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USF, Memphis remain atop AAC power rankings

Quarterback Quinton Flowers and USF remain atop the American Athletic Conference power rankings after Week Four.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Quarterback Quinton Flowers and USF remain atop the American Athletic Conference power rankings after Week Four.

American Athletic Conference play will be in full swing this week, as 10 of the league’s 12 teams face a conference opponent, including a matchup of unbeatens Memphis and UCF on Saturday night in Orlando.

Here’s how the conference is shaking out entering the last weekend of September, as voted upon by a league-wide panel of beat reporters.

1. USF (4-0, 1-0 AAC): Exactly 11 months after being gashed by Temple's power-run attack, the Bulls allowed only 85 total yards (fewest ever surrendered to a Division I foe in program history) in Thursday's 43-7 romp of the Owls. The No. 18 Bulls now rank third nationally in run defense (66.0 ypg) after finishing 118th in that category (240.3 ypg) this time last season. On Saturday, they visit East Carolina hoping to extend their program-record win streak to 10 games. -- Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times

2. Memphis (3-0): The Tigers trailed at the half against Division I-AA Southern Illinois but rallied in the second half to secure a 44-31 win and improve to 3-0 for the third consecutive season. Sophomore Tony Pollard again helped turn the tide with a kickoff return for a touchdown, his second of the season and fourth of his career. A much tougher test awaits Saturday night, as Memphis hits the road for the first time this season to face UCF. -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal

3. Navy (3-0, 2-0 AAC): The Midshipmen pulled out another close contest last weekend. QB Zach Abey directed an attack that rolled up 622 total yards, 569 of which came on the ground, as Navy beat Cincinnati, 42-32. However, the Navy defense had its worst outing of the season and allowed the Bearcats 439 yards of their own. Navy plays its first conference road contest Saturday at Tulsa. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

4. UCF (2-0): McKenzie Milton threw for 178 yards and rushed for another 94, and the Knights used a dominating defensive performance to hand Maryland a 38-10 loss in College Park, Md. The team showed no ill effects from being off for more than two weeks due to Hurricane Irma, manhandling the Terrapins. UCF’s offense went 5-of-5 in the red zone with four TDs while the defense held Maryland to season-lows in points (10) and total yards (197). Next up is the conference opener against Memphis, rescheduled from Sept. 9. -- Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

5. Houston (2-1): The offense continued to sputter as Houston fell to Texas Tech, 27-24, snapping the nation's longest home winning streak at 16. Coach Major Applewhite made a switch at quarterback midway through the fourth quarter, replacing struggling starter Kyle Allen (six turnovers in three games) with backup Kyle Postma, who led two late TD drives. Applewhite plans to evaluate the position this week as the Cougars prepare to play their AAC opener Saturday at Temple.  -- Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

6. SMU (3-1): The Mustangs improved to 3-1 with a 44-21 win over Arkansas State. The Red Wolves opted to double-cover WR Courtland Sutton from the start, which opened up space for SMU's run game to gain 314 yards on the ground. Xavier Jones led the way with a career-high 146 yards. Sutton even got in on it with a 2-yard TD on his first career carry. Next, SMU opens conference play against UConn. -- Adam Grosbard, Dallas Morning News

7. Cincinnati (2-2, 0-1 AAC): In their 130th season of football, the Bearcats allowed a program-worst 569 rushing yards in a 42-32 loss at Navy on Saturday. The previous record of 539 yards had stood since 1989. On the upside, QB Hayden Moore threw for 381 yards and three TDs with no interceptions. Next up: Saturday at home against Marshall. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

8. Tulane (2-2, 0-1 AAC): Returning from an injury that sidelined him for a game, QB Jonathan Banks did it all on a 19-play, 75-yard drive, scoring the winning TD with 23 seconds left as Tulane beat Army, 21-17, at home. The Green Wave converted two third downs and three fourth downs in a remarkably clutch sequence after converting zero for the game to that point. Tulane, which was dominated in time of possession and did not run a snap inside the Army 40-yard line until the final series, scored its other TDs on 75- and 72-yard runs. The Wave has a bye week before hosting Tulsa. -- Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

9. Tulsa (1-3): For a second week in a row, the Hurricane lost on a field goal in the closing seconds, falling against New Mexico 16-13 Saturday and ending a seven-game home win streak. The Tulsa defense that has struggled significantly held its own, particularly during the second half, but the typically high-powered offense sputtered against one of the top run defenses in the country and had even less success through the air. Conference play begins Saturday with Navy visiting for the second of three games against option-based offenses, followed by a trip to Tulane next week. -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

10. Temple (2-2, 0-1 AAC): The Owls once again have a quarterback controversy. After redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi didn’t throw an interception in the first three games. he threw three in Thursday’s 43-7 loss at USF. Redshirt junior Frank Nutile and true freshman Todd Centeio also played quarterback, and now there could be a revolving door. The Owls committed six turnovers and had minus-4 yards rushing. On Saturday they host Houston, their first meeting since losing the inaugural AAC title game to the host Cougars on Dec. 5, 2015. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

11. East Carolina (1-3, 1-0 AAC): ECU regained its pulse, barely, with a Sunday afternoon victory against Connecticut to open conference play, but it was anything but convincing. After holding a pair of 20-point leads, the Pirates began to sag on defense and the Huskies stormed all the way back and missed a game-tying field goal to fall 41-38. It was a breakout day for QB Thomas Sirk and WR Davon Grayson, both of whom enjoyed career outings. Whatever buzz might have been created might also be short-lived with league top dog USF headed to town for a noon kickoff Saturday. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector

12. Connecticut (1-2, 0-1 AAC): The Huskies were torched Sunday in a 41-38 home loss to East Carolina, a game that ended with Michael Tarbutt's tying 33-yard field goal attempt sailing wide right. UConn has the worst passing defense in the nation, allowing an average of 413 yards. Bryant Shirreffs (career-high 406 passing yards against East Carolina) has the offense moving well but the secondary's struggles are glaring. Next up: Saturday at SMU. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant

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USF men's hoops team lands juco commitment

Coach Brian Gregory's '18 class is currently ranked second in the American Athletic Conference by Rivals.

CHARLIE KAIJO | Times

Coach Brian Gregory's '18 class is currently ranked second in the American Athletic Conference by Rivals.

The USF men's basketball team picked up its fourth commitment for the 2018 class late Tuesday when Connors State (Okla.) College SG Rashawn Langston announced via Twitter he intends to sign with the Bulls.

A 6-foot-3 Arkansas prep standout, Langston joins a trio of three-star prospects in Coach Brian Gregory's '18 class, currently ranked second in the American Athletic Conference by Rivals.

According to the Connors State media guide, Langston averaged 26 points and seven steals as a senior at North Pulaski High in Jacksonville, Ark., earning first-team Class 4A all-state honors. He'll have two seasons of eligibility at USF.

Here's some highlight footage of Langston, who appears adept from long range.  He officially can sign with USF as early as Nov. 8, the start of the NCAA's weeklong early signing period for men's basketball.

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USF journal: Defensive front drawing praise

USF linebacker Auggie Sanchez, tackling Temple quarterback Todd Centeio, said the Bulls' defensive line has been critical in helping the secondary snag 12 interceptions.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF linebacker Auggie Sanchez, tackling Temple quarterback Todd Centeio, said the Bulls' defensive line has been critical in helping the secondary snag 12 interceptions.

Five days after their most dominant defensive performance of the season (if not recent memory), the Bulls kept driving home a point about their nation-leading interception total.

The success on the back end is due in large part to the harrassment up front, they insist.

"I always say you're only as good as your defensive line," said MLB Auggie Sanchez, who has watched his unit total 12 picks in four games.

"And I think when you go back and you look at the four games we've played, they've dominated those games. When you dominate the line of scrimmage and you create another line of scrimmage, you're gonna have success."

The four-man front, a rotation of roughly nine players each game, has accounted for 9.5 of the Bulls' 13 sacks, and 21.5 of their 33 tackles for loss. In Thursday's 43-7 embarrassment of Temple, the unit successfully clogged running lanes and anchored a blitz-happy attack that held the Owls to 85 total yards.

"Even when you bring the young guys in, they're applying the pressure," Coach Charlie Strong said. "We're rotating a lot of guys, so that's allowing us to stay fresh up front."

HOOTING OWLS: Seems Temple's brash talk about USF didn't end in the aftermath of its 2016 romp of the Bulls. According to QB Quinton Flowers, the Owls still were hooting Thursday.

Even after their deficit reached double digits.

"I would say yes, there was more talking this game," Flowers said Tuesday. "I feel like them guys were trying to get in my head and get me out of my game, but at the end of the day...as a player you have to stay together as a team, and that's what I was doing."

Except for one fleeting moment in the second quarter.

After dashing for 4 yards around the left side, and leveling Owls DB Linwood Crump in the process, Flowers could be seen mouthing something at a Temple player on the sideline. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"At the time, the guy kind of said something to me and I got a little frustrated about it," Flowers said.

But did the hit on Crump feel good? "Yes it did," he added.

INJURY UPDATE: Strong said the Bulls' two dinged-up slot receivers, Deangelo Antoine (foot) and Tyre McCants (sprained MCL), both practiced Tuesday, when the team was in shells.

