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Temple No. 8 in latest AAC Football Power Rating

With one quarter of the regular season in the books, only four American Athletic Conference teams remain unbeaten -- and one of those teams, Memphis, has played only two games. Houston and USF continue to set the pace in the conference, according to a panel of leaguewide beat reporters, though a pivotal nonconference game against No. 13 Florida State awaits the Bulls on Saturday.
1. Houston (3-0, 1-0 AAC): It wasn't pretty, but the sixth-ranked Cougars stayed unbeaten with a furious fourth-quarterback comeback in a 40-16 win at Cincinnati to open defense of their AAC title. How hurt is quarterback Greg Ward Jr.'s right shoulder? Ward took some hits in the game and UH is closely monitoring the injury. If there is any chance to get him out early in a lopsided game this week against Texas State of the Sun Belt Conference, expect it to be a short day with another quick-turnaround Thursday game against UConn. -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle

2. USF (3-0): Despite handing Syracuse a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, the Bulls rallied with 28 unanswered points in just 11 minutes, 45 seconds in the second quarter and didn't let up in a 45-20 trouncing of the Orange. Junior tailback Marlon Mack made his return after being held out of a Week 2 win over Northern Illinois (concussion protocol), rushing for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. Senior receiver Rodney Adams added three more scores — two on jet sweeps — helping the Bulls continue their best start in five years. USF next hosts No. 13 Florida State, fresh off a surprising blowout defeat at Louisville, in a nationally-televised showdown at noon Saturday. -- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times

3. Navy (3-0, 2-0 AAC): Navy just continues to find ways to win, this time scoring the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter to pull out a 21-14 victory over Tulane. The Midshipmen were far from perfect, losing two fumbles in enemy territory to spoil possible scoring drives and missing an extra point. Navy had trouble moving the ball consistently against a tough Tulane defense and had just 13 points with time winding down. Navy's game-winning drive began after Tulane missed a field goal. Quarterback Will Worth broke a 31-yard run to set up his own 1-yard plunge. A two-point conversion pass from Worth to slotback Toneo Gulley provided the winning margin. Navy is off this weekend and returns to action on Oct. 1 against service academy rival Air Force. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

4. Memphis (2-0): The Tigers forced six turnovers in a game for the first time since 2011 en route to a 43-7 drubbing of Kansas, a team that has now lost 17 of its past 18 games. Anthony Miller caught an 84-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to spark the offense, which showed improvement in its second game but is not yet up to coach Mike Norvell's standards, in terms of both execution and pace. The defense, meanwhile, has been superb. And it will need to maintain that level of play Saturday at home against Bowling Green, which boasts an up-tempo offense of its own. -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal

5. Cincinnati (2-1, 0-1 AAC): The Bearcats led No. 6 Houston, 16-12, early in the fourth quarter last week but then collapsed, losing 40-16 at UC's Nippert Stadium. The Cougars buried UC under a 28-0 scoring barrage, in just over eight minutes. UC was held to 30 yards rushing, snapping a 78-game Bearcats streak of rushing for at least 65 yards. UC quarterback Hayden Moore threw for 275 yards and two TDs but also threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. Backup QB Ross Trail also threw a pick-six. UC returns to action Saturday against neighboring rival Miami University (Ohio), with the Bearcats owning a 10-game winning streak in the annual Battle for the Victory Bell. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

6. East Carolina (2-1): ECU had more than its share of chances to start the season 3-0 at South Carolina, but committed three of its four turnovers inside the 10-yard line in a 20-15 loss to the Gamecocks. South Carolina held a 17-6 lead for much of the game, and the Pirates did not score their first touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. Now, the 2-1 Pirates must bounce back quickly for another difficult road trip to Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday. ECU boasts a six-game win streak against the ACC, which includes a pair of wins against the Hokies. Last season, James Summers rushed for two key touchdowns in the rain to assure the Pirates of 35-28 win over the visitors from Blacksburg. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector

7. Connecticut (2-1, 0-1 AAC): UConn is the most exciting team in the country -- in the final seconds of games, anyway. The Huskies wound up with a 13-10 home victory over Virginia, which missed a 20-yard field goal as time expired. Every UConn game this season has come down to the final play. Noel Thomas (26 receptions, 277 yards) continues to be the bright spot for an otherwise struggling offense. UConn has played from behind in every game. The Huskies face another ACC team, Syracuse, at home Saturday before returning to AAC play Sept. 29 at Houston. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant

8. Temple (1-2): Temple finishes its non-conference schedule on Saturday when it hosts Charlotte, a team it beat 37-3 last season in a game the winners led 10-3 at halftime. After that, the Owls will play their remaining eight games against AAC teams, beginning with a noon matchup Oct. 1 against visiting SMU. Last week Temple couldn't overcome a poor first half in a 34-27 loss at Penn State before 100,420 at Beaver Stadium.  The Owls trailed 21-7 late in the first half before kicking a field goal with four seconds left. Temple got to within 27-24 when Jahad Thomas scored on a two-yard run with 8:10 left, but Penn State sealed the game less than a minute later on a 55-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley. Thomas was seeing his initial action after missing the first two games with a dislocated left thumb. The Owls were poor on special teams in the early going and also committed 13 penalties for 118 yards. Even with the return of Thomas, the running game has yet to get in gear. Temple averaged 3.0 yards per carry in an opening loss to Army and 1.4 in the defeat at Penn State. Coach Matt Rhule says the reason for the difficulty running the football has been the offensive line, which has yet to get into form, although left tackle Dion Dawkins continues to draw raves. Quarterback Phillip Walker had his best game against Penn State, completing 25 of 34 for 286 yards. He didn't throw any touchdown passes and one interception, which came late in the game when he was leveled as he attempted the pass. Walker also scored on a 1-yard run. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

9. Tulsa (2-1):
 Against FCS opponent North Carolina A&T on Saturday, the Hurricane was exceptional in all three phases of the 58-21 blowout victory. Keevan Lucas caught three touchdown passes, his first touchdowns since returning from injury. The defense had two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown. Up-and-comer McKinley Whitfield blocked two punts. In this week's nonconference finale, Tulsa visits former WAC rival Fresno State, which has one of the worst rushing offenses and one of the worst run defenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision. -- Kelly Hines, The Tulsa World

10. UCF (1-2): True freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton made his debut against Maryland last Saturday and led UCF to 455 total yards of offense. While the Knights outgained the Terrapins during a 30-24 double overtime loss, turnovers killed their momentum. In total, UCF had six fumbles with four of those coming at the hands of its rookie quarterback. Milton's final fumble cost the team a near upset against Maryland as UCF stood at the 3-yard line. The Knights' defense continued to give a solid showing with five sacks. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel

11. SMU (2-1): SMU matched its win total from a year ago with a 29-14 win over FCS opponent Liberty. While that might not seem impressive on paper, SMU found a way to finish strong, something it wasn't able to do all of last season. The Mustangs also churned out another impressive defensive performance and are tied for the FBS lead with nine interceptions. Still, the offense has struggled, especially in the red zone, with redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Hicks. A matchup with rival TCU will prove to be troublesome this week. -- EJ Holland, The Dallas Morning News 

12. Tulane (1-2, 0-1 AAC): The Green Wave lost 28-21 to Navy on Saturday in a heartbreaker after going toe-to-toe with one of the top teams in the AAC. Tulane's two losses this season have come by seven points or less to two teams (Navy and Wake Forest) that are still undefeated, which shows that first-year coach Willie Fritz is making progress with his young team. But the Green Wave's struggles on offense came back to bite them once again on Saturday night, and while Tulane has proven it has one of the top defenses in the conference, inconsistency on offense has held the team back from pulling off two possible upsets early in the season. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune