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Bulls atop latest AAC power rankings

USF receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (11) celebrates with teammate Tyre McCants after Valdes-Scantling's first-half touchdown in Saturday's 52-45 win against Navy.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (11) celebrates with teammate Tyre McCants after Valdes-Scantling's first-half touchdown in Saturday's 52-45 win against Navy.

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November

Every team in the American Athletic Conference has at least two losses entering the month of November, which speaks to both the strength and parity of the league. And the divisional races are in full swing, with several teams on each side of the conference jockeying for position.

Here's a look at the AAC landscape entering the final month of the regular season, according to our league-wide panel of beat reporters.

1. USF (7-2, 4-1 AAC): The Bulls built a 28-point halftime lead on No. 22 Navy before holding on late for the 52-45 upset. Though USF's defense took its collective foot off the gas down the stretch, its offense sparkled. QB Quinton Flowers and tailbacks Marlon Mack and D'Ernest Johnson combined for 408 rushing yards for the Bulls, marking the first time in program history that three USF players hit the 100-yard mark in the same game. The Bulls get a needed bye week this weekend before traveling to Memphis on Nov. 12. -- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times

2. Navy (5-2, 4-1): The Midshipmen were brought down to earth in a big way Friday night in Tampa. Navy's defense could not handle the across-the-board speed of the Bulls, who led 42-14 at halftime. Shoddy tackling was another issue for the Midshipmen, who gave up 629 total yards. It was the first conference defeat for Navy, which still controls its own destiny in the West. The Midshipmen travel back to Florida to face Notre Dame on Saturday at Jacksonville's EverBank Field in the 90th edition of the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in college football. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

3. Temple (6-3, 4-1): The Owls earned their first three-game win streak of the season with Saturday's 34-13 home victory against Cincinnati. Leading 17-13 at halftime, Temple held the Bearcats to 11 yards from scrimmage in the second half. The Owls rushed for 275 yards and got two rushing TDs from Ryquell Armstead, who now has 11 this season. Jahad Thomas rushed for a season-high 151 yards on 17 carries. QB Phillip Walker has now gone 10 quarters without throwing an interception. In his last four games, Jefferson High alumnus Ventell Bryant has caught 19 passes for 345 yards. Temple visits UConn on Friday. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

4. Houston (7-2, 4-2): Behind a resurgent defense, the Cougars erased a 21-point second-half deficit for a 31-24 victory against UCF, the third-largest comeback in school history. A defense that had struggled the previous three games forced four turnovers and held the Knights to a field goal and 29 yards of total offense in the final two quarters. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was uncharacteristically sloppy with three interceptions (all in the first half) and a fumble on the opening series of the second half. After playing nine consecutive weeks the Cougars get a much-needed open date this weekend. -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle

5. Tulsa (6-2, 3-1): In what stands as the most impressive victory in the Philip Montgomery era, the Golden Hurricane pulled away from Memphis for a 59-30 road win Saturday night, securing bowl eligibility and keeping Tulsa in the mix for the West title. Junior James Flanders filled in for primary back D'Angelo Brewer and delivered 249 yards and a school-record five rushing TDs. The Hurricane defense, meantime, sealed the win with a trio of fourth-quarter takeaways. Up next is a home game against East Carolina, which has prevailed in six consecutive meetings in the series. -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

6. Memphis (5-3, 2-2): It was a tough week for the Tigers, on and off the field. Starting DL Michael Edwards retired because of personal/family reasons, two players were suspended for an altercation over video games, three top recruits decommitted, and Memphis lost to Tulsa, 59-30. The Tigers committed four turnovers and 12 penalties, gave up 362 rushing yards and dropped an estimated eight passes in the game. Anthony Miller was a bright spot with 12 catches for a school-record 250 yards and two TDs. The Tigers will try snapping the first two-game losing streak of the Mike Norvell era Saturday at SMU. -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal

7. UCF (4-4, 2-2): While the Knights showed how much they have improved from 2015, they also showed how much they need to grow during a 31-24 road loss to Houston. After leading 24-3 early in the third quarter, UCF allowed the Cougars to score 28 unanswered points. Redshirt junior LB Shaquem Griffin was named the league’s defensive player of the week after collecting 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and his first career interception. UCF, two wins shy of bowl eligibility, will look to rebound during a three-game home stretch starting with Tulane on Saturday. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel

8. SMU (4-4, 2-2): SMU avoided a letdown after its monumental win over Houston with a 35-31 road victory against Tulane. The Mustangs dominated the first half but made some key errors that caused them to fall behind by 10 points with nine minutes to play. SMU rallied behind the arm of QB Ben Hicks (16-of-31, 302 yards). This team has shown plenty of moxie and resilience, but just how good are the Ponies? Saturday's homecoming game against Memphis, which could put SMU on the brink of bowl eligibility, should be telling. -- EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News

9.Cincinnati (4-4, 1-4): The Bearcats are coming off a 34-13 loss at Temple, where they totaled only 11 yards in the second half. QB Gunner Kiel threw for 122 yards and two TDs in the first half, but was just 1-of-6 in the second half. UC faces a stiff challenge this week against BYU (4-4), which beat the Bearcats, 38-24, last year in Provo. UC puts a 30-game Nippert Stadium non-conference winning streak on the line, with the Bearcats not having lost to a non-league opponent at their campus since 2002. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

10. East Carolina (3-5, 1-3): East Carolina earned its lone October win Saturday against Connecticut, providing itself a late-season lifeline. Now, the motivation is to win three of its final four games to swipe an unlikely bowl bid. The competition is stiff, beginning this week at Tulsa and continuing against SMU, Navy and Temple to finish the regular season. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector

11. Connecticut (3-6, 1-5): The Huskies' 41-3 loss at East Carolina had Coach Bob Diaco using descriptions such as "pathetic" and "ridiculous." QB Bryant Shirreffs said he was embarrassed for everyone involved. It was the second-worst loss -- in terms of point margin -- of the three-year Diaco era, prompting Diaco to demote offensive coordinator Frank Verducci. The Huskies, who have lost three in a row and five of six, are in a mess of a situation that they'll try to start cleaning up Friday night at home against Temple. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant

12. Tulane (3-5, 0-4): The Green Wave defense struggled to live up to the reputation it built early in the season, giving up a TD in the final minute Saturday to fall to SMU, 35-31. After starting the season 3-2, Tulane has lost its last three and plays three of its final four games on the road. If Tulane coach Willie Fritz can’t get his defense back on track soon, it may be a tough road for the Green Wave down the stretch. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune

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[Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 10:04am]

    

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