PK Emilio Nadelman, who had his left (non-kicking) foot wrapped up late in Thursday's game, kicked during the team's field-goal period Tuesday, Strong added. P Jonathan Hernandez did the kickoffs at the end of practice.

"They all practiced today, and at the end we took 'em out, but they're gonna be fine," Strong said. "McCants practiced and then (Antoine) ran around a little, but he was able to do some things. We've just got to make sure he can put his foot in the ground and plant where he can change direction."

Strong added freshman LB Keirston Johnson got an MRI after taking a "hit to the chest," and was awaiting the results.

IN HINDSIGHT...: Strong acknowledged Tuesday that if he had the Bulls' futile first-and-goal possession to do over, he would have given the ball to Flowers.

The Bulls came up empty despite a first-and-goal from the Temple 6 following a Deatrick Nichols interception. A D'Ernest Johnson first-down run went nowhere, and Flowers misfired on second down to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was in single coverage near the end zone's right corner. After a 4-yard completion to TE Mitchell Wilcox, Johnson's fourth-down run gained only 2 yards.

So does Strong wish he would've allowed Flowers to do his thing? "Yeah, 'cause a lot of times when he has the ball in his hands, he's gonna make some things happen," the coach said.

"But even on that...either the back could've probably bounced the ball outside because I think they overloaded us and they did; they pinched everybody down inside. I thought we had an outside corner. It's a lot of things. Once you start thinking about it, you're like, 'Why didn't we do this or that?'"

ODDS AND ENDS: The CBS Sports Network broadcast team for Saturday's noon game at East Carolina will consist of John Sadak (play-by-play), Randy Cross (analysis) and Jordan Daigle (sidelines). ... Strong singled out Sickles High alumnus Nate Ferguson and reserve RB Trevon Sands as guys setting the tone on special teams. ... That USF streak of 21 consecutive games with at least 30 points? It's only two games shy of the Division I record set by Oregon in 2011 and '12. ... Currently, USF and Alabama are the only schools in the nation to rank in the top 10 in both rushing yards and rushing defense.

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Know the Foe: East Carolina

East Carolina quarterback Thomas Sirk is sacked by Connecticut's Junior Joseph during the Pirates' 41-38 triumph Sunday.

Mark Mirko | Hartford Courant

East Carolina quarterback Thomas Sirk is sacked by Connecticut's Junior Joseph during the Pirates' 41-38 triumph Sunday.

A look at East Carolina, which hosts No. 18 USF on Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, N.C.

Nickame: Pirates
Record: 1-3 (1-0 American Athletic Conference)
Win: at Connecticut, 41-38
Losses: vs. James Madison, 34-14; at West Virginia, 56-20; home vs. Virginia Tech, 64-17
Coach: Scottie Montgomery (second season, 4-12)

The breakdown: The Pirates, dead last in Division I in total defense (624.8 ypg), nearly squandered a 20-point second-half lead in Sunday's 41-38 win at Connecticut. Their first win of '17 was secured only when Huskies PK Mike Tarbutt missed a 33-yard field goal on the final play. ... The Pirates' recent modus operandi has been to spread the field and feed a primary receiver (i.e. Justin Hardy, Zay Jones), and this year seems no exception. In Sunday's win, QB Thomas Sirk -- a Duke transfer -- threw for 426 yards and three touchdowns, with more than half of that yardage total (and all three TDs) going to senior Davon Grayson (11 catches, 223 yards). Currently, Grayson (98.5) and junior teammate Trevon Brown (86.3) rank first and second, respectively, in the AAC in receiving yards per game. Problem is, the Pirates can't run the ball (105.5 ypg -- 115th nationally) or stop the run (274.5 ypg -- 123rd nationally). Fact is, they're the only team in Division I allowing more than 600 yards a game. As if to compound their misery, they rank 119th in the country in turnover margin (minus-1.50).

Odds and ends: ECU has won seven of its last eight conference home openers. ... In their 64-17 home loss to Virginia Tech, the Pirates led 17-7 after one quarter before allowing 57 unanswered points. ... The Pirates are 116th in the latest ESPN Football Power Index rankings. ... ECU has no players from the bay area on its roster. ... It has recovered one fumble all season.

Audible: "They get the ball outside on the perimeter and have a really outstanding receiver (Grayson). ... And then the quarterback (Sirk), he has a little run game to him. So we're just gonna have to make sure that we get aligned properly and get our feet on the ground and not give up the big play, because they do have a run-pass option where the quarterback can come down the line, and if the receiver's open he's gonna dump the ball out there to him. So we can't lose eyes on our coverage." -- Bulls coach Charlie Strong

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Strong: Respect for flag, others' opinions are essential

USF coach Charlie Strong said Tuesday he and his team haven't spoken extensively about the NFL's national-anthem controversy.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

USF coach Charlie Strong said Tuesday he and his team haven't spoken extensively about the NFL's national-anthem controversy.

