AAC Power Rankings 2023: Tulane Tussles with the Memphis Tigers Atop the AAC

    The Tulane Green Wave continue to sit atop the AAC Power Rankings, but there's challengers chomping at their heels as the season progresses.

    One of the conferences at the forefront of college football realignment, our AAC power rankings feature a plethora of new faces for the 2023 season. How have those newcomers integrated themselves after the first few weeks of the season? Is Tulane still the king of the conference or have new challengers emerged?

    AAC Power Rankings 2023

    Our AAC Power Rankings for the 2023 college football season take into account several factors. Overall record is a consideration, but roster talent and depth, coaching staff, strength of schedule, plus offensive and defensive efficiency are taken into consideration in our latest update.

    14) East Carolina Pirates

    Preseason Ranking: 10th

    The East Carolina Pirates have struggled in a post-Holton Ahlers world. Mike Houston’s slide slipped to three consecutive defeats to open the season, losing comfortably to Michigan, Marshall, and Appalachian State. Heading into Week 5, the Pirates’ only win has come with a 44-0 win over FCS outfit Gardner Webb.

    The usually free-scoring offense has been average at best following the departure of their long-time starting quarterback and electric running back talent Keaton Mitchell. While transfer linebacker BJ Davis has impressed on defense, the team has yet to concede less than 30 points against FBS opposition.

    13) Charlotte 49ers

    Preseason Ranking: 14th

    Being considered the worst team in the AAC by not only us here at College Football Network, but most media outlets, really lit a fire under Charlotte head coach Biff Poggi during the conference media days. While the 49ers climb up one spot from their preseason spot in our AAC Power Rankings, they’ve just one win over FCS opposition on their 2023 résumé so far.

    MORE: Biff Poggi Salary, Contract, Net Worth

    While their offense has been objectively worse than the ECU team they leapfrog in our rankings update, there have been positive signs of life from the 49ers’ defense. Furthermore, they put up a staunch resistance against SEC and nationally ranked opponent Florida last time out. If they can get the offense figured out and ticking, they could trouble some of their AAC opponents.

    12) UAB Blazers

    Preseason Ranking: 7th

    Perhaps we got a little carried away by the hire of Trent Dilfer and his initial moves in compiling his coaching staff when ranking the UAB Blazers as the seventh-best team in the conference when we released our preseason AAC Power Rankings. Like the two programs below the Blazers, the only win on their 2023 résumé at this moment in time is over an FCS opponent.

    UAB gets the nod over ECU and Charlotte on the strength of their offense. Averaging 28 points per game, despite facing the Georgia Bulldogs defense, they boast the highest offensive success rate in the entire conference. That is, however, offset by the worst defensive successive rate in the AAC ahead of Week 5.

    11) Florida Atlantic Owls

    Preseason Ranking: 9th

    Not all 1-3 résumés are built the same. After beating Monmouth in Week 0, the Florida Atlantic Owls had to take on two Power Five programs and an Ohio Bobcats team that is the frontrunner for the 2023 MAC title. They came within seven points of the Bobcats, and six within Illinois last time out.

    Preseason positivity centered around new head coach Tom Herman and a plethora of transfer portal additions. Sadly for the Owls, one of those portal pickups — quarterback Casey Thompson — is done for the year after tearing his ACL against Clemson. While others, like Jarron Morris, have played well, Thompson’s loss is huge for their AAC Power Rankings potential.

    10) North Texas Mean Green

    Preseason Ranking: 5th

    The North Texas Mean Green took a significant drop in our 2023 AAC Power Rankings after failing to live up to expectations early in the season. A shellacking at the hands of Cal in Week was followed by a loss on the road to FIU, their former CUSA compatriot. An FBS win over Louisiana Tech last time out is the only thing that keeps the Mean Green above the teams below.

    Despite losing several WR playmakers, the offense has been a bright spot for the program. That said, uncertainty at the QB position impacts how we rank the Mean Green. Troublingly, the defense hasn’t been able to effectively replace the production and performance of players lost to the portal. They have an FCS opponent to figure things out before AAC play begins.

    9) Navy Midshipmen

    Preseason Ranking: 11th

    The Navy Midshipmen were sunk across the pond to open the 2023 college football season, with their defense obliterated by Notre Dame and their offense ineffective. In the immediate aftermath of that game, it might have been tempting to plummet Brian Newberry’s team to the bottom of the AAC power rankings.

    MORE: Best of Navy 2023

    However, they picked up a win over Wagner in Week 2, holding the FCS team to zero points. On a Thursday night Week 3 game, they played one of the best teams in the conference close and came within inches of causing an upset. If offensive improvements continue, and the defense lives up to its ferocious potential, Navy could surprise a few teams this fall.

    8) UTSA Roadrunners

    Preseason Ranking: 2nd

    The UTSA Roadrunners are the poster boy for reliance on a star playmaker. Frank Harris helped deliver the program consecutive CUSA titles and was expected to be the catalyst behind an assault on the AAC crown during their first season. With injuries restricting his involvement so far, UTSA has looked a shadow of its former selves through Week 4 of the 2023 campaign.

    They played Houston close to open the season, but still lost to a Cougars team that is having their crisis. The Roadrunners were unconvincing against Texas State and then dropped a home game to the Army in an Alamodome that is usually a fortress. They’re 1-3 heading into AAC play that begins with a trip to Temple.

    7) Temple Owls

    Preseason Ranking: 6th

    Considered a potential “surprise team” ahead of the 2023 college football season, there hasn’t been anything that surprising from Stan Drayton’s Temple Owls team so far. They’ve won the games that they were expected to win — Akron and Norfolk State — and lost comfortably to the Power Five programs on their 2023 schedule.

    EJ Warner has shown flashes of being the playmaking quarterback we saw in his freshman season, but his numbers are down compared to last year across completion percentage, yards per attempt, and touchdown to interception ratio. The defense is loaded with talent and sits in the top half of the conference across several metrics, giving them a shot in any game.

    6) Tulsa Golden Hurricane

    Preseason Ranking: 8th

    Tulsa has had to weather one of the most violent offensive storms to open their season, and as such their hardest tests are arguably already behind them. The Golden Hurricane were taken to task by Washington and Oklahoma, though it’s worth pointing out that they gave up fewer points to the Huskies than Power Five Cal and Mountain West contender Boise State.

    Quarterback uncertainty hasn’t helped their cause, with starter Braylon Braxton sidelined by injury and his return date unclear. Head coach Ken Wilson has engineered some of the most potent college football offenses during his time as a coordinator, and Tulsa has one of the best offensive success rates in the conference to date. They just need to convert that into points.

    5) Rice Owls

    Preseason Ranking: 12th

    With hindsight, our decision to plummet the Rice Owls down our AAC Power Rankings in the wake of some transfer portal departures may have been a little premature. Mike Bloomgren’s team went bowling last season, and are clearly on an upward trajectory.

    While the defense is a work in progress that took a pasting against Houston — albeit it in a win — and most recently to open conference play against USF, the offensive trio of Luke McCaffrey, Daelen Alexander, and JT Daniels have been dangerous. The Owls have the only Power Five win of any team in the American ahead of college football Week 5.

    4) USF Bulls

    Preseason Ranking: 13th

    Four games into the Alex Golesh era at South Florida and the Bulls are already starting to show signs of a turnaround. There was no denying that the roster had plenty of talent before the season, but there’s been talent on terrible USF teams before and it has failed to turn into results and that was reflected in their preseason positioning at the bottom of the AAC Power Rankings.

    MORE: Byrum Brown, Naiem Simmons Land on Week 4 Team of the Week

    Four games in, and bizarrely given Golesh’s offensive success at his former spot, they’ve improved defensively, holding Alabama to just 17 points and limiting Rice to one solitary rushing yard on 20 carries. Of course, it’s the offensive firepower that will power their success, and quarterback Byrum Brown looks like a legit playmaker for Golesh to build his offense around.

    3) SMU Mustangs

    Preseason Ranking: 4th

    SMU climbs up one spot from their position in our preseason AAC Power Rankings more by the misfortune of others that were ahead of them than any wondrously unexpected performance advantage of the Mustangs themselves. Not that means they’re not deserving or dangerous, for Rhett Lashlee’s team is both.

    Two Power Five programs on their non-conference schedule mean they head into AAC play at 2-2, but their ability to hold Oklahoma to just 28 points is a positive sign ahead of the AAC opener against Charlotte. The defense has talent from front to back, and there’s more than enough talent at RB and WR to win by land or by air.

    2) Memphis Tigers

    Preseason Ranking: 3rd

    The Memphis Tigers haven’t had a 10-win season since Mike Norvell left town, but after going 3-1 through the first four weeks of the season, Ryan Silverfield’s team could easily accomplish that feat in the 2023 college football season. They have a legitimate argument for challenging the very top of our AAC Power Rankings a winning start to the season.

    The Tigers could have been 4-0, playing SEC outfit Missouri close in Week 4 in a clash of undefeated teams. Memphis ranks in the top 40 for both offensive and defensive scoring, led by highly-rated quarterback Seth Henigan and transfer running back Blake Watson who is off to a hot start for his new team. Circle Oct. 14 on your calendar for the Tigers’ tussle with Tulane.

    1) Tulane Green Wave

    Preseason Ranking: 1st

    The reigning conference and Cotton Bowl champions are going to take some tipping off their perch at the top of our AAC Power Rankings. The Green Wave has flowed over almost all their opponents so far this season, and their only defeat came to Ole Miss in a game that was in no way reflective of the competitiveness of that game with an AP Top 25-ranked team.

    MORE: AAC Football Standings

    Remarkably, Tulane has picked up where they left off last season without the driving force of their offense. QB Michael Pratt has missed time with an injury, but Kai Horton has been able to drive the offense so far. His job has been helped by a defense that has averaged just 16.0 points per game allowed as a top-25 unit. Willie Fitz’s team should remain the ones to beat all season long.

    College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    Never miss a beat with the CFN-exclusive College Football Transfer Portal Tracker, listing the student-athletes entering and exiting the transfer portal.

    Related Articles