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AAC poll: ECU moves to 9th

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East Carolina receiver Tahj Deans, left, tries to escape from North Carolina's Patrice Rene during their game on Sept. 8, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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The Daily Reflector

Saturday, September 15, 2018

East Carolina was in last place for the first two installments of the American Athletic Conference writers’ power rankings, but after the Pirates’ 41-19 rout of North Carolina they moved up to ninth.

ECU (at Virginia Tech) and league frontrunner UCF (at N.C. State) had their games canceled this week because of Hurricane Florence.

The AAC is coming off a banner weekend with three wins over Power Five opponents. South Florida took a shootout against Georgia Tech (ACC), Houston trounced Arizona (Pac-12) and Heisman Trophy hopeful Khalil Tate, and the Pirates secured their much-needed win against in-state rival UNC (ACC).

In league play, Navy seized early control in the West division with a 22-21 win over Memphis.

Below are the weekly power rankings, as determined by beat writers for every American team.

1. UCF

Previous ranking: 1.

Record: 2-0 (1-0 in AAC).

Last week: defeated South Carolina State, 38-0; This week: Bye.

Trajectory: Surging. UCF endured a shaky outing by quarterback McKenzie Milton as Adrian Killins scored two touchdowns and the defense forced three turnovers as the team extended the nation's longest win streak to 15. Milton threw three interceptions for the first time since he tossed three against Memphis in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game on Dec. 2.

Did you know? UCF's game at North Carolina State Saturday was canceled due to impending impact of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast.

- Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

2. Houston

Previous ranking: 3.

Record: 2-0 (0-0 in AAC).

Last week: defeated Arizona, 45-18; This week: at Texas Tech.

Trajectory: Surging. Houston’s offense continued to roll, posting 45 points for the second consecutive game, but it was the defense that was on display in a blowout win over Arizona. The Cougars, behind All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver, held the Wildcats and Khalil Tate to 184 yards total offense in the first half and scoreless until late in the third quarter. Houston has won eight of the last nine meetings against Power Five opponents entering this weekend’s showdown in Lubbock.

Did you know? Quarterback D’Eriq King leads the nation in points responsible per game (31).

- Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

3. South Florida

Previous ranking: 4.

Record: 2-0 (0-0 in AAC).

Last week: defeated Georgia Tech, 49-38; This week: vs. Illinois (in Chicago).

Trajectory: Surging. The Bulls, who received three votes in the most recent AP poll, are seeking their seventh win in their last eight games against Power Five opposition. Buoyed by more diverse play-calling (i.e. jet sweeps, toss sweeps, screen passes), USF is averaging 470.5 yards per game.

Did you know? USF, which ranked second nationally with 20 interceptions last season, already has four this year.

-Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times

4. Navy

Previous ranking: 6.

Record: 1-1 (1-0 in AAC).

Last week: defeated Memphis, 22-21; This week: vs. Lehigh.

Trajectory: Surging. Navy announced itself as a legitimate contender in the American by upsetting the defending West Division champs. Safety Sean Williams forced two fumbles to lead a hard-hitting defense that limited the Tigers to 378 total yards.

Did you know? Navy trailed Memphis 21-9 entering the fourth quarter. It was the first time the Mids came back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter since 2008 when it was down 17-7 to Temple before rallying to win.

- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

5. Cincinnati

Previous ranking: 5.

Record: 2-0 (0-0 in AAC).

Last week: defeated Miami (Ohio), 21-0; This week: vs. Alabama A&M.

Trajectory: Surging. After being one of the AAC’s worst defensive teams a year ago, the Bearcats rank seventh nationally in scoring defense (8.5 points) and are allowing an average 252 yards per game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder made his first career start against Miami (Ohio) and appears to have seized the job from senior Hayden Moore, although coach Luke Fickell has yet to make a formal announcement.

Did you know? The Bearcats are the last team in the American Athletic Conference to play a true home game this season.

- Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

6. Memphis

Previous ranking: 2.

Record: 1-1 (0-1 in AAC).

Last week: lost at Navy, 22-21; This week: vs. Georgia State.

Trajectory: Skidding. Darrell Henderson rushed for a career-best 212 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries, but four turnovers doomed Memphis' offense in a rain-soaked loss.

Did you know? Henderson leads all FBS players, averaging 13.09 yards per carry.

- Evan Barnes, The Commercial Appeal

7. Tulsa

Previous ranking: 8.

Record: 1-1 (0-0 in AAC).

Last week: lost at Texas, 28-21; This week: vs. Arkansas State.

Trajectory: Steady. A dreadful start against the Longhorns put Tulsa in a 21-0 hole, but the Hurricane came alive in the second half, scoring on its 10th possession and relying on a stellar defensive effort to make the closing minutes interesting. If not for three missed field goals, the outcome might have been different.

Did you know? Tulsa's streak of 16 consecutive games with a 100-yard rusher was snapped at Texas.

- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

8. Tulane

Previous ranking: 7.

Record: 1-1 (0-0 in AAC).

Last week: defeated Nicholls State, 42-17; This week: at UAB.

Trajectory: Surging. Tulane dominated Nicholls a week after the Colonels won at Kansas. Texas Tech transfer running back Corey Dauphine scored from 38 and 69 yards out on his first two touches. The Green Wave is favored by 4 at UAB in a tricky game the week before a trip to Ohio State.

Did You Know? Wideouts Terren Encalade and Darnell Mooney have combined for 905 receiving yards in the last four games dating to the end of 2017.

- Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

9. East Carolina

Previous ranking: 12.

Record: 1-1 (0-0 in AAC).

Last week: defeated North Carolina, 41-19; This week: at No. 13 Virginia Tech (canceled).

Trajectory: Steady. Beating North Carolina was huge for the Pirates and coach Scottie Montgomery. ECU did not turn the ball over and the win helped with team confidence, which will be something to watch during the coming weeks with challenging road games.

Did you know? Since 2012, ECU has a combined record of 5-0 against UNC and N.C. State.

- Ronnie Woodward, Greenville Daily Reflector

10. SMU

Previous ranking: 10.

Record: 0-2 (0-0 in AAC).

Last week: lost to TCU, 42-12; This week: at No. 19 Michigan.

Trajectory: Struggling. The first half of SMU's rivalry game against TCU looked promising -- the Mustangs jumped out to an early 9-0 lead and looked like they had put their 23-point loss to North Texas behind them. But TCU scored 42 of the game's final 45 points to cruise to victory.

Did you know? SMU will take its first trip to Ann Arbor in 50-plus years on Saturday.

- Scott Bell, Dallas Morning News

11. Temple

Previous ranking: 9.

Record: 0-2 (0-0 in AAC).

Last week: lost to Buffalo, 36-29; This week: at Maryland.

Trajectory: Skidding. A 29-yard touchdown reception by All-American candidate Anthony Johnson broke a 29-29 tie in last week’s 36-29 loss to Buffalo. Temple has continued to get inconsistent play at quarterback. Frank Nutile, who looked strong going 4-2 when he inherited the job last year, has thrown four interceptions in the first two games. The defense is allowing an average of 416 total yards per game. Against Buffalo, the Owls had no sacks against Tyree Jackson, who attempted 45 passes.

Did you know? Temple, which lost its opener to Villanova, has now lost consecutive non-conference games to start a season for the first time since 2009 when the Owls started the season with losses to Villanova and Penn State.

- Marc Narducci – Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News​

12. Connecticut

Previous ranking: 11.

Record: 0-2 (0-1 in AAC).

Last week: lost to Boise State, 62-7; This week: vs. Rhode Island.

Trajectory: Skidding. What's worse than losing by 39 in your opening game? How about losing by 55 in the follow-up. UConn's starting defense against Boise State featured seven freshmen and four sophomores, and the results were ugly, as the Broncos put up a program-record 818 total yards of offense. The Huskies have managed to under-perform even the low expectations with which they entered the season.

Did you know? UConn is 15-1 against FCS opponents since joining the FBS but has not secured a double-digit win in one of those games since 2012.

- Alex Putterman, Hartford Courant


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