Temple finishes third in final AAC football power ratings
Temple has dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 in the final American Athletic Conference football power ratings.
Six of the 12 teams in the AAC won at least eight games during the regular season, but only two could reach the AAC title game Saturday: Navy and Temple. The Midshipmen will have home-field advantage and try to make one final push for the Group of Five's guaranteed spot in a New Year's Six Bowl, while Temple will try to avenge its loss to Houston in last year's championship game. If Western Michigan loses against Ohio University and Temple wins, the Owls would be in line for that Group of Five spot.
With the end of AAC play right around the corner, here's a look at the final conference power rankings of the season, as compiled by a leaguewide panel of beat reporters. (Note: Only 11 votes were cast in this week's rankings.)
1. USF (10-2, 7-1 AAC): The Bulls capped the best regular season in program history with a 48-31 victory over rival UCF, earning their first national ranking since Sept. 2011 at No. 24 in the AP Top 25. Junior quarterback Quinton Flowers and tailback Marlon Mack scored a pair of touchdowns, extending the team's nation-leading streak of 30-plus-point games to 16 dating back to last season. Mack also joined Florida State standouts Dalvin Cook and Warrick Dunn as the only backs in the state of Florida history to have three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Though USF won't be playing for its first AAC title, it is on track for a solid postseason spot with the Birmingham Bowl and Military Bowl the favorites among possible destinations. — Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times
2. Navy (9-2, 7-1 AAC): The Midshipmen remained on an epic offensive roll on Saturday afternoon in Dallas. Navy amassed a season-high 496 rushing yards and 600 total yards in a 75-31 destruction of SMU. Quarterback Will Worth continues to operate the offense at a high level while putting up impressive numbers himself. Worth rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns, passed for 104 yards and a score. He is the first quarterback in Navy history to surpass 100 yards rushing and passing in three straight games. Navy, which has won four straight and six of its last seven, secured home-field advantage for the American Athletic Conference championship game against East Division representative Temple. — Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group
3. Temple (9-3, 7-1 AAC): The Owls earned their second straight trip to the AAC title game with Saturday's 37-10 win over East Carolina. Most notable was that Temple was not penalized at all. The Owls earned the East Division title based on their head to head win, 46-30, over South Florida. Owls leading receiver Ventell Bryant is questionable for Saturday's championship game at Navy. Bryant was banged up coming into the ECU game, and appeared to have injured his shoulder. He has 38 receptions for 697 yards and three TDs in nine games, having missed three with a shoulder injury. In Saturday's win, Phillip Walker became the first Temple quarterback to throw for 10,000 career yards. Temple will take a six-game winning streak into Saturday's championship game. The teams haven't met since 2014 when Navy won 31-24 in Philadelphia. Temple is 10th nationally and first in the AAC in scoring defense, allowing 17.8 points per game. The Owls are third nationally and first in the ACC in total defense (273.4 yards per game). Temple leads the AAC in time of possession (34 minutes) and a figure that is 37:14 during their six-game win streak. — Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer
4. Houston (9-3, 5-3 AAC): The Tom Herman speculation has finally come to a conclusion. Hours after a 48-44 loss at Memphis, Herman met with Texas officials and agreed to become the Longhorns' next coach. Herman went 22-4 in two seasons, and without question left the program in better shape that when he arrived with an American Athletic Conference championship, New Year's Six bowl and several marquee top-10 victories. Houston now begins the process of looking for a replacement. "This is a hot coaching job right now," Houston board of regents chairman Tilman Fertitta said. "We will make a good hire. It's going to be a tough decision because so many people want this job." Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando will serve as interim coach for the Cougars' bowl game and, along with offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, will be considered for the job. — Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle
