AAC Power Rankings, Week 2
The second full weekend of the season included two wins over Power Five teams for the American Athletic Conference, as Cincinnati beat Purdue, 38-20, and East Carolina edged North Carolina State, 33-30. Now, Week 3 is right around the corner and a few intriguing matchups -- including a meeting between Houston and Cincinnati on Thursday -- await.
Here's how the AAC stacks up after two weeks, according to our league-wide panel of beat reporters.
1. Houston (2-0): Even without its top two offensive players, QB Greg Ward Jr. (shoulder) and RB Duke Catalon (ankle), the sixth-ranked Cougars used a suffocating defense for an easy 42-0 win against Division I-AA Lamar. Both players are back as the Cougars begin defense of their AAC title with a Thursday game at Cincinnati. Big 12 Expansion Bowl, anyone? -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle
2. South Florida (2-0): No Marlon Mack, no problem. Even in the absence of their standout tailback — held out for concussion protocol — the Bulls thumped Northern Illinois 48-17 to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2012. In Mack's place, senior Darius Tice made his first start in nearly two years, rushing for a career-high 120 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. Junior QB Quinton Flowers also rebounded from an up-and-down opener (career-best 350 passing yards, four TDs) as USF racked up 658 yards on the overmatched Huskies, its most ever against a Division I opponent. USF next travels to Syracuse on Saturday, where it has never lost in four meetings at the Carrier Dome. -- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times
3. Navy (2-0, 1-0 AAC): Navy needed a gutsy goal-line stand to escape with a 28-24 home victory over Connecticut. NG Patrick Forrestal and DE Amos Mason led the charge as the Mids swarmed over Huskies TB Ron Johnson then laid on top of him on the turf. The Huskies had called their final timeout and thus could not stop the clock as 17 seconds ticked away. Will Worth made his debut as starting quarterback for Navy with mixed results, completing six of eight passes for 130 yards, but rushing for just 44 yards on 19 carries (2.3 average). The Midshipmen amassed 245 total yards in the first half, but managed only 109 in the second half as the visiting Huskies did an outstanding job of defending the triple-option. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group
4. Cincinnati (2-0): The Bearcats rolled past Purdue, 38-20, on Saturday, as sophomore QB Hayden Moore threw for three TDs and ran for two more. It was the first time UC has beaten a Big Ten team on the road in 59 years (Indiana, 1957). The Bearcats since had been 0-11 in such games. Senior nickelback Mike Tyson had three interceptions for UC, one shy of the school record. The Bearcats had five interceptions altogether, holding a 5-0 edge in turnover margin. UC now faces a big test against No. 6 Houston (2-0) on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Nippert Stadium, in the AAC opener for both teams. UC athletic director Mike Bohn said the game is trending toward a sellout, with a capacity of 40,000. It will be the first time a Top 10 team has played in Nippert since Nov. 17, 2007, when the Bearcats lost 28-23 to No. 5 West Virginia. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer
5. East Carolina (2-0): The Pirates head to South Carolina this weekend with momentum after a tense 33-30 win over N.C. State. East Carolina got two TDs each from primary rushers Anthony Scott and James Summers to record its sixth straight win against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. The Pirates, who have not beaten the Gamecocks since 1999, will then travel to Virginia Tech. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector
6. Memphis (1-0): The Tigers were one of just seven FBS teams to have a bye last weekend and now face a daunting stretch of 11 consecutive weeks with a game, beginning with Saturday’s matchup against Kansas. The Jayhawks have lost 16 of their past 17 games, spanning parts of the past three seasons, but Memphis coach Mike Norvell has tremendous respect for Kansas coach David Beaty, as they both recruited Texas for many years and got their first jobs under Todd Graham. Memphis’ recent elimination from Big 12 contention should add an extra level of intrigue to this game, which kicks off at 11 a.m. -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal
