Only two weeks remain in the regular-season, and the matchup in the American Athletic Conference championship game is all but set. Navy will clinch a spot in the title game with a win over East Carolina on Saturday, while Temple needs to simply beat the Pirates and Tulane over the next two weeks to win the East division.
Yet neither the Midshipmen nor Owls are atop this week's AAC power rankings, as voted upon by a leaguewide panel of beat reporters. That honor goes to South Florida, which edged Memphis to improve to 8-2. The full rankings are below.
1. USF (8-2, 5-1 AAC): Behind a dazzling five-touchdown performance from quarterback Quinton Flowers, the Bulls did just enough to pull out a wild 49-42 victory at Memphis. Flowers, who was 24-of-29 passing for 263 yards, threw for two touchdowns and rushed for three more, including the go-ahead score with 1:22 remaining. With a career-best 210 rushing yards on 20 carries, Flowers became the first Division I signal-caller in state of Florida history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a single season. USF also set a program record with 416 rushing yards. It travels to SMU on Saturday at 7 p.m. — Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times
2. Temple (7-3, 5-1 AAC): The Owls, who were No. 3 last week, had a bye and coach Matt Rhule said his team needed the break, with many players banged up this time of the year. If Temple wins its final two games, Saturday at Tulane and then Nov. 26 at home against East Carolina, the Owls will earn their second straight East Division title. Temple's defense has gotten progressively better. The Owls lead the AAC in scoring defense, allowing 20.4 points per game. Temple also leads in total defense, allowing 291.4 yards per game. Senior defensive end Haason Reddick, a former walk-on, leads the AAC with 18 tackles for loss and is second with 8.5 sacks. Reddick is battling an ankle injury and Rhule says he doesn't know if he will be able to play this week. The Owls have been running the ball successfully and have two main threats, senior Jahad Thomas and sophomore Ryquell Armstead. Thomas has rushed for 647 yards (4.8 avg.) and nine touchdowns, while also catching 27 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns. Armstead has rushed for 803 yards (6.3 avg.) and 11 touchdowns. He has been banged up and Rhule doesn't know if Armstead will play this week. If not, look for Jager Gardner, who was injured in the early part of the season, to get some carries. — Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer
3. Navy (7-2, 5-1 AAC): The Midshipmen pulled out another narrow victory in a high-scoring affair. Quarterback Will Worth rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns and also passed for a score as Navy edged Tulsa, 42-40, in a matchup of teams tied atop the West Division standings. On a day in which little defense was played, a two-point conversion stop was the difference. Navy inside linebacker Micah Thomas stopped Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans at the goal-line and that proved crucial. Worth converted a fourth-and-one situation at the end as the Mids salted away the final 5 1/2 minutes to prevent the Golden Hurricane from getting a chance to attempt a game-winning field goal. Navy can clinch the West Division title by beating East Carolina on Saturday. — Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group
4. Houston (8-2, 5-2 AAC): A 12-point victory over Tulane brought to the surface some existing problems and presented a new one for the Cougars. UH continued its on-again, off-again struggles on offense with a season-high 11 punts and managed just 287 yards, snapping a streak of 35 consecutive games with at least 300. The running game has been a mess all season, due to a combination of inexperience and injuries to the offensive line and backfield. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who has been dealing with an ankle injury, aggravated his right shoulder when he dove on a spiked ball and a defender landed on top of him late in the first half. Ward was scheduled to sit the final two quarters but was forced back into the game when backup Kyle Postma suffered a season-ending broken forearm. Now comes a primetime Thursday matchup against third-ranked Louisville and Heisman Trophy frontrunner Lamar Jackson. "He's the best player in college football," coach Tom Herman said of the challenge stopping Jackson. Also on the line: A 14-game winning streak at TDECU Stadium, the nation's second-longest active streak behind only Navy (15). — Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle
5. Tulsa (7-3, 4-2 AAC): For a second time this season and in league play, the Golden Hurricane had a game end in heartbreaking fashion. After coming up inches short in last month's loss at Houston, Tulsa was dealt a 42-40 defeat at Navy on Saturday in a battle for first place in the West Division. The Hurricane defense had difficulty stopping the triple option throughout the game but thought it delivered a crucial stop in the final two minutes, but the calls went in the Midshipmen's favor. As Tulsa shifts its focus toward reaching the 10-win mark, it visits UCF on Saturday night. — Kelly Hines, Tulsa World