5. Tulsa (9-3, 6-2 AAC): For a third time this season, a game involving Tulsa went to overtime, and for a third time this season, the Golden Hurricane prevailed. Three early turnovers against Cincinnati on Friday night led to a 17-point deficit, but the offensive line helped to deliver an eighth outing of at least 300 rushing yards including 197 by James Flanders, who set the program record for single-season rushing yards with 1,529. Tulsa scored 10 points in the final three minutes of regulation to send the game to overtime and then held the Bearcats to a field goal before Flanders punched in a touchdown to give the Hurricane an undefeated season at home. — Kelly Hines, Tulsa World
6. Memphis (8-4, 5-3 AAC): The Tigers saved their most impressive win of the regular season for its final week, edging then-No. 21 Houston, 48-44, on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Riley Ferguson to Anthony Miller with 19 seconds remaining. The victory gave Memphis a third consecutive season with eight wins or more, exceeding expectations in coach Mike Norvell's first year at the helm. The Tigers now await their bowl assignment, with the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 20 a strong possibility. — Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal
7. UCF (6-6, 4-4 AAC): The Knights finished the season going 0-2 against the offenses from Tulsa and USF. UCF's struggled to its second lowest rushing performance against the Bulls on the road last Saturday during a 48-31 loss. Despite the disappointment, UCF will advance to a bowl game after going 0-12 last season. — Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel
8. SMU (5-7, 3-5 AAC): SMU had two opportunities to earn bowl eligibility but couldn't pull upsets against South Florida and Navy. With Chad Morris to Baylor rumors creating a distraction, SMU folded against Navy in an embarrassing 75-31 loss. SMU was outplayed and outcoached as it gave up 600 yards of offense and failed to get anything going on offense in the second half. The good news for SMU is that most of its depth chart featured freshmen and sophomores. The Mustangs will be young and talented next year and have a chance to be a threat in the AAC. Morris will also be back on the sideline after talks fell through with Baylor this week. — EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News
9. Cincinnati (4-8, 1-7 AAC): The Bearcats offense suddenly erupted in the regular season finale, but UC still lost 40-37 at Tulsa in overtime. The Bearcats had scored only 26 points in their previous four games. The big question now is whether coach Tommy Tuberville returns for a fifth season. UC has gone 9-4, 9-4, 7-6 and now 4-8 under Tuberville. Tuberville said he has no intention of leaving, if the "higher-ups" still want him. UC athletic director Mike Bohn still has not commented on whether Tuberville will return. Tuberville has a contract through 2019, with a buyout of $2.4 million if he is fired before Dec. 7, 2016. The payment would be $1.5 million if he is fired before Dec. 7, 2017; $1 million before Dec. 7, 2018; and $1 million before Dec. 7, 2019. — Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer
10. East Carolina (3-9, 1-7 AAC): Wide receiver Zay Jones broke the NCAA single-season receptions record with seven catches in the Pirates' regular-season finale, a 37-10 loss to Temple. Jones was a bright spot for East Carolina all season, finishing with 158 catches for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. After starting the season 2-0, the Pirates lost nine of their final 10 games, including four in a row to end the season. — Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal
1 1. Tulane (4-8, 1-7 AAC): Tulane found a way to close the 2016 season on a high note with last Saturday's 38-13 win over UConn to end the Green Wave's six-game losing streak and give Willie Fritz his first conference win since taking over as Tulane's head coach. 38 points was the most Tulane scored as a team since its Oct. 1 win over Louisiana-Lafayette and Fritz is hoping to build off the team's final win of the season as he heads into his second year coaching the Green Wave. — Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune
12. Connecticut (3-9, 1-7 AAC): The Huskies were on the wrong end of some of the most lopsided play in recent college football history down the stretch of their miserable season. UConn lost its final six games, outscored 130-16 over the final four, and finished with the worst offense in the nation, an average of 14.8 points. The final insult came Saturday, a 38-13 loss at home to Tulane. Bob Diaco, 11-26 through three seasons, is expected back as coach but the staff will likely feature a new offensive coordinator and several changes. — Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant