Thanks to a handful of impressive performances from some of The American’s lower-ranked teams, the conference went a smooth 7-4 last week but failed to beat a Power Five opponent.
SMU got outscored 27-0 in the second half to lose to TCU. USF’s defense allowed 647 yards of offense in a 55-35 loss to Florida State. East Carolina suffered its first defeat against an ACC team in six games with a 54-17 blowout at Virginia Tech. UConn couldn’t take care of Syracuse at home, 31-24.
Luckily, UCF, Temple, Tulane, and several others pulled their weight.
Here’s how the AAC checks out as we move forward to the fifth week of the 2016 college football season:
1. Houston (4-0, 1-0 American; Last week / “LW”: No. 1)
Last week: Won at Texas State, 64-3
Next up: vs. UConn, Thursday, Sept. 29
Tom Herman improved to 17-1 as a head coach with Houston’s largest margin of victory since 1991 and subsequently became one of the top targets for the now-vacant position at LSU (though he’s denied any contact to this point).
2. South Florida (3-1, 0-0; LW: No. 2)
Last week: Lost vs. Florida State, 55-35
Next up: at Cincinnati, Saturday, Oct. 1
It wasn’t the result that it wanted, but USF can take its disappointing outcome versus Florida State as a constructive loss moving into conference play. Its 290 yards rushing (7.1 ypa) is something to circle; the Bulls’ loaded backfield still makes them a serious threat to blow through the East.
3. Memphis (3-0, 0-0; LW: No. 6)
Last week: Won vs. Bowling Green, 77-3
Next up: at Ole Miss, Saturday, Oct. 1
We didn’t really know what Memphis was all about before last Saturday. Seventy-seven points (56 in the first half) and 635 yards later, it’s clear that the Tigers are a serious player in the AAC — beating Ole Miss for a second straight season would turn them into an immediate New Year’s Six contender.
4. Cincinnati (3-1, 0-1; LW: No. 3)
Last week: Won vs. Miami-Ohio, 27-20
Next up: vs. South Florida, Saturday, Oct. 1
We knew going in that the Battle for the Victory Bell was a trap game for Cincinnati. After clawing their way to a seven-point win at home, the Bearcats direct their attention to USF in a matchup that could ultimately decide the AAC East.
5. Tulsa (3-1, 0-0; LW: No. 4)
Last week: Won at Fresno State, 48-41
Next up: Bye week
It’s not necessarily an optimal way to win, but after trailing 31-0 just 20 minutes into the game versus Fresno State, Tulsa came together and fought back to claim victory in overtime. Senior quarterback Dane Evans finished 22-of-32 with 273 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, and the Golden Hurricane backfield totaled 334 yards of its own.
6. Navy (3-0, 2-0; LW: No. 5)
Last week: Bye week
Next up: at Air Force, Saturday, Oct. 1
Navy was on a bye last week, getting a little extra time to prepare for Air Force in what will be a meeting of the undefeated service academies (6-0).
7. Temple (2-2, 0-0; LW: No. 9)
Last week: Won vs. Charlotte, 48-20
Next up: vs. SMU, Saturday, Oct. 1
After a shocking 28-13 loss in the opener versus Army, Temple has slowly gained confidence, beating Stony Brook and Charlotte by a combined 66 points while falling to Penn State in Happy Valley by just a touchdown in Week 3.
8. Central Florida (2-2, 0-0; LW: No. 10)
Last week: Won at FIU, 53-14
Next up: at East Carolina, Saturday, Oct. 1
We’re four games into the 2016 campaign and UCF already has two more wins than it did last season. It’s still very early in the rebuild, but coach Scott Frost seems to have the Knights ahead of schedule with a postseason bid in sight.
9. UConn (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 7)
Last week: Lost vs. Syracuse, 31-24
Next up: at Houston, Thursday, Sept. 29
Losing to Syracuse at home is a huge blow to UConn’s bowl chances. Sitting at 2-2, the Huskies get Houston on the road Thursday night before hosting Cincinnati and then USF in Tampa the week after that.
10. East Carolina (2-2, 0-0; LW: No. 8)
Last week: Lost at Virginia Tech, 54-17
Next up: vs. Central Florida, Saturday, Oct. 1
ECU’s six-game winning streak against ACC opponents was snapped over the weekend. The Pirates were completely outmatched against Virginia Tech, absorbing a 38-0 halftime deficit. Beating UCF this Saturday will be crucial for any shot at a 13th game this season.
11. Tulane (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 11)
Last week: Won vs. UL-Lafayette, 41-39 (4OT)
Next up: at UMass, Saturday, Oct. 1
Tulane went 0-for-16 on third down and somehow still managed to beat UL-Lafayette in a school-record four overtimes. It’s good to see the Green Wave with two wins heading into October, but they won’t be winning many more if they can’t find a way to be more efficient on passing downs.
12. SMU (2-2, 0-0; LW: No. 12)
Last week: Lost vs. TCU, 33-3
Next up: at Temple, Saturday, Oct. 1
Here’s the good news: SMU’s defense leads the nation with 10 interceptions. Here’s the bad news: with another porous second half in the books, the Mustangs are now being outscored 68-17 in the final 30 minutes against opponents not named Liberty.