Though the national anthem controversy isn't likely to trickle down from the NFL to the college level (as we explain here), college coaches aren't oblivious -- or immune -- to the issue.

On Tuesday, Bulls coach Charlie Strong was asked about it more than once, saying, "You have to respect the American flag, you have to respect this country."

So what would he do if one of his players approached him about making a public stand or protest?

"We would have a conversation and we would talk about the reason why you're making a statement and why you feel the way you feel," Strong said during his weekly press conference.

"You have to have that conversation with the player, because you don't want him to just stand up and just all of the sudden feel like, 'Hey, this is what I need to do.'"

Strong kept stressing open dialogue and education when pressed about the widespread NFL protests. He said neither he nor the players have spoken much about it in a team setting, but if such an issue were to arise, they would discuss it as a group.

"There's issues that you can come to a common answer if everybody's willing to work together. And a lot of times, everybody's got to have their opinion," he said.

"I may not believe what you believe, but it's not that you are wrong. It's like, if we sit down and have a conversation and are able to express our beliefs, then we can come to an understanding of why you feel the way you feel, and the reason why I feel the way I feel.

"Even with our team, I always tell them, 'If you're willing to make a stand about something, make sure that you've researched it and you have a reason for making that stand.'"

Strong then suggested the nation has more pressing issues than the one that has created such a stir on the sports landscape.

"My mind goes to...Puerto Rico," he said.

"Look what's happening there in that country. They're talking about the number of days they're not gonna have power. Let's go help those people. Look what happened even in this state (with Hurricane Irma), look what happened in Texas (with Hurricane Harvey).

"Sometimes there's battles to fight, but let's take care of what's happening around us instead of kind of thinking it's not an issue when it is an issue."

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USF 's Deatrick Nichols, Emilio Nadelman honored by AAC

USF senior nickel back Deatrick Nichols had two interceptions in Thursday's 43-7 win against Temple.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF senior nickel back Deatrick Nichols had two interceptions in Thursday's 43-7 win against Temple.

Bulls nickel back Deatrick Nichols and PK Emilio Nadelman, both of whom had career games in Thursday's 43-7 romp of Temple, have been named the American Athletic Conference's defensive and special teams players of the week, respectively.

Nichols had two interceptions, three tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble Thursday, when the Bulls forced six turnovers and surrendered only 85 yards. He now has three career two-interception games, including last season at SMU and the 2015 home triumph against Cincinnati. …

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Ballot breakdown: USF at No. 18

USF players acknowledge their student section at Raymond James Stadium following Thursday's 43-7 win against Temple.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF players acknowledge their student section at Raymond James Stadium following Thursday's 43-7 win against Temple.

Four games into the season, the 18th-ranked Bulls (4-0) have convinced nearly every AP voter they merit a top-25 ranking.

Key word: nearly.

ESPN College GameDay host Rece Davis is among only five voters who don't include USF on their latest respective ballot. Last week, USF didn't appear on 18 ballots.

The breakdown of where each AP voter ranked (or didn't rank) USF can be found here. Nine voters have USF at 15th or higher, with four placing them at No. 13. Matt Baker, who votes for the Tampa Bay Times, has USF at No. 22 on his ballot.

The Bulls' ranking is their highest since Week 6 of 2011, when they were 4-0. The following week, they were trounced at Pitt, 44-17.

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Peach pursuit: How the Group of Five's best fared in Week 4

USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox lunges just short of the goal line during the Bulls' 43-7 romp of Temple on Thursday night.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox lunges just short of the goal line during the Bulls' 43-7 romp of Temple on Thursday night.

Each week henceforth, we'll take a look at how USF fared in comparison to the other serious Group of Five contenders for the New Year's Six bowl berth. Presuming that berth will be in the Peach Bowl, we've devised a gauge of sorts measuring each team's New Year's Six chances at this moment in time.

