Temple remains No. 2 in AAC football power ratings
It's the final week of the regular season, and the matchup in the American Athletic Conference championship game is nearly set. Navy clinched the West division with a win over East Carolina last week, and Temple needs to beat the Pirates this weekend to lock up the East.
With the title game looming, here's a look at this week's AAC power rankings, as voted upon by a league-wide panel of beat reporters.
1. USF (9-2, 6-1 AAC): Behind another sharp performance from quarterback Quinton Flowers, the Bulls held on for a 35-27 victory at SMU, tying the program's record for wins in a season. USF also reached the nine-win mark in 1999, 2006 and 2007. Flowers threw for 195 yards with three touchdowns — hitting Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 77-yard score on the game's first play — and added 142 on the ground. USF must win Saturday's regular-season finale against rival UCF (noon EST, CBS Sports Network) and hope Temple stumbles against East Carolina to clinch the East Division and a spot in the AAC Championship Game, which the Bulls would host on Dec. 3. -- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times
2. Temple (8-3, 6-1 AAC): The Owls would clinch a second straight East Division title with either a win at home against East Carolina on Saturday or a loss by South Florida to Central Florida. In last week's 31-0 win at Tulane, Phillip Walker completed 18 of 33 passes for 337 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Owls played without leading rusher Ryquell Armstead, who was available, but the coaches wanted to sit him out because he wasn't 100 percent. Armstead (807 yards rushing, 6.3 avg., 11 TDs) is questionable this week. Redshirt senior defensive end Haason Reddick had two tackles for loss against Tulane, giving him a new AAC single-season record 20 this season. Temple has recorded consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2011. The Owls haven't allowed a point in more than 158 minutes. Temple is allowing 18.5 points per game, which is first in the AAC and 14th nationally. Even though East Carolina is 3-8, Temple coach Matt Rhule says he has great respect for the Pirates, especially after last when Temple trailed the Pirates, 14-10 after three quarters before winning 24-14. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer
t-3. Houston (9-2, 5-2 AAC): The Cougars entered the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time this season at No. 20, a small consolation for a program that will be playing in a lower-tier bowl (likely Military, Birmingham or St. Petersburg) despite top-5 wins over Oklahoma and Louisville. If there has been a silver lining it's been the emergence of true freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who should be a contender for AAC defensive player of the year. Oliver is trying to become Houston's first freshman named first-team All-America, and Fox Sports had him among the top five Heisman Trophy candidates this week. A win over Memphis in the regular season finale would give the Cougars double-digit win totals in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever. -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle
t- 3. Navy (8-2, 6-1 AAC): Navy clinched the West Division crown and a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship with a 66-31 rout of East Carolina on Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville. Trailing 17-7 five minutes into the second quarter, the Midshipmen scored 38 straight points to take control. Quarterback Will Worth was the catalyst again, rushing for 159 yards and four touchdowns while passing for another 113 yards. Fullback Shawn White contributed a career-high 150 yards and two touchdowns. Navy will most likely host the AAC championship game if it beats SMU in Dallas this Saturday. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group
5. Tulsa (8-3, 5-2 AAC): After its goal of winning a conference championship slipped away the previous week, the Golden Hurricane avoided another letdown and prevailed 35-20 at UCF on Saturday. The game was tied at halftime, but Tulsa relied on its dominant run game to pull away and also set a school record with a seventh outing of at least 300 rushing yards this season. Friday night's home game against free-falling Cincinnati will be the last at H.A. Chapman Stadium for 19 seniors including quarterback Dane Evans, the top passer in program history. While Tulsa has averaged 40 points during the month of November, the Bearcats have scored a total of 13. -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World
6. Memphis (7-4, 4-3 AAC): The bad news for the Tigers? Starting quarterback Riley Ferguson left last week's game against Cincinnati after just two offensive drives with an undisclosed injury. The good news? Memphis cruised to a win anyway, as backup Jason Stewart threw two touchdown passes in a 34-7 victory. The Tigers forced three turnovers in the first half to build a 27-0 lead, and Stewart merely served as its caretaker in the second half. The question entering Friday's game against Houston, now, is whether Ferguson will be able to return. He's practiced this week and made progress from Monday to Tuesday, coach Mike Norvell said, but Memphis will wait to evaluate his health Friday before making a final determination. -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal
7. UCF (6-5, 4-3 AAC): After carrying an inexperienced offense for weeks, UCF's defense finally sputtered against Tulsa's dynamic duo of running backs in James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer, who combined for 330 rushing yards. UCF turned in its worst offensive performance of the season scorings its first offensive touchdown in the fourth quarter behind a three-yard rushing touchdown from freshman tailback Adrian Killins. The loss snapped a two-game win streak for UCF after toppling Tulane and Cincinnati at home. The Knights face one of their toughest tests yet in traveling to rival USF Saturday for a noon contest. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel
8. SMU (5-6, 3-4 AAC): SMU played a gritty game against one of the best teams in the American Athletic Conference. But the Mustangs fell just short in their 35-27 loss to South Florida. . The Mustangs out-gained USF, 578-473, made more first downs and forced a couple of turnovers. However, SMU had three turnovers of its own and missed a couple of key opportunities. SMU now needs to pull off an upset against Navy this weekend in order to earn bowl eligibility and keep its season alive. -- EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News
9. Cincinnati (4-7, 1-6 AAC): The Bearcats have lost four straight games. The last three were 20-3 to BYU, 24-3 at UCF and 34-7 to Memphis. That is the first time UC has scored seven points or less in three straight games since 1989, when the Bearcats went 1-9-1 under first-year coach Tim Murphy. The Bearcats again will be the underdog at Tulsa this Friday, as UC completes its worst season since going 4-8 in 2010. Coach Tommy Tuberville is under fire, but UC athletic director Mike Bohn has not commented on whether Tuberville will return next season. 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 (3-8, 1-6 AAC): East Carolina took another step toward the end of a long season in last Saturday's 66-31 beating at the hands of Navy. Having now lost eight of their last nine under first-year coach Scottie Montgomery, the Pirates can only play for pride this week against AAC East Division leader Temple in Philadelphia. Although it will be the final game for 19 seniors, Montgomery said some lineup changes are possible and that sophomore quarterback Gardner Minshew will likely make his second straight start in place of senior Philip Nelson.-- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector
11. Connecticut (3-8, 1-6 AAC): The Huskies were clobbered at Boston College, 30-0, setting program FBS record lows for total offense (121 yards) and rushing yards (negative-6). UConn, which owns the worst offense in the nation at an average of 15 points per game, has been shut out in consecutive games for the first time since 1977. Opponents have scored 85 unanswered points and the Huskies have been outscored 109-3 over the past 14-plus quarters. UConn is the only team in the nation without a touchdown in the first quarter, outscored 66-9. New quarterback Donovan Williams and new offensive coordinator David Corley have been in place for two games and UConn doesn't have a single point to show for it. The Huskies, who have lost five in a row, close the season Saturday at home against Tulane. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant
12. Tulane (3-8, 0-7 AAC): In a season full of sluggish performances on offense, Tulane registered maybe its worst performance of the season in last week's 31-0 loss to Temple. The Green Wave only managed 142 yards of total offense and only had eight first downs the entire day. Tulane closes the season out with week against UConn and its inability to score may not be as big of an issue with the matchups between the schools from the past two seasons only garnering a combined 25 points. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune