American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco was asked for his opinion on the state of the AAC at the midpoint of the college football season. His response?
I thought our bottom-tier teams would've had a little more success this year. You're always disappointed when you have a couple of winless teams. -as told to the Star-Ledger
A BCS conference (albeit only for one season) has two winless teams, each with a loss to an FCS school. Even USF, losers to McNeese State, couldn't avoid the cupcake upset, yet they are fully in the hunt for the American championship. How long that hunt lasts is another question entirely. On to the rankings:
1. Louisville Cardinals (6-0, 2-0) LW: 1
Last week: Won v. Rutgers (4-2, 1-1), 24-10
Many pundits have deemed last Thursday's less-than-validating win over Rutgers as the demise of the Cardinals' championship hopes. Whether they had realistic hopes in the first place is probably the more important debate. Even Ohio State has doubters with the schedule they face, so Louisville is a definite outside shot for the BCS Championship. Teddy Bridgewater still had good numbers, though for those of us who watched the entire game, you finally saw moments that made the Heisman contender look human.
2. UCF Knights (4-1, 1-0) LW: 2
Last week: Inactive
Louisville must take on the Knights for a second consecutive week - this time the Knights of Central Florida. Blake Bortles is markedly better than Gary Nova, and George O'Leary has the defense to carry the team to a championship season, so the Cardinals better watch out. If Louisville brings another lackluster effort into Bright House Networks Stadium, they may not be so fortunate to leave with a win this time.
3. Houston Cougars (5-0, 2-0) LW: 4
Last week: Won v. Memphis (1-4, 0-2), 25-15
It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but Houston continues to get the job done. Memphis is by no means a contender, but the Cougars get the benefit of disarray at Rutgers to climb a spot in these rankings. John O'Korn did not have his best day at BBVA Compass Stadium, completing just over 43% of his passes for one touchdown. Still, Houston made the most of Memphis' turnovers to seal the win.
4. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-2, 1-1) LW: 3
Last week: Lost @ Louisville (6-0, 2-0), 10-24
This is not one of those rankings where a team loses a game and automatically drops down a spot. The criteria are substance-based, so if a team deserves to keep a spot in spite of a loss, the team will not drop. That is not the case with Rutgers. It might be time to reassess expectations for Scarlet Knights fans. Last year, Gary Nova never recovered from his implosion against Kent State, sending the year into a tailspin. Can he bounce back after a disastrous performance at Louisville? To make matters worse, he two CBs with the most starts (Lew Toler, Ian Thomas) are gone for the season, leaving an already beleaguered secondary even more vulnerable. This will be a real test for Kyle Flood to keep the crew together.
5. Cincinnati Bearcats (4-2, 1-1) LW: 6
Last week: Won v. Temple (0-6, 0-3), 38-20
The Bearcats hosted a pesky Temple team last Friday and avoided another headscratcher against a winless AAC team. Brendon Kay was money and he didn't even know it, throwing for 270 yards and two TDs on 31 of 37 passing. Cincinnati continues to have production at the receiver position, with Anthony McClung catching seven balls for 86 yards and two TDs.
6. SMU Mustangs (1-4, 0-1) LW: 5
Last week: Inactive
It really isn't fair to for SMU to drop without having played a down last week, but I believe that Cincinnati is closer to its Temple performance than its USF performance. Furthermore, the Ponies only have one win to go on - against FCS Montana State. Next week's visit to Memphis should tell us more about both teams.
7. Memphis Tigers (1-4, 0-2) LW: 7
Last week: Lost @ Houston (5-0, 2-0), 15-25
Once again, the Tigers had a chance to get the upset on the road, and once again, turnovers and the inability to finish drives doomed their chances. Memphis held the lead with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter, but failed opportunities resulted in no points. Still, the Tigers had a bright spot on defense, holding the Cougars and their 27th ranked offense to 247 total yards - over 200 yards below Houston's average.
8. USF Bulls (2-4, 2-0) LW: 8
Last week: Won @ UConn (0-5, 0-1), 13-10
Willie Taggart has a winning streak in Tampa. USF won the 2013 AAC Toilet Bowl as the Bulls prevailed over the reeling Huskies at Rentschler Stadium. It was quite the stinker you expected it to be: both starting quarterbacks combined for 23 completions on 71 attempts (32%), zero touchdowns, and one interception. In fact, this is the Bulls' second consecutive win without an offensive touchdown. That's the reason that, even with a winning streak, USF stays put at number eight.
9. Temple Owls (0-6, 0-3) LW: 9
Last week: Lost @ Cincinnati (4-2, 1-1), 20-38
Although the Owls left Nippert Stadium with a loss, Temple's performance was promising against a formidable opponent. P.J. Walker had an admirable performance outside of an interception from his own endzone, and Kenneth Harper averaged 7.2 yards per carry in the loss. This Saturday, Temple hosts a beatable Army team at Lincoln Financial Field.
10. Connecticut Huskies (0-5, 0-1) LW: 10
Last week: Lost v. USF (2-4, 2-0), 10-13
The Huskies blew their best chance for a win until November 23 when they travel to Philadelphia to take on fellow winless squad Temple. With Paul Pasqualoni gone, interim coach T.J. Weist attempted to inject some life into the team by starting freshman QB Tim Boyle, who proceeded to mock that decision by going 15 of 43 for 149 yards. Boyle's performance spoiled a great day for Lyle McCombs, who ran for 164 yards on 20 carries and a one TD. Next up for UConn: @Cincinnati, @UCF, and home against Louisville.