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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Football

Power rankings: Navy, Cougars 1-2, USF in top 5


WEB-Justin-Tijerina-IMG_7583

Defense was the key in the Cougars win against Memphis, forcing two key turnovers, while holding Memphis to just 14 points in the second half. | File photo/The Cougar

With just two weeks left in the season, the race for spots in the American Athletic Conference championship game is heating up and the results from this past weekend have led to a change in the power rankings.

Two of the West’s top teams squared off, leading one teams hopes to become largely diminished, while a surprise upset in the East has created some intrigue heading into the final weeks.

The Best:

No.1 Navy Midshipmen – The United States Naval Academy still sits first in my rankings this week as they did nothing to make me think any less of them this past weekend. They rolled off a physical and emotional win against the University of Memphis to crush Southern Methodist University, showing no signs of a hangover. The Midshipmen are taking care of business right now, but will have their eyes set on the Cougars in two weeks’ time.

No. 2 Houston Cougars – While it may not have been the most impressive display, the Cougars beat Memphis at home, with a second-string quarterback doing the majority of the heavy lifting. Their first half was awful, but they looked much the better team in the second half, outscoring the Tigers 28-14 in the final two quarters. They’ll need to get a lot of the problems they had this past weekend cleaned up before hosting Navy, which should be a battle for the West’s bid into the championship game.

No. 3 Memphis Tigers – Despite two straight losses, I still have Memphis third, largely because those two losses come against the two best teams in the AAC. Despite getting beaten across the board by the Midshipmen two weeks ago, the Tigers came out looking hungry against Houston, and, for 30 minutes, were the much better team. The offense faltered at points in the second half, and two key turnovers, one being a fumble on an option run, really swung the momentum Houston’s way.

No. 4 Temple Owls – While Temple University still controls their own destiny, the pressure to do so is up a notch or two now. It was as simple as beating the University of South Florida, and the East was theirs, but a 21-point loss on the road puts even more importance on winning this weekend against Memphis.

No. 5 USF Bulls –  A newcomer to the top 5, USF earned their spot here with the surprise upset win over Temple. They’ve been on the outside looking in the past couple of weeks, but the way they’ve recovered from a 1-3 start, going 5-1 in their last six games with their sole loss coming against Navy has impressed me. They host the University of Cincinnati this weekend, and need a little help from Memphis, but a good weekend for them means they’re tied for first in the East.

The Rest:

No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats – Cincinnati slips one spot for me this week not so much because their lack of good play, but because of USF’s surprisingly great play. The Bearcats are still one of the better teams in the AAC this season, but key mistakes at key points have turned what could have been a one-loss team into a four-loss team.

No. 7 UConn Huskies – Head coach Bob Diaco has been doing a good job with this program and, if they continue on this path, they have a chance to compete in the East for years to come, but they’re just not there yet. The University of Connecticut currently sits at 5-5, but their road to the six-win mark is tough, with their last two games coming against Houston and Temple. Good luck.

No. 8 Tulsa Golden Hurricane – The University of Tulsa is another program who is working their way up, in my mind. Much like UConn this season, they’ve won the games they probably should win, and lost the ones they probably should lose. Head coach Philip Montgomery is doing the best he has with what he has, and, at this point, a 6-6 season isn’t all that bad.

No. 9 ECU Pirates – East Carolina University is having a bit of a tough year, with three of their losses coming by just a one possession margin. This week should be an easy win against the University of Central Florida and a good tuneup before the regular-season finale against Cincinnati.

The Others:

No. 10 Tulane Green Wave – It got better this past weekend for Tulane University. After losing five straight, they finally broke the streak with a 34-31 win against the United States Military Academy. With games against SMU and Tulsa in the last two weeks, they also have a couple of more chances to pick up wins to wrap up the year.

No. 11 SMU Mustangs – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, SMU really isn’t as bad as their record shows. While this year isn’t really much of an indication, head coach Chad Morris has the team playing better. Give them a couple years, and they’ll start to compete with the rest of the conference.

No. 12 UCF Knights – 0-10. Their easiest remaining game is this coming game against ECU. Good luck to you, Knights.

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