Saturday, November 25, 2017
  • USF Sports Bulletin
  • Joey Knight

Knights, Tigers, Bulls lead AAC power rankings

RECOMMENDED READING


With three weekends remaining in the regular season, the American Athletic Conference division races are coming into focus.

Memphis holds a one-game lead and the tiebreaker in the West, while UCF and USF remain on a collision course in the East. There's plenty at stake with the AAC champion expected to land the Group of Five spot in a New Year's Six bowl.

Here's a look at how the AAC stacks up, as voted upon by a league-wide panel of beat reporters.

1. UCF (8-0, 5-0 AAC): The path is clear for the Knights — win out and head to a major bowl. UCF survived a 31-24 scare at SMU and now plays two sub-.500 opponents (UConn on Saturday and at Temple Nov. 18) before its Black Friday home showdown against USF. The Knights remained the highest-ranked Group of Five school at No. 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night. — Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

2. Memphis (8-1, 5-1): The Tigers control their own destiny in the AAC West following their 41-14 victory over Tulsa. Memphis has a one-game lead in the loss column over Houston (which it has already defeated) and SMU (which comes to the Liberty Bowl on Nov. 18 following the Tigers' bye week). Riley Ferguson threw for 298 yards and touchdowns to four different receivers against Tulsa, while Darrell Henderson had 173 all-purpose yards and scored twice. The Tigers have scored 40 or more points in four of their five conference wins. — John Varlas, Memphis Commercial Appeal

3. USF (8-1, 5-1): In one of their most diverse – and dazzling – offensive performances of the season, the Bulls amassed 602 yards in a 37-20 romp of Connecticut. QB Quinton Flowers eclipsed his own school record by totaling 516 yards, becoming only the fourth player in AAC history to reach 500 in a game. USF gets a bye week before hosting Tulsa for its senior night on Nov. 16. — Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times

4. Houston (6-3, 4-2): The Cougars carried some momentum into a much-needed open date with a 52-27 win over East Carolina. It was Houston's highest-scoring game of the season, courtesy of another strong performance by newly-minted QB D'Eriq King, who threw for 330 yards and three TDs and ran for another score. Steven Dunbar and Linell Bonner combined for 13 catches for 318 yards and two TDs. Houston is bowl eligible for the fifth straight season and will try to end the regular season on a four-game winning streak with remaining games against Tulane (Nov. 18) and Navy (Nov. 24). — Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

5. SMU (6-3, 3-2): The Mustangs were left with an empty feeling after a 31-24 loss to UCF. Despite battling the No. 18 team in the CFP rankings to the bitter end, the Mustangs squandered several opportunities to tie or even win the game. Among the missed chances: Ke'Mon Freeman's fumble on the goal line in the second quarter, Ben Hicks' overthrow of Trey Quinn in the end zone just before halftime, and dropped passes by Quinn and Courtland Sutton in the fourth quarter. Defensively, SMU gave up 200-plus rushing yards for the fourth consecutive game. Now, it must face Navy's triple-option. — Adam Grosbard, Dallas Morning News

6. Navy (5-3, 3-3): The Midshipmen turned in their worst performance of the season on Thursday night, getting beaten badly on both sides of the ball and suffering a 34-26 upset loss to Temple. Navy's normally effective triple-option offense sputtered while the defense was shredded by a backup quarterback (Frank Nutile) making his second career start. Navy has lost three in a row entering Saturday's home game against SMU. — Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

7. Temple (4-5, 2-3): The Owls recorded their first win over a Division I-A team with a winning record in Thursday's 34-26 win over visiting Navy. Redshirt senior DE Sharif Finch earned AAC Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording two sacks and five tackles. QB Frank Nutile finished 22-of-30 for 289 yards and four TDs. Nutile will make his third consecutive (and third career) start for injured Logan Marchi when the Owls visit Cincinnati on Friday. — Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

8. Cincinnati (3-6, 1-4): The Bearcats snapped a five-game losing streak with a 17-16 win at Tulane. Redshirt freshman Gerrid Doaks rushed for a career-high 149 yards, and junior QB Hayden Moore threw for 248 yards and a TD. RB Mike Boone scored a go-ahead 5-yard TD run in the third quarter, and the Bearcats made it stand up. UC snapped an overall eight-game AAC losing streak. The Bearcats play host to Temple on Friday night. — Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

9. Connecticut (3-6, 2-4): The Huskies couldn't contain Quinton Flowers (385 passing yards, 131 rushing yards) and lost to USF, 37-20. QB Bryant Shirreffs left the game with a concussion early in the fourth quarter. He remains unavailable and David Pindell will make his second career start Saturday at UCF. The Huskies have completed the home portion of their season and finish with games at Fenway Park against Boston College (Nov. 18) and at Cincinnati (Nov. 25). — Mike Anthony, Hartford Courant