Peachy: In the driver's seat for a Peach Bowl berth
Ripening: A team to watch. New Year's outlook getting stronger
Bruised: Peach Bowl chances took a recent hit
The Pits: Not a serious contender at this time


Boise State (2-2)
This week: lost to Virginia, 42-23
Next week: Idle
The Broncos' 47-44 loss to Washington State earlier this month didn't destroy their New Year's hopes, but that beatdown Friday from Virginia did.
Outlook: The Pits

Houston (2-1)
This week: lost to Texas Tech 27-24
Next week: at Temple
The Cougars' New Year's Six aspirations took a blow with the loss to the Red Raiders, but with Memphis, Navy and USF still on their schedule, they have time to make up ground. Could be difficult with a quarterback controversy brewing.
Outlook: Bruised

Northern Illinois (2-1)
This week: Idle
Next week: at San Diego State
After an opening-week loss to Boston College, the Huskies opened some eyes with a 21-17 win at Nebraska. Now, they can really propel themselves into the New Year's Six discussion with a victory Saturday night at San Diego State. As far as their Peach aspirations go, Saturday's a make-or-break game for the Huskies.
Outlook: Ripening

Memphis (3-0)
This week: defeated Southern Illinois 44-31
Next week: at UCF
The Tigers' victory against UCLA two Saturdays ago has lost a bit of luster, but with UCF, Navy and Houston remaining on their schedule, that shouldn't matter a great deal. We'll stop short of calling Memphis-UCF a New Year's Six elimination game, but it feels that way.
Outlook: Ripening

Navy (3-0)
This week: defeated Cincinnati 42-32
Next week: at Tulsa
Considering how effectively QB Zach Abey has acclimated himself to the starter's role, we won't dare sleep on the Midshipmen. The quality-win opportunities (Memphis, UCF, Notre Dame, Houston, Army) are plenteous. We easily can envision a Navy-USF showdown for the AAC title.
Outlook: Ripening

San Diego State (4-0)
This week: defeated Air Force 28-24
Next week: home vs. Northern Illinois
Of the teams USF doesn't play, the 19th-ranked Aztecs represent the Bulls' greatest obstacle to Atlanta. Their earlier Power Five conquests of Arizona State and Stanford look much more impressive today, considering those teams defeated Oregon and UCLA -- respectively -- Saturday night. USF, by comparison, won't be able to boast even one -- much less two -- quality non-conference triumphs.
Outlook: Peachy

UCF (2-0)
This week: defeated Maryland 38-10
Next week: home vs Memphis
Considering the collateral damage they sustained from Hurricane Irma (two games postponed, 23-day layoff), the Knights' convincing win at Maryland could generate sentimental support from College Football Playoff committee (and AP) voters. They really launch themselves into the New Year's Six conversation with a victory next weekend against Memphis (and USF fans would be wise to begrudgingly pull for a Knights triumph).
Outlook: Ripening

USF (4-0)
This week: defeated Temple 43-7
Next week: at East Carolina
Even with the No. 18 Bulls' lingering offensive issues, they should be favored in each remaining game. Arguably their greatest enemy right now is their strength of schedule (or lack thereof). In an ideal scenario, Houston and/or UCF will be ranked when the Bulls face them later this fall, giving USF a chance at two resume-boosting wins. A third could come against Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game. Nutshell -- Yes, the Bulls need UCF to keep winning.
Outlook: Peachy

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USF baseball benefit golf tournament set for Nov. 3

Former USF pitching coach Billy Mohl (center) was hired to replace Mark Kingston as Bulls head coach in June. He's pictured here at his introductory news conference with athletic director Mark Harlan (left) and USF president Judy Genshaft.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

Former USF pitching coach Billy Mohl (center) was hired to replace Mark Kingston as Bulls head coach in June. He's pictured here at his introductory news conference with athletic director Mark Harlan (left) and USF president Judy Genshaft.

The USF baseball team, under new coach Billy Mohl, has announced its benefit golf tournament will be held Nov. 3 at TPC Tampa Bay.

“As the new head coach of this program, I am looking forward to meeting all the alumni who have made this place what it is today,” Mohl said in a news release.

“Without their support, this program would not be where it is. I welcome all alumni, fans, and friends of the program to participate in this event. With your support, we are able to give our players the resources they need to be successful and elevate this program to the next level.”

Single entry fee to participate starts at $150, which includes greens fee, participation gift, goodie bag and a post-tournament social. Foursomes also may register at various sponsorship levels (ranging from $2,500 to $5,000). Hole sponsorships also are available.

Registration begins at 11 a.m. on Nov. 3, with the tournament commencing with a 1 p.m. shotgun start. For additional information, click here.

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USF women 19th in Athlon preseason college hoops poll

USF junior Kitija Laksa, the top scorer for the Bulls women's team last season, is among five returning starters this year.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

USF junior Kitija Laksa, the top scorer for the Bulls women's team last season, is among five returning starters this year.

Don't be shocked if the Bulls women's basketball team nudges past football on the preseason hype meter.

