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American Athletic Conference power rankings, Week 12

The latest AAC power rankings, as compiled by league beat reporters.
Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry runs in for his first touchdown in the first quarter of Saturday's game against SMU. Navy prevailed, 43-40.   (Paul W. Gillespie/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry runs in for his first touchdown in the first quarter of Saturday's game against SMU. Navy prevailed, 43-40. (Paul W. Gillespie/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
Published Nov. 16, 2017

Some clear front-runners have emerged entering the final furlong of the American Athletic Conference division races. Memphis captures the West with a win Saturday at home against SMU, while UCF and USF need only defeat Temple and Tulsa, respectively, to set up a division title game Nov. 24 in Orlando.

Here are the latest AAC power rankings, as determined by a league-wide panel of beat reporters.

1. UCF (9-0, 6-0 AAC): While the Knights continue their march to the AAC championship game and possible New Year's Six bowl, the Scott Frost watch continues. Nebraska is reportedly making a 'strong push' to lure the former Huskers quarterback back to his alma mater, if current coach Mike Riley is fired as expected. Frost is also expected to be a strong candidate at Florida. –- Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

2. Memphis (8-1, 5-1): The Tigers — who return from last week's bye to host SMU on Saturday — have already made history this week, win or lose. Memphis checks in at No. 18 in the Associated Press rankings. It's the highest the Tigers have ever been ranked this late in the year. –- John Varlas, Memphis Commercial Appeal

3. USF (8-1, 5-1): The Bulls, coming off a bye week, will honor their potentially historic senior class tonight against Tulsa. The group has helped account for 31 victories, only three shy of the winningest four-year stretch in program history (2006-09). Its defensive leader, fifth-year senior MLB Auggie Sanchez, enters the game with 364 career tackles, only three shy of Kawika Mitchell's all-time school record. –- Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times

4. Houston (6-3, 4-2): During the bye week, the Cougars were able to use their $20 million indoor practice facility for the first time, a "big step" in the school's quest to level the playing field with the Power Five conferences, Coach Major Applewhite said. Houston will see a heavy dose of running over the final two games against option teams Tulane and Navy. –- Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

5. Navy (6-3, 4-3): The Midshipmen have an interesting dilemma: three good quarterbacks and only one starting spot. Coach Ken Niumatalolo pulled a surprise by moving dynamic slotback Malcolm Perry to quarterback against SMU, and he rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns in the 43-40 triumph. Zach Abey was enjoying a terrific season before suffering a shoulder injury against Temple, rushing for 1,202 yards and 13 TDs. Meanwhile, Garret Lewis has played well in relief in three straight games, so it's anyone's guess as to who will be under center when Navy plays at Notre Dame on Saturday. –- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

6. SMU (6-4, 3-3): While SMU expected Courtland Sutton to be the receiver drawing praise at this point in the season, it was Trey Quinn who was named a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist on Monday. The LSU transfer has certainly benefited from the extra attention Sutton receives, but Quinn is first in Division I-A in receptions (96) and seventh in receiving yards (1,008) heading into Saturday's game at Memphis. Earlier this year, the junior became the first player in the 21st century to have three consecutive games with 15 or more catches. –- Adam Grosbard, Dallas Morning News

7. Temple (5-5, 3-3): The Owls were averaging nearly 20 points before Frank Nutile took over at quarterback for injured Logan Marchi. In those three ensuing games, Temple is averaging 30.6 points on offense. Sophomore Isaiah Wright was named AAC Special Teams Player of the Week for a 98-yard kickoff return for a TD in Friday's 35-24 win over Cincinnati. Nutile has thrown for 803 yards, six TDs and two interceptions in the last three games. Temple would become bowl-eligible with one win iin its final two games, home on Saturday against UCF or at Tulsa on Nov. 25. — Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

8. Cincinnati (3-7, 1-5): The Bearcats are at their lowest point in nearly two decades after losing 35-24 to visiting Temple. UC is assured of its second consecutive losing season, the first time that has happened since 1998-1999. QB Hayden Moore threw for 217 yards and two TDs and led UC with 75 rushing yards, but the Bearcats scored fewer than 30 points for the ninth time in 10 games. — Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

9. Tulane (4-6, 2-4 AAC): Tulane matched its single-season record for AAC victories with its second, beating East Carolina in overtime despite committing three turnovers in the second half after having six miscues for the season until that point. LB Rae Juan Marbley, whose wife gave birth to a baby girl on Wednesday, made 12 tackles and was presented with a onesie by athletic director Troy Dannen after the game. He then earned AAC Defensive Player of the Week honors. To become bowl-eligible, Tulane will have to beat Houston at home and SMU on the road in the next two weeks. –- Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

10. Connecticut (3-7, 2-5): David Pindell played well enough Saturday at UCF (18-of-31, 201 yards, two TDs, one interception, 96 rushing yards) to earn another start. He will be the Huskies' quarterback Saturday at Fenway Park against Boston College. Bryant Shirreffs (concussion) might have played his final game at UConn, where he is fourth all-time with 6,375 passing yards in 30 games. –- Mike Anthony, Hartford Courant

11. Tulsa (2-8, 1-5): Coming off a much-needed open date, slumping Tulsa prepares for another high-powered offense on Thursday night at USF. Of the 10 quarterbacks who are finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, the Hurricane will have faced four of them including Bulls senior Quinton Flowers, who has more than 10,000 yards in his career. — Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

12. East Carolina (2-8, 1-5): ECU continued its downward spiral despite a rare late comeback against Tulane. The Pirates scored 10 points to forge a 24-all tie and force overtime, but the Green Wave scored on their first extra possession before standing up ECU RB Darius Pinnix at the goal line on fourth down to eke out a 31-24 win. ECU hosts Cincinnati on senior day Saturday with a chance to match last season's win total of three before a difficult trip to Memphis to end the season. — Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector (Greenville, N.C.)