7. Temple (1-1): All-conference RB Jahad Thomas, who missed Temple's first two games with a dislocated left thumb, practiced on Tuesday but departed to get attended by a trainer toward the end. After making a reception, Thomas was wincing in pain, shaking his hand. So his status is uncertain for Saturday's game at Penn State. Last year Thomas rushed for 135 yards and two TDs in the Owls, 27-10 win over Penn State, the Owls' first victory over the Nittany Lions since 1941. Last week the Owls rebounded from an opening 28-13 loss to Army by defeating visiting Stony Brook, 38-0. That was Temple's lone FCS opponent. Redshirt junior WR Keith Kirkwood had the first two-TD reception game of his career. The offensive line remains a major worry. QB Phillip Walker has been sacked six times in the two games. He has also thrown four interceptions (and three TD passes) and completed just 46.9 percent of his passes. The Owls defense will face a major challenge against a Penn State team that lost an offensive shootout, 42-39 last week at Pitt. Teams have attempted just 25 passes against Temple. Penn State may throw that many times in the first half. After Saturday, Temple will have its final non-conference game of the season next week when it hosts Charlotte. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer
8. Connecticut (1-1, 0-1 AAC): Bad clock management and a bizarre final sequence left the Huskies inside the Navy 1-yard line as time expired, and with a 28-24 loss Saturday in Annapolis. UConn trailed 21-0 and scored 24 unanswered points to lead in the fourth quarter, but Navy used a short field, needing four plays from the 17 to go ahead with 1:49 to go. Bryant Shirreffs, who set a UConn record for completion percentage by going 23-of-26 for 239 yards, had six completions on the final drive, the last one to Hergy Mayala inside the 1-yard line with 17 seconds left. Coach Bob Diaco burned the team's final timeout before the next play, Ron Johnson was stuffed for no gain and time ran out. UConn plays Virginia Saturday at home. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant
9. Tulsa (1-1): The Hurricane was tied with fourth-ranked Ohio State at the end of the first quarter of Saturday's meeting at the Horseshoe but collapsed during a turnover-filled second quarter and ultimately was steamrolled, 48-3. While QB Dane Evans had a disastrous outing with four interceptions and two fumbles, Tulsa's defense again appeared much improved while keeping the talented Buckeyes out of the end zone in the first half. An offense that has yet to fully click could be tested this week by North Carolina A&T, a I-AA team with a dangerous defense. -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World
10. Central Florida (1-1): Despite losing by a 37-point margin to No. 5 Michigan on Saturday, UCF was able to rush for almost 300 yards against a No. 30 defense guided by coordinator Don Brown. Brown previously led Boston College to the No. 1 defense in college football before joining the Wolverines in 2016. The Knights’ defensive line held its own against Michigan but gave up several key plays largely due to poor field position after a lackluster performance by their special teams unit. UCF managed to improve against a tough Michigan team and will look to gain some momentum against another Big Ten team in Maryland this Saturday. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel
11. SMU (1-1): A week after knocking off North Texas, SMU fell to Baylor, 40-13. The score, however, doesn't indicate how tight the game was. SMU kept things close with Baylor for three quarters and went into the half tied at 6-all. Losing starting QB Matt Davis to a torn anterior cruciate ligament will hurt the Mustangs, but they proved that they are a much improved team in 2016. It's all up to new signal-caller Ben Hicks now. -- EJ Holland, The Dallas Morning News
12. Tulane (1-1): Tulane will be playing its AAC opener at home on Saturday against Navy in first-year coach Willie Fritz’s biggest test since taking over as the Green Wave’s head coach. The Midshipmen are coming off an emotional win against UConn, but Tulane scored 66 points and ran for the third-most yards in school history during last week’s win against Southern. The Green Wave will also be unveiling new starting QB Johnathan Brantley in one of the most interesting AAC matchups of the week. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune
The weekly AAC power rankings are voted on by conference beat writers and tabulated by Tom Schad of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis.