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East Carolina's Gerard Stringer celebrates a tackle against Connecticut in Greenville on Nov. 17, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


The Daily Reflector

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Central Florida and Memphis will battle for the American Athletic Conference football championship on Saturday, which is also when East Carolina finished its season at N.C. State from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Here is how the AAC stacks up, according to power rankings compiled by reporters from every conference school:

1. UCF

Previous ranking: 1 | Points 132

Record: 11-0 (8-0 AAC)

Last week: defeated USF, 38-10

This week: vs. Memphis in AAC championship game

Trajectory: Steady. Tailback Greg McCrae rushed for a game-high 181 yards and three touchdowns as UCF rushed for a season-high 391 yards as the teams extended their nation-leading win streak to 24 games. But the win came at a high cost as quarterback McKenzie Milton injured his right leg, requiring emergency surgery Friday night.

Did you know? After giving up a season-high 670 yards to Temple on Nov. 1, UCF’s defense has clamped down on the opposition, allowing just 359 yards per game against Navy, Cincinnati and USF.

- Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

2. Cincinnati

In memory of Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

3. Memphis

Previous ranking: 5 | Points 105

Record: 8-4 (5-3 AAC)

Last week: defeated Houston, 52-31

This week: vs. UCF in AAC championship game

Trajectory: Surging. Memphis’ fourth straight win clinched its second straight AAC West title. The Tigers relied on their ground game with 401 rushing yards against Houston. Darrell Henderson (178) and Patrick Taylor (128) each crossed the 100-yard mark and the Tigers’ defense recorded its third straight game with at least 10 tackles for loss. Henderson is also the AAC’s new single-season rushing leader with 1,699 yards

Did you know? Memphis has won eight games for the fifth straight season, a first in program history.

Evan Barnes, The Commercial Appeal

4. Temple

Previous ranking: 2 | Points 102

Record: 8-4 (7-1 AAC)

Last week: defeated UConn, 57-7

Next game: Bowl (TBA)

Trajectory: Surging. The Owls scored their largest margin of victory ever against an FBS opponent. Isaiah Wright returned a kickoff 99 yards for a TD and was named AAC special teams player of the week for the second straight week. He has five career TD returns, three on punts and two on kickoffs. Temple played without starting QB Anthony Russo, who had a cast on his right hand.

Did you know? This will be Temple's fourth straight bowl appearance. This senior class has achieved half of Temple's eight bowl appearances, counting this year.

- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News

5. Houston

Previous ranking: 3 | Points 93

Record: 8-4 (5-3 AAC)

Last week: lost to Memphis, 52-31

Next game: Bowl (TBA)

Trajectory: Steady. After one of the worst showings in school history, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio was fired at the end of the season. The news is not all bad for Houston: after emerging as a leading candidate for the head coaching job at Texas State, associate head coach/offensive coordinator Kendal Briles elected to remain with the Cougars and signed a three-year extension.

Did you know? Ed Oliver is the first player in school history to earn all-conference first-team honors in three straight seasons.

- Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

6. South Florida

Previous ranking: T6 | Points 70

Record: 7-5 (3-5 AAC)

Last week: lost to UCF, 38-10

Next game: Bowl (TBA)

Trajectory: Skidding. The Bulls limp into bowl season on their first five-game losing streak since 2013, when they finished 2-10 in Willie Taggart's inaugural season. During that skid, their maligned offense has averaged only 19.8 points and 4.8 yards per play.

Did you know? USF's 10 points against UCF were its fewest in a game since a 16-0 loss to the Knights in their 2014 season finale.

Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times

7. Tulane

Previous ranking: 8 | Points 69

Record: 6-6 (5-3 AAC)

Last week: defeated Navy, 29-28

Next game: Bowl (TBA)

Trajectory: Surging. After blowing a 21-3 halftime lead to Navy at home, Tulane scored late and made a two-point conversion to win 29-28, earning its first bowl bid since 2013. The Wave also finished tied for first in the AAC West with a 5-3 league mark after combining for four conference wins the past two years. The accomplishments were nice, but coach Willie Fritz expects more. He fired offensive coordinator Doug Ruse on Tuesday.

Did you know? Tulane has finished eighth or worse in total offense and scoring in all three years of Ruse's tenure.

Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

8. SMU

Previous ranking: T6 | Points 55

Record: 5-7 (4-4 AAC)

Last week: lost to Tulsa, 27-24

Next game: Aug 31, 2019, at Arkansas State

Trajectory: Skidding. Needing a win over the final two weeks to become bowl eligible, SMU stumbled badly and will miss out on the postseason. First-year coach Sonny Dykes was particularly critical of his team after a season-ending loss to Tulsa, telling the Dallas Morning News: “We got exactly what we deserved.”

Did you know? Wide receiver James Proche (first team) and linebacker Richard Moore (honorable mention) were the only Mustangs named to the All-AAC postseason teams.

Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

9. Navy

Previous ranking: 9 | Points 40

Record: 3-9 (2-6 AAC)

Last week: lost to Tulane, 29-28

Next game: vs. Army on Dec. 9 (Philadelphia)

Trajectory: Steady. A valiant comeback went for naught against Tulane. The Mids rallied to take a 28-21 lead but gave up a touchdown and two-point conversion in the waning minutes. Navy needs to beat archrival Army in order to salvage an otherwise disastrous season.

Did you know? Navy has played two of the four remaining unbeaten teams in the country. The Midshipmen lost to Notre Dame (44-22) and Central Florida (35-24)

Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

10. Tulsa

Previous ranking: 11 | Points 36

Record: 3-9 (2-6 AAC)

Last week: defeated SMU, 27-24

Next game: Aug. 31, 2019, at Michigan State

Trajectory: Surging. The Hurricane closed out its disappointing season on a high note, holding on late to edge SMU by three. Quarterback Seth Boomer had his best outing of the year, completing 20 of 27 passes for 251 and a touchdown.

Did you know? In 2019, Tulsa returns 11 of its top 12 tacklers.

Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

11. East Carolina

Previous ranking: 10 | Points 23

Record: 3-8 (1-7 AAC)

Last week: lost at Cincinnati, 56-6.

This week: at North Carolina State

Trajectory: Skidding. A win over Connecticut on Nov. 17 served as a one-game hiatus for East Carolina, which was just overwhelmed in a 56-6 loss at 10-win Cincinnati. The Pirates are reeling again and plenty of pressure is on coach Scottie Montgomery for a more competitive showing this weekend against rival N.C. State.

Did you know? Despite all of his losses, Montgomery is 1-0 versus N.C. State and 1-0 versus North Carolina during his three seasons at ECU.

- Ronnie Woodward, Greenville (N.C.) Daily Reflector

12. Connecticut

Previous ranking: 12 | Points 11

Record: 1-11 (0-8 AAC)

Last week: lost to Temple, 57-7

Next game: Aug. 29, 2019, vs. Wagner

Trajectory: Skidding. UConn heads into the offseason reeling from a 50-point whooping against Temple, in which offense, defense and special teams all faltered. In a way, it was a fitting end to a brutal season.

Did you know? UConn allowed more points and yards this season (both per-game and overall) than any team in modern FBS history.

- Alex Putterman, Hartford Courant


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