Houston slips past USF in AAC power rankings

The Bulls fall to No. 3 following Friday night's close call at Tulsa
Temple wide receiver Ventell Bryant (right), a Jefferson High alumnus, has at least one reception in each of his 42 career games. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Temple wide receiver Ventell Bryant (right), a Jefferson High alumnus, has at least one reception in each of his 42 career games. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Oct. 18, 2018

While the American Athletic Conference's East Division remains a three-team race, Houston is in the driver's seat as the only remaining unbeaten team in the West.

Houston, which has won its first two league games by an average of 18.5 points, moved to No. 2 in the weekly power rankings, compiled by beat reporters from every conference school.

Here is how the league stacks up heading into Week Eight:

1. UCF
Previous ranking: 1 | Points: 143
Record: 6-0 (3-0 AAC)
Last week: defeated Memphis, 31-30
This week: at East Carolina
Trajectory: Steady. TB Taj McGowan rushed for two scores including a 71-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and QB McKenzie Milton scored on a 7-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter to help UCF rally from a 16-point first-half deficit at Memphis.
Did you know? Milton passed Blake Bortles for fourth place on UCF's career passing-yardage chart (7,817).
— Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

2. Houston
Previous ranking: 3 | Points: 123
Record: 5-1 (2-0)
Last week: defeated East Carolina, 42-20
This week: at Navy
Trajectory: Surging. Against overmatched ECU, All-America DT Ed Oliver recorded his first two sacks of the season, tied an AAC single-game record with five tackles for loss, and forced a fumble that led to a TD. Oliver has enjoyed success against Navy, setting a career-high with 14 tackles (including 3½ for loss and two sacks) in last year's meeting.
Did you know? Houston needs one win to become bowl-eligible for the sixth consecutive season and 12th time in the last 14 years.
— Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

3. USF
Previous ranking: 2 | Points: 121
Record: 6-0 (2-0)
Last week: defeated Tulsa, 25-24
This week: vs. Connecticut
Trajectory: Steady. Midway through the season, the Bulls, who have trailed or been tied entering the fourth quarter in four of their six contests, still are struggling to deliver a complete game. UConn, ranked last nationally in a number of major defensive categories, may represent the ideal antidote for USF.
Did you know? The Bulls formally became bowl-eligible Friday at Tulsa, the earliest they have achieved such status in their 22-season history.
— Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times

4. Cincinnati
Previous ranking: 4 | Points: 117
Record: 6-0 (2-0)
Last week: Bye
This week: at Temple
Trajectory: Steady. TE Josiah Deguara leads UC with 21 catches for 296 yards (14.1-yard average) and is tied for the team lead with three TD catches. Deguara is on pace to become the first Bearcats tight end to lead the team in catches since eventual Kansas City Chiefs all-pro Travis Kelce did it in 2012.
Did you know? UC seeks its first 7-0 start since 2009, when Brian Kelly's final UC team went 12-0 during the regular season. UC closed that year with a Sugar Bowl loss to Florida.
— Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

5. Temple
Previous ranking: 5 | Points: 94
Record: 4-3 (3-0)
Last week: defeated Navy, 24-17
This week: vs. Cincinnati
Trajectory: Surging. Against Navy, WR Ventell Bryant — a Jefferson High alumnus — scored his first TD since the 2016 AAC championship game. He had eight receptions for 147 yards in that victory. His 62-yard TD catch from Anthony Russo was the game-winning play.
Did you know? Bryant has caught at least one pass in each of his 42 career games.
— Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News

6. Memphis
Previous ranking: 6 | Points: 80
Record: 4-3 (1-3)
Last week: lost to UCF, 31-30
This week: at Missouri
Trajectory: Sliding. Memphis played one of its best halves of football against UCF, but it was before halftime. The Tigers led by as many as 16 points, but UCF came roaring back to not only win but hold Memphis scoreless in the second half. RB Darrell Henderson crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the season after rushing for 199 yards and a TD.
Did you know? Henderson leads all Division I-A players in rushing (1,133 yards), total TDs (15), all-purpose yards (1,435) and yards per carry (10.3).
– Evan Barnes, The Commercial Appeal

7. Tulane
Previous ranking: 7 | Points: 70
Record: 2-4 (1-1)
Last week: Bye
This week: vs. SMU
Trajectory: Steady. Coach Willie Fritz remains noncommittal about his plan at quarterback. LSU transfer Justin McMillan played the entire second half against Cincinnati on Oct. 6, while Jonathan Banks watched from the sideline. The winner of Tulane-SMU gets sole possession of second place in the AAC West at worst.
Did you know? Tulane (nine TDs, two field goals) is one of eight D-I teams to score every time they reach the red zone, but is third-to-last nationally in number of red zone possessions (11).
– Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

8. Navy
Previous ranking: 8 | Points: 58
Record: 2-4 (1-2)
Last week: lost to Temple, 24-17
This week: vs. Houston
Trajectory: Skidding. The Midshipmen suffered their consecutive loss and are in real danger of missing the postseason for only the second time since 2003. Navy is playing 13 games this season, so it must reach seven victories in order to qualify for a bowl.
Did you know? Over the last five seasons, Navy is one of only seven D-I schools that has not lost to a team that finished with a losing record. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Michigan and Ohio State are the others. That streak might be in jeopardy this season as the Mids have lost to SMU (2-4) and Air Force (2-4).
– Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

9. SMU
Previous ranking: 9 | Points: 57
Record: 2-4 (1-1)
Last week: Bye
This week: at Tulane
Trajectory: Steady. Coach Sonny Dykes said no decision has been made at quarterback between Ben Hicks and William Brown. "We'd liked to get that settled and have a clear-cut starter. I'm not sure we are there yet." The open date should allow some injured players to return.
Did you know? SMU is ranked 115th out of 129 D-I programs in rushing (121.7 ypg).
– Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

10. Tulsa
Previous ranking: 11 | Points: 32
Record: 1-5 (0-3)
Last week: lost to USF, 25-24
This week: at Arkansas
Trajectory: Steady. Another fourth-quarter lead vanished, when the Hurricane stumbled 25-24 in dramatic fashion against unbeaten USF. After going up two TDs, Tulsa netted zero yards on its four drives in the fourth quarter while allowing 214 yards.
Did you know? Despite a quarterback change, Tulsa is averaging only 172.2 passing yards per game.
— Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

11. East Carolina
Previous ranking: 10 | Points: 28
Record: 2-4 (0-3)
Last week: lost to Houston, 42-20
This week: vs. UCF
Trajectory: Skidding. With No. 10 UCF up next and the Pirates' offense sputtering, they are turning to true freshman (and Greenville native) Holton Ahlers to start at quarterback. The left-hander is ECU's leading rusher and has been limited as a passer to this point, but he showed progression with a TD pass last week against Houston.
Did you know? The Pirates went 10 quarters in league play without scoring a TD, stopping the streak late in the fourth quarter against Houston with two.
— Ronnie Woodward, Greenville (N.C.) Daily Reflector

12. Connecticut
Previous ranking: 12 | Points: 12
Record: 1-5 (0-3)
Last week: Bye
This week: at USF
Trajectory: Skidding. An off week allowed UConn to catch its breath after three consecutive blowout losses. The Huskies won't win many games the rest of the season, but as the schedule gets a bit easier (following this weekend's tough matchup with USF), coach Randy Edsall hopes they might show signs of improvement.
Did you know? USF will be the sixth undefeated opponent UConn has faced over its first seven games.
— Alex Putterman, Hartford Courant