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AAC Power Rankings, Week 5

5

October

A little more than one month into the season, the American Athletic Conference remains as jumbled as ever. Houston has shown no signs of slowing down, and USF is firmly entrenched as the league's No. 2 team so far. But beyond that, there's a ton of parity.

Here's how the conference is shaping out through five weeks, as compiled by a league-wide panel of beat reporters.

1. Houston (5-0, 2-0 AAC): The Greg Ward Jr. Show hit prime time for the Cougars’ game against Connecticut and did not disappoint viewers. The senior quarterback accounted for 454 yards and five touchdowns in the 42-14 win. While Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is considered the early Heisman Trophy frontrunner, this national TV game was a chance for Ward to make an early case. Mission accomplished: Most Heisman tracking sites have Ward among the top 3 this week. "We're petitioning the NCAA to let us use 15 players on defense," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said about facing Ward on Saturday in Annapolis, Md. -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle

2. USF (4-1, 1-0): Marlon Mack became USF’s all-time leading rusher as the Bulls easily dispatched Cincinnati, 45-20, on the road in their AAC opener. Mack, a junior who now has 2,755 yards in 28 career games, rushed for 118 and two TDs on 20 carries. USF’s defense, meantime, bounced back in the second half after yielding 272 yards in the first 30 minutes. It forced three turnovers, including a pick-six that Johnny Ward returned 11 yards for a score. -- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times

3. Memphis (3-1): Though the Tigers' first road trip of the season resulted in a 48-28 loss to nationally-ranked Ole Miss, Coach Mike Norvell was encouraged by the team's resolve early in the second half. Down by three possessions at halftime, Memphis rallied to cut the Rebels' lead to 27-21 in the third quarter before letting the game slip away once again. There were mistakes across the board for the Tigers, from penalties (seven for 52 yards) to turnovers (four) to a string of missed tackles and a few key special teams miscues in the second half.  -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal

4. Navy (3-1, 2-0): The Midshipmen saw one of their primary goals essentially  fall by the wayside Saturday as they lost hope of re-claiming the coveted Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Air Force dominated defensively from start to finish in handing Navy a 28-14 defeat. The Midshipmen were held to 57 rushing yards, their lowest output in 14 years. Navy can only hope to retain the CIC Trophy by having Army beat Air Force, then winning the season-ending showdown with its arch-rival. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

5. Cincinnati (3-2, 0-2): The Bearcats are having issues at quarterback. UC lost, 45-20, at home to South Florida last Saturday, with regular starting QB Hayden Moore (ankle) out again. Redshirt freshman Ross Trail started for a second straight week, going 20-of-30 for 216 yards and a TD with three interceptions, including his second pick-six of the season. Fifth-year senior and former starting QB Gunner Kiel entered the USF game late, going 3-of-11 for 47 yards in his first substantial action this year. Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said he doesn’t think Moore will be able to play this week against UConn, and it is unclear whether Trail or Kiel will get the start. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

6. Temple (3-2, 1-0): The Owls spotted SMU a TD on an interception return in the first minute, then scored the next 35 points in a 45-20 win. After two strong games, QB Phillip Walker had what was, in his words, "one of my worst games" (7-of-18, 124 yards, one TD, two INTs). The Owls were boosted by the running game, rushing for 244 yards and four TDs. Sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who spells starter and returning All-AAC running back Jahad Thomas, rushed for a career high 159 yards and two scores on 15 carries. One of Temple's best players, junior S Sean Chandler, missed the game with a knee injury and will be out for Thursday's game at Memphis and likely longer. LB Stephaun Marshall, who leads the team with 28 tackles, also likely won't play this week due to injury.  -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

7. UCF (3-2, 1-0): UCF opened conference play by avenging a 2015 loss to East Carolina, 47-29, on the road. The Knights’ defense allowed the Pirates to get their usual 500-plus total yards of offense, but were able to force five turnovers, including a safety from defensive back T.J. Mutcherson and a pick-six from freshman DL Brendan Hayes. RB Adrian Killins scored on a 100-yard kickoff return, earning AAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel

8. Tulsa (3-1): After concluding non-conference play the previous week, the Golden Hurricane used its open date to get healthy and prepare for SMU, which comes to town Friday night in what will be the return of former offensive coordinator Chad Morris to Tulsa. With a difficult league schedule that includes road games against the three teams picked to finish above it in the West Division, Tulsa needs to prevail at home especially when favored by more than two TDs, as it will be against the Mustangs -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

9. East Carolina (2-3, 0-1): The Pirates' 47-29 loss to UCF was their third in a row, and starting QB Philip Nelson remained a question mark early this week after being knocked out on a high hit and not returning to the game against the Knights. This week, it gets even tougher for ECU with a Saturday trip to East Division front-runner South Florida. The Pirates committed five turnovers against the Knights and continued to struggle in the red zone. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector

10. Connecticut (2-3, 0-2): The Huskies added a blowout loss to their resume last week, 42-14, at Houston. UConn allowed 28 points in the second quarter alone, more than it has scored in an entire game this season. The UConn running game got next to nowhere on the nation's top rushing defense and Noel Thomas, now sixth in the nation with 46 receptions, was the lone offensive bright spot. Defensively, UConn continues to have problems defending the pass. One has to start wondering what positive can become of this season without a victory Saturday at home against Cincinnati, which has defeated UConn five games in a row and leads the series 10-2. --
Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant

11. Tulane (3-2, 0-1): Tulane notched its first road win of the season in Saturday’s 31-24 victory at UMass after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter. The Green Wave has won three of its last four games, but nature has halted its momentum. Its game at UCF, initially slated for Friday, has been moved to Nov. 5 due to Hurricane Matthew. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune

12. SMU (2-3, 0-1): SMU's offensive woes continued in its 45-20 loss to Temple on Saturday. The Mustangs failed to run the football, gave up multiple sacks, turned the ball over four times, and watched redshirt freshman QB Ben Hicks made a number of costly mistakes. Hicks now has thrown nine interceptions in four starts. If Hicks does not improve, SMU's ship will continue to sink. In fact, the only thing keeping it afloat is the defense. The Mustangs are tied with Troy
for the Division I lead in interceptions with 12. -- EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 11:22am]

    

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