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Ranking AAC games for Week 5: Can Memphis shock the Rebels again?

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

There are only seven games on tap for Week 5 in the American Athletic Conference, but all present a certain degree of intrigue.

This is especially the case on Saturday evening, when Memphis takes on No. 16 Ole Miss in Oxford for a chance to shock the SEC — and the general college football audience — in back-to-back seasons.

That’s exactly what the Tigers were able to do in front of a Liberty Bowl crowd last year. They gained 491 yards on 31 first downs and forced two huge Chad Kelly interceptions, winning by a final score of 37-24 for their first victory over a ranked opponent since 1996.

Even though Memphis has gotten off to another 3-0 start and is coming off an impressive 77-3 blowout versus Bowling Green, coach Justin Fuente and all-star quarterback Paxton Lynch are gone. There are still a lot of questions to answer before the program can return to its status as one of the top Group of Five units in the nation.

If the Tigers leave Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with a win, they’ll definitely be in the New Year’s Six conversation alongside Houston.

Here are all seven AAC games this week ranked by watchability:

7. Tulane at UMass — Saturday, Oct. 1, 3:30 p.m. ET

A win in Amherst would give Tulane its third of the year, matching its total from a 3-9 season in 2015. Observers still wouldn’t see the Green Wave in any bowl projections, but it would definitely place the team on the right path for contention.

6. SMU at Temple — Saturday, Oct. 1, noon ET (ESPNews)

Will SMU be able to put together two good halves of football in Philadelphia? The Mustangs were tied with Baylor and and down only three to TCU at halftime before losing both games by a combined 57 points. Putting together four quarters of competitive action on the road against a quality opponent would be a strong step forward, even if the result is a loss.

5. UCF at East Carolina — Saturday, Oct. 1, noon ET (CBSSN)

These are two proud mid-major programs undergoing massive overhauls with new head coaches, systems and cultures. It’s a good possibility that the winner will find a way to become bowl-eligible by December. This one could be high scoring and rather pleasant to watch.

4. UConn at No. 6 Houston — Thursday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

On paper this looks like a slaughter in favor of Houston, which enters the game as a 28-point favorite and has won its first four games by an average of nearly five touchdowns. UConn, on the other hand, comes limping into TDECU Stadium after losing to Syracuse at home. Remember, though: The Huskies are the only team to have beaten Tom Herman as a head coach.

3. Navy at Air Force — Saturday, Oct. 1, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBSSN)

How often to you get the opportunity to watch two undefeated service academies play one another? Not very.

2. South Florida at Cincinnati — Saturday, Oct. 1, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

With Temple’s slow start and the rest of the division aiming for postseason eligibility, it’s quite possible that the winner of this game will represent the East in the AAC title game. ESPN’s FPI gives USF a 67.9 percent chance to win in Cincinnati Saturday evening before eventually finishing the regular season with an 11-1 (8-0) record.

1. Memphis at No. 16 Ole Miss — Saturday, Oct. 1, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

It goes without saying that a Memphis win at Ole Miss would look really, really good for the AAC and its chances of putting a team in a New Year’s bowl slot. The Tigers would slide into the top 25 with five straight games against opponents that went a combined 32-32 in 2015 before getting USF (home), Cincinnati (road), and Houston (home) to finish the regular season. Can you imagine what a matchup between unbeaten Memphis and unbeaten UH would do for the conference’s playoff hopes?

Ranking AAC games for Week 5: Can Memphis shock the Rebels again?

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