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Ranking AAC games for Week 8: It’s time for championship-caliber football

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I hope you like night games.

Kicking things off this weekend is an ESPN-televised AAC matchup between South Florida and Temple Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field. With a win, USF would stand alone in the East Division. The Bulls would have outright control of their remaining path to the conference championship game in early December.

Saturday will also feature a pair of prime-time meetings: No. 11 Houston at SMU and East Carolina at Cincinnati. Both games have implications of their own, though to different degrees of severity for each program involved.

This is already the fourth weekend of October. It’s around this time when champions begin to emerge. Every down matters.

Here are all six AAC games for Week 8, ranked by watchability:

6. Houston (6-1, 3-1) at SMU (2-4, 0-2) — Saturday, Oct. 22, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Even from afar, it’s a fair assessment to say that Chad Morris has done some good things with SMU at the halfway point of his second season. While it’s also fair to assume the Mustangs are on their way to becoming annual bowl contenders again in the near future, it won’t be in 2016. They are 4-14 under Morris and have yet to win a home game versus an FBS opponent with a winning record. Houston coach Tom Herman has taken some *playful* jabs at his friends in Dallas in the past, but he respects them and will not run up the score. You still shouldn’t expect this one to be all that close.

5. Tulane (3-3, 0-2) at Tulsa (4-2, 1-1) — Saturday, Oct. 22, 3:45 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Don’t sleep on Tulsa. Its two losses this season have come on the road versus the No. 2- and 13-ranked teams in the nation: Ohio State and Houston. Not only would beating Tulane bring it one step closer to becoming bowl eligible for the second straight year, but it would improve the Golden Hurricane to 5-0 against unranked competition and give it a shot at makingnoise in the West.

4. UCF (3-3, 1-1) at UConn (3-4, 1-3) — Saturday, Oct. 22, noon ET (ESPNN)

What has been dubbed the “worst rivalry in sports” unfolds for the fourth time Saturday afternoon, as UCF takes its six-point advantage into Rentschler Field to face a UConn team that simply cannot afford to drop another conference loss the rest of the way out. Worst rivalry in sports has a nice ring to it, right? Maybe that title brings more intrigue to the series than its actual faux-brand in “The Civil ConFLiCT.”

3. East Carolina (2-4, 0-2) at Cincinnati (3-3, 0-3) — Saturday, Oct. 22, 7 p.m. ET (CBSSN)

Things aren’t going very well for Cincinnati in Tommy Tuberville’s fourth season. UC is off to its worst start in conference play since 1999 and is in serious jeopardy of losing enough games to be shut out from postseason eligibility. The Bearcats, who are favored by three points entering the game, are 1-5 against the spread in 2016, and East Carolina has nothing to lose in a rebuilding year with a first-year coach and system. Is this where things really begin to unravel for Tuberville, or does UC step up to the plate during the second half of the year?

2. South Florida (6-1, 3-0) at Temple (4-3, 2-1) — Friday, Oct. 21, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

It was the consensus this preseason that USF and Houston would eventually meet in the AAC Championship Game later on in the year. So far, that prediction isn’t looking all that bad. One thing to keep an eye on, though, is that with No. 7 Louisville still on the Cougars’ schedule (a potential second loss), the Bulls could end up in line for a New Year’s Six bid. Beat Temple first, of course, but it’s certainly in the realm of possibility.

1. Memphis (5-1, 2-0) at Navy (4-1, 3-0) — Saturday, Oct. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBSSN)

Timeout. Hold up on the Houston talk for one moment … because it might not even be UH’s right to play in the title game when all said and done. Navy has won 12 games in a row at home dating back to 2014. It has the advantage over the Cougars in the standings thanks to its 46-40 win a few weeks back. Memphis can get its title conversation started with a win; the Tigers get Tulsa, South Florida and Houston all at home in the latter portion of their schedule. This game has big-time implications no matter which way you look at it.

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