6. Memphis (6-4, 3-3 AAC): Memphis' closest game of the season resulted in arguably its toughest loss Saturday night, as an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal inside the final minute sealed a 49-42 defeat against South Florida. The intended receiver, Anthony Miller, said that his arm was grabbed on the play, a claim corroborated by a photo. Memphis has subsequently released a statement indicating that it has "requested a formal review of several plays" from the game. The Tigers' inability to stop Quinton Flowers played a much larger role in the loss, however, as Flowers racked up 263 passing yards, 210 rushing yards and five total touchdowns. Next up for Memphis is its last road trip of the regular season: A matchup with struggling Cincinnati on Friday night. — Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal
7. UCF (6-4, 4-2 AAC): After giving up more than 700 total yards of offense to Cincinnati in 2015, UCF held the program to just three points the team's second overall meeting during a 24-3 blowout last Saturday. The Knights' defense collected 71 tackles, five sacks, nine tackles for a loss of 41 yards, nine pass breakups and five quarterback hurries. UCF's victory secured the program bowl eligibility just one season after going 0-12. The Knights will advance to their seventh overall bowl game in 10 years. — Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel
8. SMU (5-5, 3-3 AAC): SMU is squarely in the mix to earn a bowl berth after knocking off East Carolina, 55-31 on the road. The Mustangs responded after suffering a blowout loss at the hands of Memphis the week prior with one of its best performances of the season. SMU lit up the scoreboard as Ben Hicks connected with Courtland Sutton on a number of big plays. While the defense did give up more than 30 points, it came away with three interceptions, including two pick sixes. SMU now has momentum back on its side but will face a huge challenge in South Florida this week. SMU has to either upset USF or Navy to have a shot at making the postseason for the first time since 2012. — EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News
9. Cincinnati (4-6, 1-5 AAC): Bowl eligibility is the chief remaining goal for the Bearcats, who must upset both Memphis and Tulsa to reach six wins. UC lost 24-3 at UCF last Saturday, and has fallen to 122nd nationally in scoring offense (18.8 ppg). "There's not one thing we can point the finger at," UC coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Whether it's quarterbacks, running backs, offensive line, wide receivers, coaching. It's all a mixture of things." Sophomore Hayden Moore started at quarterback last week at UCF, with redshirt freshman Ross Trail and senior Gunner Kiel also seeing action. Tuberville said he is undecided who will start at QB on Friday against Memphis. Tuberville said that Moore and Kiel would compete for the job in practice. — Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer
10. East Carolina (3-7, 1-5 AAC): East Carolina lost its second straight and seventh in its last eight to be officially excused from the bowl picture in a 55-24 shelling at the hands of SMU last week. Life won't get any easier for the Pirates when Navy comes to town this Saturday for a game initially postponed by Hurricane Matthew. ECU continues to have questions at quarterback after sophomore backup Gardner Minshew again replaced senior starter Philip Nelson, this time more because of performance than injury against the Mustangs. That being said, a lingering shoulder issue has kept Nelson out of practice so far this week. Senior receiver Zay Jones needs just eight catches against Navy to pass former teammate Justin Hardy and become the NCAA's all-time receptions leader with 388. — Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector
11. Connecticut (3-7, 1-6 AAC): The Huskies had a bye last week, a needed break. The hope is that UConn did some emotional and physical healing. The Huskies haven't scored a touchdown in 10 quarters and have lost four games in a row. Freshman Donovan Williams debuted at quarterback in a 21-0 loss to Temple, finishing 12 of 21 for 69 yards and two fumbles. He and new offensive coordinator David Corley enter their third week of work together. UConn plays Saturday at Boston College. — Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant
12. Tulane (3-7, 0-6 AAC): Tulane had one of its strongest showings of the year on Saturday and held Houston to a season-low 287 total yards in the Cougars' homecoming game, but the Green Wave still fell 30-18 to extend the team's losing streak to five games. Tulane plays its final home game of the season against Temple on Saturday and will be looking to pick up the first conference win under first-year coach Willie Fritz. Temple's physical style of play has given AAC teams problems all season, but it may play directly into the strength of the Tulane defense. But as it has been most of the season, the play of the of the offense will most likely dictate the Green Wave's chances in Saturday's game. If quarterback Glen Cuiellette can pick up where he left off after his 241-yard performance last week, Tulane may have a chance to pull off the upset. — Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune