AAC power rankings, Week 7
It's a pivotal week in the American Athletic Conference, as the top teams in each division are set to face off: USF will play at Temple on Friday night, and Memphis will make its first trip to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to face Navy the following afternoon.
In the meantime, here are the latest conference power rankings, as compiled by a league-wide panel of beat reporters.
1. Houston (6-1, 3-1 AAC): The Cougars needed a series of defensive stands in the final 81 seconds -- including a stop at the goal line on the final play -- to escape with a 38-31 win against Tulsa. It was nearly another tough break for the Cougars, who in the last few weeks have seen their hopes of a spot in the College Football Playoff all but vanish with a loss at Navy, and Monday's news that the Big 12 will not expand. Now the attention will turn to whether the No. 11 Cougars can win out -- they play at SMU on Saturday and the Nov. 17 game against Louisville looms large -- and get some help in the AAC West. -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle
2. USF (6-1, 3-0): The Bulls shook off another stagnant start and pulled away late in a 42-27 victory against Connecticut to wrap up up bowl eligibility and tie the best start in program history. Though he struggled at times through the air, QB Quinton Flowers was electric on the ground, running for 157 yards and three touchdowns, including a video game-like scramble where he juked multiple defenders for a 54-yard score in the first quarter. USF's defense also shined, harassing UConn's Bryant Shirreffs for a season-best five sacks, including three from junior MLB Auggie Sanchez. -- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times
3. Navy (4-1, 3-0): The Midshipmen received an unexpected bye when their Thursday night game against East Carolina was postponed due to flooding in eastern North Carolina caused by Hurricane Mathew. The winner of their game against Memphis will be in the driver's seat to represent the West in the AAC championship game. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group
4. Memphis (5-1, 2-0): The Tigers got off to another slow start on offense but rallied again in the second half to beat Tulane, 24-14, and pick up their first conference road win of the season. True freshman RB Darrell Henderson scored on a 46-yard pass and 45-yard run en route to 156 all-purpose yards. Memphis was also buoyed by takeaways, as it has been all year. The team recovered two fumbles on special teams and Jonathan Cook intercepted a pass, giving the Tigers a Division I-best 18 forced turnovers this season. -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal
5. Temple (4-3, 2-1): Temple rallied from an 18-point deficit in Saturday's 26-25 win against UCF in Orlando. Trailing 25-20, Temple began its final drive on its own 30-yard line with 32 seconds remaining and no timeouts. Phillip Walker hit Ventell Bryant for three completions in a row to the UCF 8-yard line before finding Keith Kirkwood for a scoring pass with one second remaining. Walker had passed for only 97 yards before that final drive. Temple's best chance against USF will be to have a ball-control game, similar to Saturday when the Owls rushed for 197 yards against UCF. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer
6. Tulsa (4-2, 1-1): The Golden Hurricane fell 38-31 at Houston on Saturday night despite a 14-point comeback in the fourth quarter. Tulsa was driving with a chance to take the lead in the final two minutes when QB Dane Evans fumbled while attempting to throw the ball away and the Cougars scooped and scored. Evans bounced back to propel Tulsa to the 1-yard line, but the 20-point underdogs couldn't get any closer as normal DE Jesse Brubaker was stopped short of the goal line after catching an Evans pass. The Hurricane returns home to host resurgent Tulane on Saturday afternoon. -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World
7. UCF (3-3, 1-1): UCF led for at least 59 minutes before falling Saturday to Temple. UCF’s defense got winded late after the offense failed to get anything going for 2 1/2 quarters after racing to a 25-7 lead. The Knights were led by freshman QB McKenzie Milton, who finished 13-of-22 for 210 yards, two TDs and an interception, and was sacked seven times. UCF will play at UConn on Saturday. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel
8. Connecticut (3-4, 1-3): With two forced turnovers and two TDs in a span of 2:22 early in the third quarter, the Huskies took a 17-14 lead at USF before the Bulls rallied. The Huskies lost their best offensive lineman, LG Tommy Hopkins, to a season-ending leg injury during their second possession and did little offensively outside of the possessions that followed the takeaways. RB Arkeel Newsome did have a 70-yard TD reception and a 4-yard scoring run en route to 162 total yards. UConn, which faces UCF on Saturday at home, forced four turnovers at USF after forcing only three in their first six games. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant
9. Cincinnati (3-3, 0-3): The Bearcats had a bye this past week after dropping their previous two games to USF and UConn. UC returns to action Saturday at home against East Carolina. Coach Tommy Tuberville said the top priorities during the bye week were working on the Bearcats’ running game and also the run defense. UC ranks 116th nationally in rushing (124.8 ypg). Running backs Tion Green (360 yards, 4.7 per carry, two TDs) and Mike Boone (254 yards, 3.2 ypc, two TDs) have struggled to find running room, with the offensive line not getting much push. QB Hayden Moore is expected to start against ECU. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer
10. East Carolina (2-4, 0-2): It's do-or-die time for the Pirates, who are coming off an impromptu bye week caused by Hurricane Matthew and headed to Cincinnati in hopes of avoiding the team's first five-game losing skid since the 2003 team finished 1-10. The Pirates hope to have a healthy Philip Nelson at quarterback after the senior was knocked out of consecutive games with injuries following hard hits. The ECU defense still has only one sack all season and is 12th in the AAC in run defense. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector
11. Tulane (3-3, 0-2): The Green Wave suffered a frustrating 24-14 loss to Memphis last week after a mistake-filled night on special teams and an anemic performance on the offensive end. Tulane will have to get over last week’s loss quickly, though, because it goes on the road Saturday to face Tulsa, which pushed defending AAC champion Houston to the brink in last week’s 38-31 loss. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune
12. SMU (2-4, 0-2): The Mustangs are coming off a bye week and will face their toughest conference opponent of the year so far in Houston. The good news for SMU is it is a home game at night, so the Mustangs will feed off the momentum early on. It wouldn't be surprising to see SMU keep things close early, but this will likely not be the week the Mustangs get things turned around. -- EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News