It's a pivotal week in the American Athletic Conference, as the top teams in each division are set to face off. USF will play at Temple on Friday night, and Memphis will make its first trip to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to face Navy the following afternoon.
In the meantime, here are the latest conference power rankings, as compiled by a leaguewide panel of beat reporters.
1. Houston (6-1, 3-1 AAC): The Cougars had a close-call, needing a series of defensive stands in the final 81 seconds -- including a stop at the goal line on the final play -- to escape with a 38-31 win over Tulsa. It was nearly another tough break for the Cougars, who in the last few weeks have seen their hopes of a spot in the College Football Playoff all but vanish with a loss at Navy, and Monday's news that the Big 12 will not expand. Now the attention will turn to whether the No. 11 Cougars can win out -- they play at SMU on Saturday and the Nov. 17 game against Louisville looms large -- and get some help in the AAC West. There's also a matter regarding the future of coach Tom Herman, who is expected to be courted by Power Five schools in the offseason. Athletic director Hunter Yurachek said this week the university has had "very general conversations" on parameters of a new, extended contract for Herman. -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle
2. USF (6-1, 3-0 AAC): The Bulls shook off another stagnant start and pulled away late in a 42-27 victory over Connecticut to wrap up up bowl eligibility and tie the best start in program history. Though he struggled at times through the air, quarterback Quinton Flowers was electric on the ground. The junior racked up 157 yards and three touchdowns with his feet, including a video-game-like scramble where he juked multiple defenders for a 54-yard score in the first quarter. USF's defense also shined, harassing UConn's Bryant Shirreffs all game for a season-best five sacks — including three from junior middle linebacker Auggie Sanchez — and nine tackles for loss. The Bulls travel to Temple on Friday night at 7. -- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times
3. Navy (4-1, 3-0 AAC): The Midshipmen received an unexpected bye when their Thursday night game against East Carolina was postponed due to flooding in eastern North Carolina caused by Hurricane Mathew. It was a welcome off week as the Mids were a bit banged up and got an opportunity to heal. Navy hosts Memphis on Saturday in a crucial West Division showdown. The winner will be in the driver's seat to represent the West in the AAC championship game. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group
4. Memphis (5-1, 2-0 AAC): The Tigers got off to another slow start on offense but rallied again in the second half to beat Tulane, 24-14, and pick up their first conference road win of the season. True freshman running back Darrell Henderson played a starring role in the victory, scoring on a 46-yard pass and a 45-yard run en route to 156 all-purpose yards. Memphis was also buoyed by takeaways, as it has been all year. The team recovered two fumbles on special teams and Jonathan Cook intercepted a pass, giving the Tigers an FBS-best 18 forced turnovers on the season. They’ll look to keep that trend going Saturday at Navy, in a game with major AAC West division implications. -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal
5. Temple (4-3, 2-1 AAC): Temple staged an improbable comeback in Saturday's 26-25 win against UCF in Orlando. The Owls trailed 25-7 early in the second quarter and pitched a shutout the rest of the way. Trailing 25-20, Temple began its final drive on its own 30-yard line with 32 seconds left and no timeouts. Phillip Walker hit Ventell Bryant for three straight completions to the UCF 8-yard line. From there, Walker found Keith Kirkwood for an 8-yard scoring pass with one second remaining. Walker had only passed for 97 yards before throwing for all 70 in the game-winning drive. Redshirt senior defensive end Haason Reddick led the defense with two of the Owls seven sacks. A former walk-on, Reddick leads the AAC in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (6.5). Jahad Thomas had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season with 120 yards and a TD on 27 carries. He also had a 28-yard touchdown reception. After missing the first two games with a thumb injury, he has scored two touchdowns in each of his five games. That is the is the longest active streak of two or more touchdowns in the FBS. Temple hosts South Florida in a key East Division matchup Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN. Last season Temple went into USF with an 8-1 record and No. 22 national ranking and left with a 44-23 loss. USF rushed for 326 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Temple's best chance will be to have a ball-control game, similar to Saturday when the Owls rushed for 197 yards against UCF. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer
6. Tulsa (4-2, 1-1 AAC): A prime opportunity at Houston on Saturday night slipped away despite an impressive 14-point comeback in the fourth quarter. The Golden Hurricane was driving with a chance to take the lead in the final two minutes when quarterback Dane Evans fumbled while attempting to throw the ball away and the Cougars scooped and scored. Evans bounced back to propel Tulsa to the 1-yard line, but the 20-point underdogs couldn't get any closer. As part of a controversial ending, Houston appeared to have too many players on the field for the penultimate play including several in the neutral zone or offsides, although no penalty was called. A last-chance play featured defensive end Jesse Brubaker catching a short pass from Evans and being stopped short of the goal line. While looking to move past the heartbreaking loss, the Hurricane returns home to host a resurgent Tulane team Saturday afternoon. -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World
7. UCF (3-3, 1-1 AAC): After leading the game for at least 59 minutes, UCF surrendered a loss to Temple on the final drive, in which Owls quarterback Phillip Walker drove the ball up the field 70 yards in 31 seconds to help the team score a last second touchdown. The Knights’ defense troubled Walker’s passing game for much for much of the contest and were able to limit the amount of big plays by Temple’s playmakers. UCF’s defense got winded late in the game after the offense failed to get anything going for two and a half quarters after an early 25-7 start. The Knights were led by freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton, who finished the night completing 13 of 22 passes for 210 yards, two touchdown passes and one interception. He was sacked seven times. UCF will play at UConn on Saturday. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel
8. Connecticut (3-4, 1-3 AAC): With two forced turnovers and two touchdowns in a span of 2:22 early in the third quarter, the Huskies took a 17-14 lead at South Florida. The Bulls dominated most of the rest of the game, though, and went on to a 42-27 victory. The Huskies lost their best offensive lineman, left guard Tommy Hopkins, to a season-ending leg injury during their second possession and did little offensively outside of the possessions that followed the takeaways. Running back Arkeel Newsome did have a 70-yard touchdown reception and a four-yard touchdown run, his best game of the season (72 rushing yards, 90 receiving yards). UConn, which faces UCF on Saturday at home, forced four turnovers at South Florida. The Huskies had forced just three in their first six games. UConn is 26th nationally in rushing defense but just 115th in rushing offense. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant
9. Cincinnati (3-3, 0-3 AAC): The Bearcats had a bye this past week after dropping their previous two games to USF and UConn. UC returns to action Saturday at home against East Carolina. UC coach Tommy Tuberville said the top priorities during the bye week were working on the Bearcats’ running game and also the run defense. UC ranks just 116th nationally in rushing, at 124.8 yards per game. Running backs Tion Green (360 yards, 4.7 per carry, two touchdowns) and Mike Boone (254 yards, 3.2 ypc, two TDs) have struggled to find running room, with the offensive line not getting much push. The UC rushing defense ranks in the middle of the pack at No. 64 nationally (156.5 ypg). Quarterback Hayden Moore is expected to start against ECU. Moore missed two games with an ankle injury, then returned against UConn on Oct. 8. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer
10. East Carolina (2-4, 0-2 AAC): It is do-or-die time for the Pirates, who are coming off an impromptu bye week caused by Hurricane Matthew and headed to Cincinnati in hopes of avoiding the team's first five-game losing skid since the disastrous 2003 team finished 1-10. ECU lost at South Florida on Oct. 8 despite playing its best game since its last victory, a Sept. 10 win over N.C. State. The Pirates hope to have a healthy Philip Nelson at quarterback after the senior has been knocked out of two straight games with injuries following hard hits. The ECU defense, meanwhile, still has just one sack all season and is 12th in the American in run defense. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector
11. Tulane (3-3, 0-2 AAC): The Green Wave suffered a frustrating 24-14 loss to Memphis last week after a mistake-filled night on special teams and an anemic performance on the offensive end. Tulane will have to get over last week’s loss quickly, though, because it goes on the road on Saturday to face a Tulsa team which pushed defending AAC champion Houston to the brink in last week’s 38-31 loss and fell one yard short of potentially sending the game to overtime in the final seconds. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune
12. SMU (2-4, 0-2 AAC): The Mustangs are coming off a bye week and will face their toughest conference opponent of the year so far in Houston. The good news for SMU is it is a home game at night, so the Mustangs will feed off the momentum early on. It wouldn't be surprising to see SMU keep things close early, but this will likely not be the week that the Ponies get things turned around. However, SMU used the bye week to get healthy and polish up on fundamentals. The Mustangs are fully focused on righting the ship and saving the season. -- EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News