Coach Jose Fernandez's squad, which returns five starters (if you count previously injured senior Laura Ferreira) from a 24-win team, is ranked 19th in Athlon Sports' 2017-18 college basketball preview magazine. …

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Several team/individual records in USF's sights tonight

With 64 career catches, USF senior D'Ernest Johnson needs four more to tie the school record for career receptions by a running back.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

With 64 career catches, USF senior D'Ernest Johnson needs four more to tie the school record for career receptions by a running back.

At this juncture of the program, USF seems on the brink of several team/individual records each week, and tonight's game against Temple is no exception. Here are a few records within reasonable striking distance this evening:

* A victory would be USF's ninth in a row, breaking the program record established during the 2006-07 seasons.

* The Bulls will try to score at least 30 points for the 21st consecutive game, which would extend a streak that currently stands as the nation's longest.

* With 111 rushing yards, Quinton Flowers breaks Tim Tebow's mark for career rushing yards by a Division I quarterback in Florida (2,947).

* Flowers needs one rushing touchdown to take sole possession of the school's career mark. He's currently tied with Marlon Mack (32).

* With four catches, senior D'Ernest Johnson ties Rafael Williams' school record for career receptions by a running back (68).

* Flowers needs one more pass of 50 or more yards to tie B.J. Daniels' record (15) for most in school history.

* With 3,229 career all-purpose yards, Johnson needs 61 to enter USF's career top five in that category (Mack holds the record with 4,107).

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USF still atop AAC power rankings (but Tigers lurking)

Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns in the Tigers' 48-45 upset of UCLA on Saturday.

AP photo

Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns in the Tigers' 48-45 upset of UCLA on Saturday.

Six American Athletic Conference teams faced off against Power Five opponents last week, with USF crushing Illinois and Memphis slipping past then-No. 25 UCLA. Several teams will wrap up their non-conference schedules this week and turn their attention to conference play.

Here’s a look at how the AAC is stacking up so far, as voted upon by a league-wide panel of beat reporters.

1. USF (3-0):  In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the Bulls delivered the most inspiring performance of the year Friday, amassing 680 yards in a 47-23 romp of Illinois. The 2,154 first responders (and their families) who were admitted free of charge saw fringe Heisman Trophy candidate Quinton Flowers collect 386 total yards and five touchdowns (four passing) in a performance reminiscent of his dazzling 2016 season. Defensively, the Bulls had three more picks, moving their season total to eight in three contests. They'll host Temple tonight. -- Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times

2. Memphis (2-0): QB Riley Ferguson threw for nearly 400 yards and six TDs, WR Anthony Miller caught nine passes for 185 yards and two scores, and the Tigers slipped past UCLA, 48-45, on Saturday. The nationally-televised win over Josh Rosen and Co. should help vault Memphis into the national spotlight, especially if the Tigers can remain undefeated over the next few weeks. The Tigers will host Division I-AA Southern Illinois on Saturday before opening conference play at UCF. -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal

3. Houston (2-0): Kyle Allen set a single-game school record for completion percentage, going 31-of-33 (93.9 percent) in a 38-3 win over Rice in the Bayou Bucket rivalry. The Cougars came within 2:47 of the shutout, a performance that moved them to seventh nationally in scoring defense (9.5 ppg). Houston will put a nation-best 16-game home winning streak on the line Saturday against Texas Tech, which is fourth in the country in scoring at (54 ppg). -- Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

4. Navy (2-0, 1-0 AAC): The Midshipmen had an early-season bye week and Coach Ken Niumatalolo made it a light week in terms of practice. Navy used the time off to rest and get ready for a visit from Cincinnati. It will be the first meeting between the schools as AAC opponents. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

5. UCF (1-0): The Knights return to action this week after Hurricane Irma forced the cancellation of another game, this time a nonconference showdown with Georgia Tech. Nearly two weeks have passed since UCF last played a football game and the team is ready to return to some semblance of normalcy this week as the Knights prepare to hit the road for the first time to take on Maryland (2-0) in College Park. This is the second half of a home-and-home series. The Terrapins defeated UCF, 30-24, in double-overtime last year in Orlando. -- Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

6. SMU (2-1): The Mustangs came out strong against No. 20 TCU, taking an early lead against their oldest rival and staying within six at the end of the third quarter. But TCU put SMU away in the fourth quarter, handing the Mustangs a 56-36 loss. SMU now wants to make sure it doesn't get caught napping against a good Arkansas State team after the emotional loss to TCU, and before conference play starts next week. -- Adam Grosbard, Dallas Morning News

