At this point, what do we know about the AAC?
Well, Cincinnati is elite. They might, and don’t say this above a whisper, even get legitimate College Football Playoff conversation. From there, the next best team is SMU, but they’re not without flaws. After that, a bit of a cliff and pileup of fairly interchangeable programs right now.
The season is already more than a third over. There is still plenty of time, but by now we should have some kind of feel for who you are as a program. Of course, this is a small sample size sport, and for now, the AAC is a bit of a mess in the middle.
So, here are the AAC power rankings through Week 5:
1. Cincinnati (4-0)
Cincinnati and their fans invaded South Bend, and it showed. The Bearcats were able to force turnovers, particularly in the first half, to set themselves up on short fields. By no means were they perfect, but they were clearly the better team. The question now becomes, just how far can the Bearcats go? Is this team Playoff bound?
2. SMU (5-0, 1-0)
SMU’s explosive offense is one of the most entertaining units to watch in the entire conference. The Mustangs just need to clean up the turnovers on offense and stop allowing so many explosive plays on the defensive side of the ball. If they can do that, and prove themselves in a big game, there is a good chance SMU could knock off Cincinnati.
3. Houston (4-1, 2-0)
Houston looked like an elite all-around team Friday night in Tulsa. That marks four straight wins for the Cougars, and if it wasn’t for a terrible second half against Texas Tech, then they’d be unbeaten. Of course, the level of competition has been pretty weak during that stretch. So, how good is Houston? For now, as good as their record says they are.
4. UCF (2-2, 0-1)
UCF is incredibly difficult to place right now. Two straight road losses in games that they should have won do have to count for something. Then, what do you do with all of UCF’s injuries? Their top quarterback, running back, and wide receiver all missed the Navy game, plus there have been injuries on the offensive line and throughout the defense. Still, there is quite a bit of talent on this UCF team with the potential to bounce back.
5. ECU (3-2, 1-0)
After an 0-2 start, and a really brutal loss to South Carolina, it seems like the Pirates have figured things out, starting with their massive come from behind win against Marshall. Since then, things haven’t been perfect, but the Pirates are starting to show proof of concept under Mike Houston. That’s worth celebrating from ECU.
6. Memphis (3-2, 0-1)
Memphis started unbeaten, with wins over an FCS program, a bad Arkansas State team, and a fluky win over Mississippi State. They followed that up with a tough loss to a good UTSA team and a bad loss to a bad Temple team. There are signs of the same old explosive offense, but the running game disappears way too often, and the defense isn’t anything special either.
7. Tulane (1-4, 0-1)
Tulane probably isn’t going to a bowl game for the first time since 2017. That happens with a 1-4 start, unless something changes quickly. The thing is that this Tulane team has a lot of talent and a great coaching staff. They just ran into a really weird September that they need to find a way to bounce back from.
8. Temple (3-2, 1-0)
Temple very quietly has a winning record. They’ve done this through injuries and looking pretty terrible at times, but credit to them for adjusting and winning games against Wagner, Akron, and now Memphis. The Memphis game was a bit of a shock, and the Owls will really start moving up if they can prove that win wasn’t a fluke.
9. Navy (1-3, 1-1)
Navy finally got their first win, and you have to feel great for Ken Niumatalolo and the Midshipmen. You could tell how much it meant to them to beat UCF, with the Brigade pushing its way onto the sideline during the end of the game. The best part of Navy, the offense looked the way it’s supposed to look after a really rough start to that side of the ball both on and off the field.
10. USF (1-4, 0-1)
The Bulls certainly have their issues, but you can tell that things are starting to improve. They nearly came back against BYU to win, and they hung around with an explosive SMU team for some time. There is still plenty of work to do, but the writing on the wall is definitely there.
11. Tulsa (1-4, 0-1)
With Tulsa’s only win coming against a now 1-4 Arkansas State team who has only beaten an FCS school, you have to wonder who else they have a shot to beat this season. Getting embarrassed by Houston at home only hurts how people are going to perceive you. This team should be better than last in the conference, but they also haven’t proven they are yet.