Houston is No. 1 in my American Athletic Conference power rankings following Week 2’s slate, and it’s not even close.
The American went 7-4 over the weekend with Navy beating UConn in the only conference matchup. Included in those wins was a dominant performance by East Division favorite South Florida, which handled perennial MAC power Northern Illinois, 48-17. Cincinnati thumped Purdue on the road and East Carolina secured yet another ‘dub against an ACC opponent, this time foiling N.C. State.
Here’s how the AAC checks out as we move forward to the third week of the 2016 college football season:
1. Houston (2-0): If Greg Ward was going to miss a game this season, Week 2 against Lamar was perfect timing. Without much of a presence in the passing game, Houston’s backfield and defense put on a tag-team display, finishing with 71 rushing attempts for 381 yards and six touchdowns while holding its FCS opponent to 73 total yards of offense as the Cougars rolled, 42-0.
Next up: at Cincinnati, Thursday, Sept. 15
2. South Florida (2-0): Behind Quinton Flowers’ near-perfect performance, USF exploded for 658 yards of total offense at 7.39 per play. The Bulls can’t afford to look ahead to their Week 4 game against Florida State, especially with their first road test coming up on Saturday.
Next up: at Syracuse, Saturday, Sept. 17
3. Cincinnati (2-0): Thanks to linebacker Mike Tyson’s three interceptions (with five overall for the team), Cincinnati was able to earn its first road win against a Big Ten opponent since 1957, easily taking care of Purdue by a score of 38-20 — though it was 31-7 early in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats now have a short week to prepare for a top-10 foe.
Next up: vs. Houston, Thursday, Sept. 15
4. Navy (2-0): An impressive stand at the one-yard line against UConn helped Navy move to 2-0 for the second straight season, and it looks like the Midshipmen aren’t going anywhere when it comes to the AAC West race.
“That goal line stand symbolizes who we are,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Things looked bleak. I didn’t see the play. I was closing my eyes praying and I have no idea what happened. Shows you what kind of coach I am. I just looked up and our guys were cheering.”
Next up: at Tulane, Saturday, Sept. 17
5. UConn (1-1): Down 21-0 midway through the second quarter, UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs orchestrated a major comeback as the Huskies put up 24 straight. Unfortunately it was not enough; Navy was able to hang up another score before a 10-play, 79-yard final drive was cut short for UConn at the Midshipmen’s 1 as time expired. ESPN’s FPI now predicts UConn to finish 4-8 this season, but I’m a bit more optimistic.
Next up: vs. Virginia, Saturday, Sept. 17
6. East Carolina (2-0): One of the few teams from the AAC I picked to miss out on a bowl game, ECU has looked fantastic on offense out of the gate, now ranked 10th nationally in total offense with 1,133 yards in its first two games. The Pirates’ 33-30 victory gave them their sixth straight over ACC opponents dating back to 2013.
Next up: at South Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 17
7. Tulsa (1-1): After one quarter of play in Columbus, Tulsa was tied with Ohio State at 3-3 and had ran 29 plays compared to 14 for the Buckeyes. Tulsa’s vertical offense and athleticism on the hashes clearly made things difficult for the Big Ten power before everything came crashing down.
Between quarters 2-4, Ohio State forced six turnovers — including two interceptions returned for touchdowns — and the Golden Hurricane couldn’t muster any kind of rhythm. Fortunately for Tulsa, this shouldn’t play into its future postseason chances.
Next up: vs. North Carolina A&T, Saturday, Sept. 17
8. Memphis (1-0): Memphis took an early bye week after its 35-17 opening win over Southeast Missouri State and should be fully prepared to tackle its upcoming Big 12 opponent before AAC competition arrives.
Next up: vs. Kansas, Saturday, Sept. 17
9. Temple (1-1): Temple was able to let loose after its embarrassing Week 1 debut against Army, taking its frustration out on FCS member Stony Brook in a 38-0 win. The Owls out-gained Stony Brook, 301-133, and did not allow a single third-down conversion in 13 attempts.
Next up: at Penn State, Saturday, Sept. 17
10. SMU (1-1): Despite the 40-13 loss to Baylor, there are a few positives to take from SMU’s performance over the weekend — but none more important than the first 30 minutes. The Mustangs went into the half at a deadlock with the Bears, holding one of the highest-scoring offenses in recent years to just six points before surrendering 34 in the final two quarters. That’s a sign of growth, believe it or not.
Next up: vs. Liberty, Saturday, Sept. 17
11. UCF (1-1): UCF’s 51-14 blowout loss to Michigan in the Big House is about what we expected heading into the game. What stands out, though, is that the Knights produced 275 yards rushing. If you take away Adrian Killins’ 87-yard touchdown run, UCF averaged nearly 4.2 yards a pop. When coach Scott Frost is able to develop a quarterback that fits his system, this will be a deadly offense in the AAC.
Next up: vs. Maryland, Saturday, Sept. 17
12. Tulane (1-1): It’s fitting that the first win of the Willie Fritz era came in a game when quarterbacks threw a combined six passes for 12 yards and an interception, yet the offense still hung 66 points on the board. Over 400 rushing yards and four forced turnovers gave Tulane a 66-21 win over Southern last weekend.
Next up: vs. Navy, Saturday, Sept. 17