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AAC RANKINGS: ECU continues climb

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East Carolina's Darius Pinnix runs for a long touchdown against North Carolina on Sept. 8. The Pirates won 41-19.

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The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Temple made a big jump in the American Athletic Conference football beat writer rankings, and East Carolina also moved up a spot to eighth this week.

The Sunshine State occupies the top two spots, led again by steady Central Florida. South Florida takes over second place, has a 3-0 record and hosts the Pirates this weekend.

Here are the complete rankings:

1. UCF

Previous ranking: 1

Points: 143

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

Last week: Bye

This week: vs. FAU

Trajectory: Steady. UCF saw its nonconference road showdown with North Carolina canceled due to Hurricane Florence. The Knights enter this week's game against FAU featuring the second-best offense in the country, averaging more than 600 yards and 47 points per game in 2018.

Did you know? UCF is tied for second in the AAC in turnover margin (plus-3) after forcing six takeaways.

- Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

2. USF

Previous ranking: 3

Points: 128

Record: 3-0 (0-0 in AAC)

Last week: defeated Illinois, 25-17

This week: vs. East Carolina

Trajectory: Surging. For the second weekend in a row, the Bulls rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit against a Power Five foe. Saturday's comeback at Soldier Field offset one of the uglier performances of the 15-game Charlie Strong era (two interceptions, 14 penalties, two missed field goals).

Did you know? Quarterback Blake Barnett has accounted for five fourth-quarter touchdowns (three pass, two run) in USF's last two games.

Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times

3. Houston

Previous ranking: 2

Points: 114

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

Last week: Lost to Texas Tech, 63-49

This week: vs. Texas Southern

Trajectory: Skidding. The Cougars allowed 704 yards total offense (605 passing) and nine touchdowns in one of the worst defensive performances in school history. UH had 18 missed tackles that led to nearly 200 yards after contact. Expected to challenge in the AAC West, the Cougars appear vulnerable with a defense that ranks 128th out of 129 nationally in pass defense (427 yards) and 127th in total defense (558 yards). They have two weeks to figure things out with a game against FCS Texas Southern and open date before the start of AAC play.

Did you know? The Cougars have scored at least 40 points in the first three games of a season for the first time.

Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

4. Cincinnati

Previous ranking: 5

Points: 103

Record: 3-0 (0-0 in AAC)

Last week: defeated Alabama A&M, 63-7

This week: vs. Ohio University

Trajectory: Surging. UC raced to a 42-0 halftime lead last week and virtually emptied its bench. Desmond Ridder threw for 199 yards and 3 TDs in just one quarter, and UC eventually played four quarterbacks. True freshman running back Tavion Thomas rushed for 141 yards and two TDs. At 3-0, UC is just one win shy of last year's win total.

Did you know? The Bearcats just missed recording a second consecutive shutout, which the program last accomplished in 1953.

- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

5. Navy

Previous ranking: 4

Points: 102

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

Last week: defeated Lehigh, 51-21

This week: at SMU

Trajectory: Steady. Beating Lehigh by 30 points was nothing to get too excited about and the coaching staff was actually upset with some of the silly mistakes the Midshipmen made during the game. Navy is seeking to start West Division action 2-0.

Did you know? Malcolm Perry has rushed for 200 yards or more in three of his six career starts at quarterback. Perry has amassed 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns in those six games.

- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

6. Memphis

Previous ranking: 6

Points: 94

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

Last week: defeated Georgia State, 59-22

This week: vs. South Alabama

Trajectory: Steady. Darrell Henderson had his second-straight 200-yard effort with 233 rushing yards and two TDs. Brady White returned to form with five passing touchdowns and Damonte Coxie broke out with six catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Bryce Huff led a strong defense with two sacks and two quarterback hurries.

Did you know? Memphis' defense has recorded a turnover in 19 straight games

- Evan Barnes, The Commercial Appeal

7. Temple

Previous ranking: 11

Points: 67

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

Last week: defeated Maryland, 35-14

This week: vs. Tulsa (Thursday)

Trajectory: Surging. Despite being a 14 ½-point underdog, the Owls controlled Maryland from the beginning, leading 21-7 at halftime. Temple finished with seven sacks, including two by DT Michael Dogbee, the AAC Defensive player of the week. Anthony Russo made his first start at quarterback after Frank Nutile was unable to go due to an undisclosed injury. Russo learned an hour before the game that he would start. He completed 15 of 25 for 228 yards, one touchdown and one interception. After throwing a pick-six, Russo led Temple to a TD on the next series, scoring with seven seconds left in the half. Coach Geoff Collins said that Nutile will be a game-time decision.

Did you know? Temple has scored one special teams touchdown in each game. Last week quarterback Todd Centeio, the up-man in punt formation, threw a 36-yard scoring pass to Freddie Johnson. The fake punt came on a third-and-8 play.

Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News

8. East Carolina

Previous ranking: 9

Points: 53

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

Last week: Bye

This week: at South Florida.

Trajectory: Steady. The Pirates opened with a loss to an FCS team, then scored a big win against North Carolina from the Atlantic Coast Conference before another ACC matchup (at Virginia Tech) was canceled. ECU is seeking consistency and regularity moving forward.

Did you know? The Pirates did not want to get stuck in the path of Hurricane Florence and have been in Orlando, Fla., since Sept. 12.

- Ronnie Woodward, Greenville Daily Reflector

9. Tulane

Previous ranking: 8

Points: 51

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

Last week: lost to UAB, 31-24

This week: at Ohio State

Trajectory: Skidding. For the second time in three weeks, Tulane missed a golden opportunity to win a game in which it was outplayed, allowing a 93-yard tie-breaking touchdown drive after rallying from a 14-point deficit on the road. Jonathan Banks threw his first interception in 97 attempts, lost two fumbles and went 7 of 26 against the Blazers. Now the Green Wave faces an almost certain loss at fourth-ranked Ohio State and the realization it will have to win five AAC games to become bowl eligible.

Did you know? Tulane is 1-2 for the fifth consecutive year. It finished with a losing record in each of the previous four.

Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

10. Tulsa

Previous ranking: 7

Points: 43

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

Last week: lost to Arkansas State, 29-20

This week: at Temple (Thursday)

Trajectory: Skidding. For a third time in as many games, Tulsa failed to get going offensively until falling behind and attempting a second-half comeback. Against the top team in the Sun Belt, the Hurricane mustered 15 yards in a combined five drives during the first half. In its conference opener Thursday night at Temple, Tulsa is seeking its first road victory since 2016.

Did you know? Through three games this year, TU is 90th nationally with 387.3 yards per game.?

Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

11. SMU

Previous ranking: 10

Points: 24

Record: 0-3 (0-0 in AAC)

Last week: lost to No. 19 Michigan, 45-20

This week: vs. Navy

Trajectory: Skidding. Coach Sonny Dykes was non-committal whether junior Ben Hicks or true freshman Will Brown will start the AAC opener. Hicks has struggled during the opening month, and Brown came off the bench to provide a spark, completing 11 of 17 for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. A bright spot was receiver James Proche, who had 11 catches for 166 yards and two TDs and finished with 214 all-purpose yards.

Did you know? The Mustangs are off to their first 0-3 start since losing the first 11 games during the 2014 season.

Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

12. Connecticut

Previous ranking: 12

Points: 14

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

Last week: defeated Rhode Island, 56-49

This week: at Syracuse

Trajectory: Steady. Most FBS teams would be worried after needing a late touchdown to beat an FCS team, but for UConn, beating Rhode Island felt like a good outcome. Defense will remain a problem all season, but if quarterback David Pindell plays like he did Saturday (308 yards passing, 137 rushing), the Huskies could at least have a shot in some conference games.

Did you know? UConn's defense ranks last in FBS in both yards allowed and points allowed per game.

- Alex Putterman, Hartford Courant

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