7. Cincinnati (2-1): The Bearcats trailed neighboring rival Miami (Ohio) by 11 with less than three minutes to play, but rallied for a 21-17 road win. It was the 12th consecutive year that Cincinnati has won the Victory Bell series game. A 20-yard TD pass and two-point conversion throw (both from Hayden Moore to Khalil Lewis) brought UC within 17-14. Bearcats S Malik Clements then returned an interception 14 yards for a TD with 1:07 to go for the clincher. The Bearcats will play at Navy on Saturday. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

8. Tulsa (1-2): After leading by 21 in the first half, the Hurricane succumbed at Toledo on Saturday as a result of its flailing defense, falling 54-51 on a walk-off field goal. Tulsa continues to rank last nationally in total defense, having surrendered close to 700 yards and allowing three one-play TD drives. For the first time since 1986, three Hurricane rushers reached the 100-yard mark, and Tulsa racked up 423 rushing yards. New Mexico visits Saturday and is expected to be without its starting and backup quarterbacks because of injuries, but it has one of the stingiest run defenses in the country. -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

9. Temple (2-1): Redshirt freshman Quincy Roche was the AAC Co-Defensive Player of the Week after recording four tackles for loss including three sacks in Friday’s 29-21 home win against UMass. The Owls recorded nine sacks. QB Logan Marchi made the honor roll after completing 21 of 37 passes for 248 yards and three TDs. He has yet to throw an interception. Temple visits USF on Thursday. Last season at home, the Owls upset USF, 46-30. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

10. Tulane (1-2, 0-1 AAC): The Green Wave ran right through second-ranked Oklahoma -- for 2 1/2 possessions. Tulane pounded the Sooners for TDs the first two times it had the ball and was driving for a third when QB Johnathan Brantley threw an interception that was returned for a score. Reality set in from there, with Oklahoma piling up more than 600 yards of offense in a 56-14 rout. Next up is a must-win non-conference home game against Army. The Green Wave can’t fall to 1-3 and have a realistic hope of becoming bowl-eligible down the road. -- Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

11. Connecticut (1-1): The Huskies blew two early opportunities while trailing by seven, with Bryant Shirreffs throwing an interception in the Virginia end zone and fumbling at the Virginia 4-yard line, in a 38-18 loss to the Cavaliers Saturday in Charlottesville. The bigger problem: The Huskies were shredded by Kurt Benkert (program-record 455 passing yards) and gave up 626 yards of offense. That's 1,073 yards allowed by the UConn defense through two games. The Huskies play East Carolina at home Sunday. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant

12. East Carolina (0-3): The Pirates turned back the clock almost six decades on Saturday with their worst home loss since November 1957, a 64-17 beating from No. 16 Virginia Tech in which the Hokies scored 57 unanswered points. Instead of a needed bye week with QB Thomas Sirk and others injured or on the mend, ECU travels to Connecticut on Sunday in a game rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector

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Re-shuffled USF o-line draws raves in debut

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers runs behind tight end Kano Dillon (85) and right guard Billy Atterbury (78) during Friday's victory against Illinois.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers runs behind tight end Kano Dillon (85) and right guard Billy Atterbury (78) during Friday's victory against Illinois.

After months of mixing and matching, followed by a couple of games of trial and error, the Bulls finally appear to have found a solid starting five up front.

After two games at right guard, the Bulls slid senior Cameron Ruff back to center -- where he started all 13 games last season -- and plugged in redshirt sophomore Billy Atterbury at guard. The result: 376 rushing yards and nine explosive plays (20-plus yards) in a 47-23 romp of Illinois.

USF logged nine or more explosive plays only twice last season (Memphis, UCF).

"The o-line performed extremely well," said senior RB Darius Tice, who finished with 105 yards on only 12 carries. "Many times I got the ball and wasn't getting touched 'til way down the field. Sometimes I'm running the ball and they're next to me, and I'm 20 yards down the field. ... They did a great job."

The only glaring hiccups were some early penalties, with Atterbury getting whistled twice (for holding and a false start) in a three-play span in the first half. QB Quinton Flowers was sacked twice, but his 25 official carries were more than double any other player on the field.

"I feel like we did more finishing on blocks, but we still can finish more," senior LG Jeremi Hall said. "I just feel like we out-conditioned them really. We ran a lot of plays (98) and we just kept going. And none of us were really tired, we were just having fun."

INJURY UPDATE: WR Deangelo Antoine, who had a career-best four catches against Illinois, suited up Tuesday but didn't practice, Coach Charlie Strong said. No other player appeared sidelined (i.e. on crutches, in a walking boot, etc.) during the session open to reporters.

"(Antoine) kind of ran around, just don't know where we are right now," Strong said. W"e've still got two days before we make that decision on whether he's gonna play or not."

ODDS AND ENDS: Former Buccaneers Booger McFarland and Joey Galloway will share analyst duties on ESPN's broadcast Thursday. Dave Flemming will handle play-by-play and Laura Rutledge will work the sidelines. ... Count Darius Tice among those who believe USF's attendance will improve. "From this point going forward, I feel like it's only gonna get better because they came out and we put on a show," he said. Actual attendance for Friday's game was 27,619. ... Dominance factoid of the day -- USF has won 13 of its last 15 home games, with 12 of those victories coming by two or more touchdowns. ... USF's 88 first downs are tied for third nationally. ... DT Bruce Hector recorded his 13th career sack against Illinois, moving him into the program's top 10 in that category.

AUDIBLE: "It was just one guy breaking down, a guy comes inside. Then the next one got blocked, and then after that we got it corrected. It's all fixable, so it's a matter of us just putting the right people out there and getting the right people in place, and those things won't happen." -- Strong on the two kicks (one PAT, one field goal) Illinois blocked in the first quarter Friday (Note: Temple has a nation-best 12 blocked kicks since the start of the 2015 season)

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Brian Gregory and staff assembling solid '18 class for USF

New USF men's basketball coach Brian Gregory is very quietly putting together a solid '18 recruiting class.

CHARLIE KAIJO | Times

New USF men's basketball coach Brian Gregory is very quietly putting together a solid '18 recruiting class.

Brian Gregory's six-month anniversary as USF men's basketball coach came and went last Thursday, when most of us were too consumed with football and post-Irma recovery to observe it.

So instead, we'll observe this: His 2018 recruiting class -- a trio of three-star commitments -- currently is ranked first in the American Athletic Conference by at least two major scouting services.

Quite inconspicuously, Gregory and his staff have scoured Gregory's old recruiting turf (Georgia) and his native neck of the woods (Chicago) to land three prospects far more solid than spectacular. Considering the mess these coaches inherited, it might rank as USF's biggest upset since the 2014 SMU victory.

"Overall, there might not be any superstars here," Rivals national hoops analyst Corey Evans said, "but there (are) three good pieces that USF should be able to build upon and build with." …

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Know the foe: Temple

Temple receiver (and Jefferson High alumnus) Ventell Bryant, celebrating a touchdown catch against USF in 2015, returns to his back yard with the Owls on Thursday.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Temple receiver (and Jefferson High alumnus) Ventell Bryant, celebrating a touchdown catch against USF in 2015, returns to his back yard with the Owls on Thursday.

A look at Temple, which plays No. 21 USF on Thursday at Raymond James Stadium

Nickame: Owls
'16 record: 10-4 (7-1 AAC). Won AAC title, lost to Wake Forest 34-26 in Military Bowl
'17 record: 2-1 (lost to Notre Dame 16-49; def. Villanova 16-13, def. Massachusetts 29-21)
Coach: Geoff Collins (first season, 2-1)

The breakdown: The nine sacks the Owls recorded against winless UMass represent the highlight of their young season. Clearly, this isn't the same team that embarrassed USF en route to the league title last year. Collins, Florida's defensive coordinator the previous two seasons, had to rebuild the first and second levels of Temple's defense, and find a quarterback to replace 16-year veteran Phillip Walker. Despite facing a winless team and a I-AA foe (Villanova), Temple still ranks 98th nationally in total offense (356.7 ypg), 118th in total defense (488.7 ypg), and 90th in ESPN's Football Power Index (For advanced-metrics fans, the Owls' Offensive S&P ranks 96th nationally.). One returner Bulls fans will recognize is 240-pound FB Nick Sharga, who mostly annihilated USF's would-be gap-fillers as Temple ran for 319 yards last season. Also back is RB Ryquell Armstead (210 rushing yards vs. the Bulls) and Jefferson High alumnus Ventell Bryant
(54 receptions in 2016). New QB Logan Marchi hasn't thrown a pick in 106 attempts, but Armstead and Co. haven't gotten it going on the ground (94.3 ypg). On the other side, the Owls held both UMass and Villanova to fewer than 100 rushing yards, but were absolutely gashed by Notre Dame (422). On Friday, they face the nation's 13th-ranked rushing offense (281.3 ypg).

Odds and ends: Bryant and fourth-year junior DB Jyquis Thomas (Plant City) are the Owls' only two bay area players. ... Owls redshirt freshman DE Quincy Roche, who had three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against UMass, was named the AAC's Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. ... PK Aaron Boumerhi nailed a career-best 52-yard field goal against the Minutemen.

Audible: "They have that aura about them where they're a physical football team, and you see that. Offense, they do a lot of different things, they give you a lot of different personnel groupings. ... Defense, they're very aggressive. They want to push the tempo on defense." -- USF Charlie Strong

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