2015 has been quite a year for the American Athletic Conference. To start the year, the American added Navy to the conference after Louisville left for the ACC. Following the week eight AP Top-25 poll, three teams from the American are currently ranked. Memphis is ranked 18th, Houston is ranked 21st, and Temple is ranked 22nd. all three teams are currently 6-0 on the year.
Memphis jumped into the Top-25 this week following a victory over Ole Miss, who was ranked 13th at the time of the 37-24 victory. The Tigers high octane offense is focused around quarterback Paxton Lynch, who already has over 1,900 passing yards on the season, a completion percentage of 71.4 percentage, 13 touchdowns, and only one interception. Memphis currently averages 532.9 yards per game and 46 points per game, tied for eighth in the nation. Their defense is not too strong, allowing 26.3 points per game and 445.3 yards per game, which leaves them vulnerable to teams with strong offenses, like their own.
Besides the win over Ole Miss, the Tigers best win came over Bowling Green in week three. Memphis’ remaining schedule includes away games against Houston and Temple in back-to-back weeks, which compromises their chance at going for an undefeated schedule. According to ESPN’s FPI, the Tigers are projected to lose both games and only have a 20.7 percent chance to win both games over the two opponents. If Memphis loses both games, it’ll be hard to see them finishing in the Top-25 and making a New Year’s Day Bowl.
Houston remains in the Top-25 for the second straight week as the Cougars jumped from 24th last week to 21st this week following a dominating win over the Tulane Green Wave, 42-7. The Cougars are the most complete team of the three, averaging 554.7 yards per game and allow only 375.7 yards per game. The Cougars offense, which averages 45 points per game, is led by the two headed beast quarterback Greg Ward Jr. Ward Jr. has thrown for 1,542 passing yards, rushed for 631 yards, and combined for 23 touchdowns (14 rushing, nine passing).
Looking at Houston’s previous games, their best win came against Louisville on the road, 34-31. Their toughest remaining matchup is against Memphis at home, which they only have a 53.2 percent chance of winning the game and a 12.3 percent chance of finishing the year undefeated. Of the three teams, Houston has the best chance to finish the year undefeated and make a New Year’s Day Bowl.
Temple has the most to prove as the year progresses, doing the least of the three teams but still making the Top-25 this week for the first time since 1979. The Owls are ranked 22nd after a 30-16 victory over UCF under the lights on Saturday night. Temple's offense is primarily through their run game, led by Jahad Thomas. Thomas has 756 rushing yards on the season (ranking 13th in the nation), following a 199 yard rushing performance last week against UCF, and 10 rushing touchdowns. Thomas’ performances have helped the Owls average 349.8 yards per game and 33 points per game. However, the Owls strong suit is on defense. Led by linebacker Tyler Matakevich and lineman Matt Ioannidis, the Owls allow an average of 295.1 yards per game (13th in the nation) and 14.7 points per game (eighth in the nation).
So far this year, Temple’s best wins have come against Penn State and Cincinnati, which are not too impressive of wins. They do have three more tough challenges on the year, two of which are coming in the next two weeks. The Owls play East Carolina, #11 Notre Dame and #18 Memphis. Temple is projected to lose to Notre Dame but beat East Carolina and Memphis. They have a 6.7 percent chance of winning all three of those games and a 3.52 percent chance of finishing the year undefeated. While Temple might not be bound for a New Year’s Day Bowl, they have a very good chance of winding up in their first bowl game since 2011.
In a conference that is only three years old (even though they consider their founding date the same as the Big East), the American is already making progress in the football nation. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see where the teams finish and if the American can start to move away from the typical Group of Five teams and closer to the Power Five teams.