (18.8 ppg). Sophomore Hayden Moore started at quarterback last week at UCF, with redshirt freshman Ross Trail and senior Gunner Kiel also seeing action. Coach Tommy Tuberville said Moore and Kiel will compete for the starting job against Memphis. — Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer
10. East Carolina (3-7, 1-5): East Carolina lost its second game in a row, and seventh in its last eight, with Saturday's loss to SMU and is officially eliminated from the bowl picture. Life won't get any easier for the Pirates when Navy comes to town this Saturday for a game initially postponed by Hurricane Matthew. ECU continues to have questions at quarterback after sophomore backup Gardner Minshew again replaced senior starter Philip Nelson, this time more because of performance than injury against the Mustangs. Senior WR Zay Jones needs eight catches to pass former teammate Justin Hardy and become the NCAA's all-time receptions leader with 388. — Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector
11. Connecticut (3-7, 1-6): The Huskies had a bye last week -- a needed break -- and play Saturday at Boston College. The hope is that UConn did some emotional and physical healing during its down time. The Huskies haven't scored a touchdown in 10 quarters and have lost four games in a row. Freshman Donovan Williams debuted at quarterback in a 21-0 loss to Temple, finishing 12-of-21 for 69 yards and two fumbles. He and new offensive coordinator David Corley enter their third week of work together. — Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant
12. Tulane (3-7, 0-6): Tulane had one of its strongest showings of the year on Saturday and held Houston to a season-low 287 total yards in the Cougars’ homecoming game, but the Green Wave still fell 30-18 to extend their losing streak to five games. Tulane plays its final home game of the season against Temple on Saturday and will be looking to pick up the first conference win under first-year coach Willie Fritz. Temple’s physical style of play has given AAC teams problems all season, but it may play directly into the strength of the Tulane defense. Still, the play of the of the offense will most likely dictate the Green Wave’s chances Saturday. If QB Glen Cuiellette can pick up where he left off after his 241-yard performance last week, Tulane may have a chance at the upset. — Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune