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AAC Power Rankings Through Week 3

Power rankings for the AAC, from Cincinnati to Navy, following Week 3 of the 2021 season.

NCAA Football: Grambling State at Houston Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we have our footing underneath us and we have an actual idea of what teams are like in the American Athletic Conference, it’s time to break into power rankings for the conference.

These, by their nature, are fluid. That means they’re not a prediction for how the season is going to end. They’re also not an indictment on a program, rather a snapshot of where they currently stand in terms of quality. Of course, this means that these standings won’t follow the conference standings either, as one team may have played well in losses or poorly in wins that costs them ground in the rankings.

So, here they are, the Week 3, AAC, power rankings:

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1. Cincinnati (3-0)

There really isn’t much debate about who the top team in the conference is right now. Cincinnati is ranked in the top 10 of both the AP and Coaches polls, and for good reason. The Bearcats are experienced, and their defense has proven to be one of the best in all of college football. They do need Desmond Ridder and the offensive line to be more consistent against top competition, but there is very little not to love.

2. Memphis (3-0)

After Memphis’ win over Mississippi State, you have to give it up to the Tigers, they’re clicking on all cylinders. After an offseason of expecting Grant Gunnell to be the guy at quarterback, it’s been Seth Henigan due to injury and he isn’t giving the job back. The offense really hasn’t missed a beat through all their personnel changes. Now, they just need the defense to step up and be more consistent.

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Houston Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

3. SMU (3-0)

No one is going to have anything bad to say about the SMU offense. They haven’t skipped a beat moving to Tanner Mordecai from Shane Buechele. The defense still has some issues to iron out though, particularly in the secondary. If the Mustangs can clean up the big plays that they’re allowing, then they’re going to be a threat to win the conference.

4. UCF (2-1)

Gus Malzahn’s UCF team lost a lot more than the game to Louisville, they lost starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel due to a fractured collarbone. Add Gabriel to a growing list of injured Knights that are going to make it hard to consistently win games. Still, UCF is strong in the trenches and still has a ton of raw talent. The question is whether or not that talent is too raw in spots to win games against good teams.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Mississippi Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

5. Tulane (1-2)

Tulane has run into a ton of issues, due to their displacement caused by Hurricane Irma. On a trip to Norman, they put the fear of God in Oklahoma, then they won their FCS game, before finally being beaten down by Ole Miss. Still, this team is incredibly well coached and has one of the best young quarterbacks in the conference.

6. Houston (2-1)

Houston has some of the pieces that they need to succeed. They just haven’t consistently put everything together right now. Wins against Rice and Grambling aren’t going to make anyone forget the Week 1 choke job against Texas Tech. If Dana Holgorsen does want to help people forget that, he’s going to need to do so by winning big in conference play.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

7. ECU (1-2)

Does anyone really know what to make of the ECU Pirates right now? They looked like their same old selves against App State, then played a defensive game with South Carolina, before coming from three scores down to win a shootout at Marshall. It’s weird, but when Holton Ahlers is on, the Pirates are capable of greatness.

8. Tulsa (0-3)

Playing Oklahoma State and Ohio State was always going to be tough, but it doesn’t help when you start the season by losing to UC Davis. It also begs the question, how hot is Philip Montgomery’s seat, and how do the Golden Hurricane turn things around?

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9. Temple (1-2)

Temple snagged a win in Week 2 over one of the worst FBS schools, Akron. Besides that, it’s been two big losses to Power Five opponents, where the offense couldn’t get out of park. There are major issues here, and they need to figure them out quick before conference play starts.

10. USF (1-2)

USF has yet to win an FBS game during the Jeff Scott era. They’re probably not going to find one anytime soon either with BYU and SMU on the schedule in the next couple of weeks. At least it looks like the Bulls found their quarterback in Timmy McClain.

11. Navy (0-2)

Hopefully, the Midshipmen used their bye week to regroup, because that is a program in disarray. Navy has only scored 10 points in their first two games. They’ve given up 72. Their offensive line is overwhelmed, and their AD fired their offensive coordinator Ivan Jasper against head coach Ken Niumatalolo’s wishes. It’s just a bad situation.