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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Commentary

Around the Conference: Power rankings


UH currently sits in a tie atop the West Division of the American Athletic Conference. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

The Cougars have been dominant so far in their two conference games and have remained atop the conference rankings. | File photo/The Cougar

The Cougars entered the season as the clear favorite to win the American Athletic Conference Championship and have continued to impress in their two victories over conference foes.

There are several teams in the conference who are undefeated and looking to displace the Cougars atop the rankings. Here is where the teams stack up as league play gets into full gear.

1. Houston Cougars

The Cougars are 2-0 in conference play and have averaged 41 points per game in the two conference wins. They have also allowed a league-low 15 points per game.

They got off to a slow start in both games, but were able to persevere and eventually blew out their opponents.

The team plays five straight conference games starting Saturday and will look to continue separating itself from the rest of the field.

The Cougars hit the road this week to play the Naval Academy, who are coming off a 28-14 loss to the Air Force Academy.

2. University of South Florida Bulls

The Bulls are 1-0 in conference so far after an impressive performance against the University of Cincinnati.

They were able to beat Cincinnati by winning the turnover battle, an area they have excelled at this year. The Bulls are plus seven in turnover margin and rank sixth in the nation.

If they can keep it up, they have a good chance to represent the East conference in the championship. Their sole loss of the season came against in-state rival Florida State University, who was ranked No. 13 at the time.

The Bulls host their first conference game Saturday against East Carolina University.

3. University of Memphis Tigers

The Tigers played their first conference game Thursday night. Despite a slow start in the game’s first half, they turned it around in the last half by scoring 27 unanswered points to beat Temple University 34-27.

Memphis is now 4-1 on the season with their only loss from No. 16 the University of Mississippi.

They have a top-35 offense, a top-50 defense and have been able to put up the third-most points in the American.

The Tigers are in the West conference with the Cougars and the teams’ meeting on Nov. 25 could determine who will represent the region in the championship game.

4. University of Central Florida Knights

The Knights are coming off of their first conference win of the season against East Carolina University will play at home against Tulane University if Mother Nature permits.

They shut out their first opponent of the year before losing back-to-back games against the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland.

Since then, the Knights have won two games by a 100-43 margin and should look to carry the momentum through the rest of their schedule.

5. Temple University Owls

The Owls started conference play 1-0 and held the lead on the Memphis Tigers in the first half, but were unable to close the game and moved to 1-1.

After the loss to the Tigers, they are sitting at .500 for the year. They lost two non-conference games against the United States Military Academy and Penn State University.

They play UCF and USF in back-to-back weeks, which could determine the pecking order in the east.

6. The United States Naval Academy Midshipmen

Navy’s offense is run-dominant. Until last week, opposing defenses haven’t been able to stop it.

They host Cougars’ No. 1-ranked rush defense this weekend and will test the Cougars’ staunch front seven.

Navy is 2-0 in conference heading into the game, but both wins were pretty close.

7. University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Like Memphis, Tulsa had yet to play a league game. They hosted Southern Methodist University Friday, walking away with a 43-40 win.

They have lost just one game this year, but it was a 48-3 blowout against the highly-ranked Ohio State University. Not including the OSU game, Tulsa has scored 151 points and has only allowed 70.

8. University of Cincinnati Bearcats

Despite their 0-2 conference record, the Bearcats have been able to keep it close in the first half against the Cougars and USF, arguably the two best teams, before falling in the second half.

Turnovers have been the culprit for Bearcats’ lack of success. Their starting quarterback was also out against USF.

The Bearcats have an easier schedule the rest of the way and should start grabbing some wins.

9. Tulane University Green Wave

Tulane is 0-1 in conference after Navy was able to ride the wave to a 21-14 win. The team is 3-2 on the year with their other loss from Wake Forest University.

Tulane has the No. 16-ranked defense and has given up the third-fewest points in the AAC.

They don’t have a good enough team overall to win the West Conference, but they’re competitive and will keep games close.

10. University of Connecticut Huskies

The Huskies are 0-2 in conference but only lost to Navy by four points. The other game was a blowout, but it was against the Cougars, who were looking for revenge after dropping last year’s game.

The team is 2-3 overall and plays five straight conference games before traveling to Massachusetts to take on Boston College.

11. East Carolina University Pirates

The Pirates are coming off three straight losses and will try to rebound against USF.

After playing USF, their schedule gets considerably easier since they don’t have to play the Cougars this year.

12. Southern Methodist University Mustangs

The Mustangs dropped their first conference game to the Owls and followed it up with a loss to Tulsa. They get a week off before hosting the Cougars on Oct. 22.

The Mustangs have given up the second-most points in the conference this year and are tied for the fewest points scored.

They went 1-7 in league play last year and have not added enough this year to see a major improvement.

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