Down goes Bridgewater. The UCF Knights did what the Scarlet Knights could not: defeat Louisville and Teddy Bridgewater. Meanwhile, Charlie Strong witnessed an epic blown lead against the rising Blake Bortles. Give Central Florida credit: they are the team to beat this season. While the Cardinals came into 2013 as the unquestioned leader of the American, that was only based on perception. The Knights of Orlando had a schedule worthy enough for voters to notice, and they have delivered midway through the season. Outside of a three-point loss to a premier SEC team, the Golden Knights are sitting pretty and look like the new team to beat. On to the rankings:
1. UCF Knights (5-1, 2-0) LW: 2
Last week: Won @ Louisville (6-1, 2-1), 38-35
There isn't any doubt who the number one team in the American is now. After taking down the Nittany Lions in Beaver Stadium and losing close to South Carolina, the Knights of Orlando have the best body of work within the conference. They have a star in Blake Bortles and have the talent to make it to the BCS. UCF gets to miss Cincinnati this year as well, so George O'Leary has a chance for a special season.
2. Louisville Cardinals (6-1, 2-1) LW: 1
Last week: Lost v. UCF (5-1, 2-0), 35-38
Two straight games against the Knights, and Louisville couldn't seal the deal. This past two game stretch for the Cardinals was arguably the toughest test of the season, and they were a quarter and a half away from passing. While Louisville had quite a lead, losing to a formidable UCF team is by no means a bad loss. Still, it's disappointing for all of the Cardinal fans who were thinking National Championship at the beginning of the season.
3. Houston Cougars (5-1, 2-0) LW: 3
Last week: Lost v. BYU (5-2), 46-47
BYU is a good team, and Houston fought admirably before eventually losing. It was an interception fest at Reliant Stadium as both QBs threw three picks apiece. Tony Levine's Cougars still control their own destiny in the American, but they have yet to play the meaty part of their schedule, as Rutgers, UCF, Louisville, and Cincinnati remain.
4. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-2, 1-1) LW: 4
Last week: Inactive
Midway through the season, Rutgers finds itself as a middle-of-the-pack team. Gary Nova is back to his inconsistent form and there is no defense to fall back on each game. Once again, a pass-happy team is looking to pick apart a secondary that will have two starting true freshmen. The possibility of a successful season is still in play, but it'll be up to the players to build momentum for a strong finish.
5. Cincinnati Bearcats (5-2, 2-1) LW: 5
Last week: Won v. UConn (0-6, 0-2), 41-16
After suffering a mind-boggling defeat by USF, the Bearcats have seemed to right the ship, winning their past two games in convincing fashion. Granted, last week was against a struggling Huskies team, but Cincinnati nonetheless won by a significant margin. Brendon Kay had a great day, throwing for 300 yards and four TDs, with no picks. The Bearcats are not too far behind the Scarlet Knights for the number four spot.
6. SMU Mustangs (2-4, 1-1) LW: 6
Last week: Won @ Memphis (1-5, 0-3), 34-29
This game was well in hand until about one minute left to go in the third quarter when SMU led Memphis 34-3. Then in the fourth, Memphis took advantage of miscues by SMU and put a scare into June Jones' team. Similar to the Rutgers-SMU game, it's hard to tell if it was a mental lapse by the Mustangs to let the Tigers back in the game or if Memphis really has some bite to them. I'll go with the former, considering the scores by Memphis all came from self-inflicted mistakes by SMU.
7. Memphis Tigers (1-5, 0-3) LW: 7
Last week: Lost v. SMU (2-4, 1-1), 29-34
Give the Tigers credit. They did not give up even when they were down by 31 points with the game well in hand, and they made the most of the opportunities given to them by a mistake-prone SMU team. LB Ryan Coleman may have had the best day with two fumble recoveries returned for TDs. Memphis rode the momentum from those turnovers and added a couple of offensive scores to mount a rally, but ultimately the Tigers fell short. Just goes to show you that you can't sleep on anyone in this league.
8. USF Bulls (2-4, 2-0) LW: 8
Last week: Inactive
What if I told you back in August that the Bulls would control their own destiny in late October? Willie Taggart is coming off a bye week, and his team must be feeling pretty good being in the thick of the American race. USF actually enters their matchup with Louisville this week ahead of the Cardinals in the AAC standings. How long will that lead last?
9. Temple Owls (1-6, 0-3) LW: 9
Last week: Won v. Army (3-5), 33-14
Temple is getting better each week, and it all starts with P.J. Walker. The freshman made his second career start and led the Owls to a win over Army at Lincoln Financial Field. Walker finished 10 of 16 for 201 yards and two TDs. The defense had a good day too, holding the Black Knights to 81 rushing yards at halftime. Matt Rhule's team forced four Army turnovers in the win.
10: Connecticut Huskies (0-6, 0-2) LW: 10
Last week: Lost @ Cincinnati (5-2, 2-1), 16-41
Things aren't looking up for the Huskies. For what was supposed to be a good defensive team this year, Cincinnati's receivers were running wild for most of the game, making it easy on QB Brendon Kay. So far, the Tim Boyle experiment is not working. His three interceptions to no touchdown ratio makes it look worse than it is, as most of those throws were freshman mistakes that can be cleaned up with experience. Boyle actually made a couple of nice passes in man coverage. However, the UConn line did him no favors by letting Bearcat defenders make a ruckus in the backfield. Next up, the Huskies have a chance to catch UCF coming down from their emotional high.