UCF replaces USF atop AAC power rankings

The American Athletic Conference power rankings, compiled by league beat reporters, has a new No. 1 team.
UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin (18) celebrates after returning a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against Austin Peay at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. UCF won, 73-33. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) 1214501
UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin (18) celebrates after returning a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against Austin Peay at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. UCF won, 73-33. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) 1214501
Published Nov. 1, 2017|Updated Nov. 1, 2017

For the first time this season, there's a change at the top of the American Athletic Conference power rankings.

UCF, one of five remaining unbeaten teams in Division I-A, was the unanimous pick for the top spot after USF stumbled in a 28-24 loss at home to Houston. The Bulls, who fell out of the Associated Press top 25, dropped to third in the power rankings, behind the Knights and Memphis.

Here's how the AAC stacks up this week, as voted upon by our league-wide panel of beat reporters.
1. UCF (7-0, 4-0 AAC): The Knights set a school scoring record in a 73-33 rout of I-AA Austin Peay. QB McKenzie Milton, recently named a Maxwell Award semifinalist, finished 24-of-26 for 275 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions through 2 1/2 quarters. DB Mike Hughes led the team with 105 all-purpose yards after scoring on a 91-yard kickoff return. UCF heads to SMU this weekend. -– Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel

2. Memphis (7-1, 4-1): The final score of Friday's 56-26 victory over Tulane doesn't quite indicate how well the Tigers performed. Memphis led the Green Wave 35-0 early in the second quarter and at one point had a 410-19 advantage in total yards. DE Genard Avery had 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as Memphis held the nation's 12th-ranked rushing team to a season-low 122 yards on the ground. The Tigers travel to Tulsa on Friday for their fifth and final non-Saturday game of the regular season. — John Varlas, Memphis Commercial Appeal

3. USF (7-1, 4-1): The Bulls' nation-best 12-game win streak – and swagger that accompanied it – were vanquished Saturday when Houston sophomore QB D'Eriq King scored on a 20-yard dash with 11 seconds remaining in the Cougars' 28-24 upset. King and Co. amassed 315 total yards and four TDs after halftime, perpetuating a growing concern about USF's defense. In their last two games, the Bulls have allowed 49 points and 594 yards in the second half. — Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times

4. Houston (5-3, 3-2): The Cougars picked up the signature win under first-year coach Major Applewhite in a 28-24 road upset of No. 17 USF. Early in the first quarter, Applewhite went to dual-threat QB D'Eriq King, who accounted for 220 all-purpose yards and three TDs, the last on a 20-yard run with 11 seconds remaining. The starting job now belongs to King as he becomes the third quarterback used by the Cougars this season. A win Saturday against East Carolina would make UH bowl-eligible for the fifth straight season. — Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

5. Navy (5-2, 3-2): The second bye of the season came at a good time for the Midshipmen, who have a bevy of players banged up. Coach Ken Niumatalolo gave the team five days off, not resuming practice until Friday. QB Zach Abey was added to a long injury list with a head injury suffered against UCF, but Niumatalolo has expressed confidence that Abey will be able to start Thursday night at Temple. — Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

6. SMU (6-2, 3-1): The Mustangs clinched bowl eligibility for the first time since 2012 with a 38-34 win over Tulsa. It was a step for Coach Chad Morris in his third year at SMU, but he quickly set his aim a little higher, giving a speech to the team about its chance to make a national statement against UCF on Saturday. The homecoming game is the first of a tough stretch for SMU, with trips to Navy and Memphis next on the schedule. — Adam Grosbard, Dallas Morning News

7. Tulane (3-5, 1-3): Tulane was humiliated by Memphis early Friday night, fought its way back into the game briefly and ended up losing 56-26. When Memphis scored to go up 35-0 with 11:20 left in the second quarter, it had out-gained Tulane 418-20. Tulane then scored three straight TDs to pull within 35-19, and QB Jonathan Banks overthrew a wide-open receiver deep for what could have been an 88-yard TD. After that brutal start, Coach Willie Fritz has a tough assignment getting the players' heads back for Saturday's homecoming against Cincinnati in a winnable game. The five opponents that have beaten Tulane are a combined 31-7. — Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

8. Connecticut (3-5, 2-3): UConn was no match for Missouri in a 52-12 loss Saturday at Rentschler Field, playing poorly in all phases against a physically superior team. The Huskies' defensive backfield was torched and the team was outgained 583-354. QB Bryant Shirreffs was just 19-of-39 for 202 yards and UConn showed, again, why it has the worst passing defense in America. Missouri's Drew Lock was 31-of-37 for 377 yards and five TDs in three quarters. — Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant

9. Tulsa (2-7, 1-4): The Hurricane assured itself a losing season with a 38-34 loss at SMU on Friday night, falling apart after twice leading by two TDs in the first half. A crucial moment occurred in the third quarter when Justin Hobbs' TD was called back because of premature celebration, and the four-point difference between his score and a field goal was costly in a game determined by four points. Tulsa again plays on Friday this week, hosting Memphis. — Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

10. Temple (3-5, 1-3): The Owls had a bye week after a 31-28 overtime loss at Army. QB Frank Nutile, making his first college start for injured Logan Marchi, finished 20-of-29 for 290 yards, one TD and no interceptions. Coach Geoff Collins says Nutile will again start Thursday against Navy, the second consecutive triple-option team the Owls will face. This is a rematch of last year's AAC title game, won by visiting Temple, 34-10. Temple must go 3-1 in its final four to become bowl eligible, and one of the games is against unbeaten UCF. — Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

11. Cincinnati (2-6, 0-4): The Bearcats had a bye week, trying to regroup after a five-game losing streak. UC lost 31-28 to SMU in overtime in the Bearcats' last game Oct. 21. That was one of UC's top offensive games this year, but the Bearcats still rank only 111th nationally in total offense. UC next plays at Tulane on Saturday. — Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

12. East Carolina (2-6, 1-3): The Pirates will test the value of the bye week with a trip to Houston on Saturday to take on a Cougars team fresh from handing USF its first loss of the season. The Pirates, coming off a win against struggling BYU on Oct. 21, benefited from the time off and expect to have previously injured playmakers back on both sides of the ball, including S Tim Irvin (ankle) and WR Jimmy Williams (back). Despite netting their second win of the season, the Pirates head to Houston with a rush offense and a rush defense both ranked in the 120s nationally. — Nathan Summers, The Greenville (N.C.) Daily Reflector