It was quite an awful opening week for the inaugural American Athletic Conference football season. Two teams were manhandled by FCS teams, and one team dropped a close matchup to the Mountain West. However, the top two teams picked by the media in the preseason did show their strength as they dominated their non-conference games. Where do we stand after week one?
1. Louisville Cardinals (1-0)
Last week: Won v. Ohio Bobcats (0-1), 49-7
The preseason favorites overpowered Tyler Tettleton and the Bobcats this past Sunday, as Teddy Bridgewater continues his underdog Heisman campaign. The junior QB was 23 of 28 and threw for 355 yards, 5 TDs, and 1 INT. The Cardinals defense completely shut down the very experienced Tettleton, who could only muster 140 passing yards on 11 of 23 passing. Frank Solich's Nitro offense was ineffective against Louisville, as the Bobcats only gained 273 yards of offense. Ohio is coming off a 9-4 2012 season and return some key players, so a blowout win here is a good sign that Louisville hasn't missed much of a beat since the Sugar Bowl last year. However, a stronger opponent is needed to really see what the Cardinals are capable of.
2. Cincinnati Bearcats (1-0)
Last week: Won v. Purdue Boilermakers (0-1), 42-7
Holy Munchie Legaux! The All-Name Team QB returned against the Boilermakers and actually threw more passes to his own teammates than the guys wearing black (he still had 2 INTs, but one was tipped). The Bearcats made a statement win against a power program, showing the college football world that the American will have one contender left after the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights jump ship. Purdue was a team that came very close to some fantastic upsets in 2012, losing to national runner-up Notre Dame by 3 and to Ohio State by a TD in overtime. The Boilermakers are not by any means going to challenge for a Leaders division title, but romping over a Power Five team is still an impressive win.
3. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (0-1)
Last week: Lost @ Fresno State Bulldogs (1-0), 51-52 OT
In what was the most exciting game of opening night in college football, Rutgers and Fresno State entered a shootout wild west style, with the Bulldogs ekeing out the win in OT after Coach Flood rolled the dice on a two-point conversion. Fresno State is a legitimate BCS contender this year, and Derek Carr is destined to play on Sundays (hopefully more Sundays than his older brother), so a close loss here doesn't hurt RU too much in the rankings. Still, the Scarlet Knights defense has a long way to go to carry the torch handed down by last year's top-15 national defense. The offense is much improved, with Gary Nova doing everything to keep Rutgers in the game and Paul James breaking out as the marquee rusher.
4. UCF Knights (1-0)
Last week: Won v. Akron Zips (0-1), 38-7
I can here the boos from Orlando now: "How can Rutgers still be ahead of UCF when the Scarlet Knights LOST?" Beat someone better than Akron, that's what. I don't mean to belittle an impressive win by the Knights from Orlando. Blake Bortles is a true talent and can challenge for first-team on the All-AAC team, and the defense was swarming all over the Zips. But, Akron has now lost 10 games in a row dating back to last season, while the Knights from Jersey lost by one in OT to a soon-to-be top-25 team in Fresno State. I do not subscribe to the theory that power rankings must punish teams for losing; I firmly believe in ranking teams based on who appears better after watching what they are capable of, regardless of victory or loss. Basically, do I think that UCF could have duplicated what RU did against the Bulldogs? I do not, and therefore, they remain at number four, but by a very, very slim margin.
5. Houston Cougars (1-0)
Last week: Won v. Southern Jaguars (0-1), 62-13
Southern was down 13-6 with 8:26 left to go in the second half, but that would be it for the Jaguars as the Cougars would eventually pull away for a blowout win. That may look like a vintage Houston win with Case Keenum back at QB, but starter David Piland only had 148 yards passing on 15 of 23 passing with 1 TD. Most of the offense came on the ground, and from several backs. The Cougars ended up with 372 yards rushing, but the leading rusher only had 120 yards. Could this be the birth of a ground game in Houston? Well, it's Southern, so no.
6. SMU Mustangs (0-1)
Last week: Lost v. Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-0), 23-41
This may not seem like a real eye-opener, considering it's a Power 5 team against a middling AAC squad that went 6-6 in the regular season last year as a member of Conference USA. Last year, the Mustangs lost to Rice and Tulane. Meanwhile, Texas Tech did pull off wins against WVU and TCU in an 8-5 season in the always competitive Big 12. So, is this par for the course? Let's look into the details. Kliff Kingsbury, Lubbock's favored son, is the youngest head coach in the nation at 34 years old. Baker Mayfield is believed to be the first ever true-freshman walk-on to start a season opener for a BCS program. June Jones is a 60 year old sage who has coached in the NFL and led Hawaii to a rare undefeated regular season in 2007, and is also known for potent offenses. Garrett Gilbert was a a consensus five-star prospect coming out of high-school (after shattering many records) and even has BCS National Championship game experience. So, two n00bs were able to upstage two veterans. At home. Not the best way to enter the American.
7. Temple Owls (0-1)
Last week: Lost @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0), 6-28
There wasn't much Temple could do against the Irish, what with the Owls breaking in a new coach and a new passing game. Matt Rhule could turn out to be a great hire in Philadelphia, but losing to Notre Dame gives us no answers. Frankly, that final score isn't even that bad, so we're really not sure what we're dealing with in terms of quality in Temple. It could have been worse, and against a team that played for the crystal trophy, giving up 28 isn't such a bad outcome.
8. Memphis Tigers (0-0)
Last week: inactive
Memphis hasn't played yet, so you can't say too much about the Tigers. What I can say is that Memphis was 4-8 in 2012, which was their best win total since 2008. Fans are actually excited heading into 2013 after only four wins. With expectations like that, you deserve to be near the bottom of the rankings.
9. Connecticut Huskies (0-1)
Last week: Lost v. Towson Tigers (1-0), 18-33
Time to panic in Storrs. When you see your rivals leaving for greener pastures and you find yourself stuck in a mediocre conference for the foreseeable future, the last thing you want to do is to be humiliated by losing to an FCS school on opening weekend, at home. That's exactly what the Huskies decided to do, as the Towson Tigers ran roughshod over the UConn defense, racking up 201 yards rushing. Towson RB Terrance West rushed for 156 yards and 2 TDs in the win, while UConn RB Lyle McCombs could only muster 76 yards on the ground. What's worse, former coach Randy Edsall returns to Rentschler Field this week, and Husky fans would want nothing more than a victory against the man who skipped town. But after this performance, it's hard to have much confidence in victory in East Hartford.
10. USF Bulls (0-1)
Last week: Lost v. McNeese State Cowboys (1-0) 21-53
You would think that UConn would be a lock for the bottom spot after blowing it against a cupcake team. Husky fans can thank the Bulls for upstaging them by losing in spectacular fashion to Southland power McNeese State. USF probably would have had a loss to an MSU this season, but many expected that to come in week two against Michigan State. First-year coach Willie Taggart will have a lot of work on his hands this season, as the Bulls are actually worse off without B.J. Daniels after 8 years at quarterback. The final score is deceptive as well, since the Cowboys had a 40-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Disagree with these rankings? Do you see a team making a run or falling in coming weeks? Leave a comment below with your predictions.