10. Tulane (3-6, 1-4): Continuing a four-game slide, Tulane lost 17-16 to Cincinnati on homecoming day even though the Bearcats racked up 123 penalty yards on 12 infractions. The Green Wave missed a potential game-winning 36-yard field goal with 1:21 left, adding special teams to offensive and defensive woes. Tulane could not run effectively (35 carries, 132 yards) and gave up four pass plays of 30 or more yards. With zero sacks during its losing streak, the struggling Green Wave travels to East Carolina, which threw 74 times against Houston on Saturday. — Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

11. Tulsa (2-8, 1-5): The Hurricane continued its downturn, falling 41-14 against Memphis on Friday night while recording 59 yards, three first downs and no points in a dreadful second half. Tulsa remains on track for its worst passing season since 1995, averaging only 183 yards per game. This week brings a long-awaited open date, followed by a visit to USF on Nov. 16. — Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

12. East Carolina (2-7, 1-4): ECU continued its downward spiral in a 52-27 loss at Houston on Saturday, officially ending the Pirates' chances at a bowl game. ECU now is guaranteed a third consecutive losing season and the second under Coach Scottie Montgomery. The team will decide later this week whether usual starting QB Thomas Sirk or opening-night starter Gardner Minshew will get the nod this weekend at home against Tulane. ECU has allowed more than 50 points in five of its nine games. — Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector (Greenville, N.C.)

Comments
Report: Florida Gators moving on from Chip Kelly

Report: Florida Gators moving on from Chip Kelly

The Florida Gators are out of the Chip Kelly sweepstakes, according to a report Friday afternoon from Yahoo! Sports.Pat Forde is reporting that UF has moved on from Kelly. This matches what I was told earlier in the week – UF wouldn't wait on K...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Bulls-Knights: 4 final thoughts

Bulls-Knights: 4 final thoughts

Here's hoping your Thanksgiving Day is peaceful, pleasant and calorific. Here's hoping you also leave a little room to digest these final four USF-UCF thoughts before the "War on I-4" kicks off.1. The strength-versus-strength subplots in this game ar...
Published: 11/23/17
Updated: 11/24/17
Irish, Gamecocks potentially await USF women this weekend

Irish, Gamecocks potentially await USF women this weekend

The extended Thanksgiving weekend is upon us, with Christmas on deck. A season of bountiful dining, though some are wondering if Jose Fernandez has bitten off a bit more than he can chew.One thing's certain: There's not a cream puff or cupcake to be ...
Published: 11/23/17
The Chip Kelly Watch goes on

The Chip Kelly Watch goes on

The Chip Kelly Watch continues.Kelly, the former Oregon coach, met with UCLA on Tuesday, according to multiple media outlets. That's not a surprise; Kelly and the Bruins would make a lot of sense together. That also doesn't mean that Florida is out o...
Published: 11/22/17
Armwood, Miami Central will have strongest USF-UCF representation

Armwood, Miami Central will have strongest USF-UCF representation

Armwood and Miami Central will have the strongest roster representation of any state high school when No. 13 UCF hosts No. 22 USF on Friday.The Hawks and Rockets both will boast five alumni (including walk-ons) among the two teams. Surprisingly, Sick...
Published: 11/22/17
College football week 13: Times staff picks

College football week 13: Times staff picks

It's rivalry week (again), highlighted in Florida by the USF-UCF War on I-4 and whatever you want to call Florida State-Florida this year. (In case your bias detector is going off, the visiting team is listed first in each case.Here are the Tampa Bay...
Published: 11/22/17
American Athletic Conference power rankings, Week 13

American Athletic Conference power rankings, Week 13

Memphis has locked down the West Division.All that's left is to settle the East with Friday's "War on I-4" between UCF and USF.USF has won six of the eight meetings in the rivalry, but the stakes never have been greater. The winner advances to play M...
Published: 11/22/17
More attractive landing spot for coaches, UF or FSU?

More attractive landing spot for coaches, UF or FSU?

GAINESVILLE — Unless Chip Kelly has made up his mind by the time you read this, the Gators are still looking for a new football coach.There's a chance the rival Seminoles aren't far behind. Industry insiders are speculating that Texas A&M could...
Published: 11/22/17
Making sense of the latest Chip Kelly-Florida news

Making sense of the latest Chip Kelly-Florida news

Florida is prepared to look beyond Chip Kelly as its next coach, Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday afternoon.Of course the Gators are. They have to be. UCLA is a feasible landing spot for Kelly, the former Oregon coach. UF athletic director Scott Strick...
Published: 11/21/17
Strong drops h-word in describing Shaquem Griffin

Strong drops h-word in describing Shaquem Griffin

While saying nothing to purposely fan the flames of the USF-UCF rivalry during his weekly press conference Tuesday, Bulls coach Charlie Strong unintentionally provided fuel for the Knights' best player.He used the h-word when discussing Knights senio...
Published: 11/21/17