USF, Memphis remain atop AAC power rankings
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