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Traditional powers lead the way, but AAC teams holding their own in UPS Index

The American Athletic Conference might be considered the weakest of the six automatic-qualifying BCS leagues, but it's certainly well-represented among the top schools in the UPS Team Performance Index.

With Louisville and Central Florida both in the top 10 and Houston on the cusp, the American Athletic is the only one of the so-called "power conferences" with three teams residing within the Index's top 11.

Using an advanced proprietary formula featuring offensive yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, quality of opponent, various special teams statistics and a microindex of miscues that rewards disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those numbers across 125 FBS schools.

From there, overall balance is measured across all of a team's individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence in those areas as well as overall winning percentage.

With Florida State 1.65 points ahead of Oregon and 1.88 in front of Alabama, the top three spots in the Index remain unchanged from last week. Ohio State and Stanford flip-flopped positions to sit fourth and fifth, respectively, while AAC schools make up three of the next six spots in the ratings.

Comprised of schools formerly in the Big East and Conference USA, the American Athletic inherited the Big East's automatic BCS bowl berth this season. However, it will lose it next season when the FBS playoff system is put into play. At that time, the league must vie with Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference and the Sun Belt Conference for a single bid to one of the top six bowl games.

Louisville (7-1) was the heavy preseason AAC favorite and appeared ready to uphold that distinction before losing 38-35 to Central Florida (6-1) at home Oct. 18. Though the Cardinals are sixth in the Index and UCF is ninth, the Knights are 3-0 and tied with Houston for first place in the league.

The Knights are 19th in the AP Poll, one spot ahead of the Cardinals, but Louisville is 19th in the all-important BCS standings, in which UCF sits 23rd. However, both trail non-automatic qualifiers Fresno State (16th) and Northern Illinois (17th) in the BCS standings. One of those schools could earn an automatic bid if it finishes in the final top 16 and ahead of one of the champions from the automatic qualifying conferences.

"Each week you have to treat like a championship game," said UCF coach George O'Leary, whose teams ranks among the top 15 within the Index in offense, special teams and miscues.

Blake Bortles went 20 of 24 for 286 yards and a career-high four touchdowns as the Knights scored on their first nine possessions of Saturday's 62-17 rout of Connecticut.

"There is no conference championship (game) for us so every game is like a championship game," said receiver J.J. Worton, who caught six passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. "We wanted to get a lead and make sure we had a sure win. We didn't want to let off the gas."

UCF will host Houston (6-1) on Nov. 9 in a matchup that could ultimately determine the league champion. The Cougars climbed 16 spots - the biggest jump among top 40 schools - to 11th in the Index after Saturday's 49-14 win at Rutgers.

Averaging a conference-high 42.0 points per game, Houston is 19th offensively in the Index and showed why it ranks second in the miscues category by forcing a season-high six turnovers against the Scarlet Knights.

"That's what we talked about this week. We are going to have to take care of the ball on offense and we have to create turnovers defensively," said Cougars coach Tony Levine, who team has a FBS-high 27 takeaways. "That's something we've done all season and when you do that and you win, you are not surprised."

Houston's only defeat came against BYU (6-2), 47-46 on Oct. 19.

A winner of five in a row, BYU moved into the top 10 of the Index with an eight-spot jump to seventh. The Cougars forced four turnovers and got 339 passing yards and three TDs from Taysom Hill en route to a 37-20 win over Boise State on Friday.

Playing as an independent, BYU is second in the index in opponent quality thanks to victories over then-No. 15 Texas, Georgia Tech and Boise State, plus close losses to Virginia and Utah.

Rated 21st defensively, BYU has 13 takeaways over the last five games after recording two in the first three.

"That's what we've been focusing on for the past couple of weeks," junior safety Craig Bills said. "We were emphasizing getting turnovers and just running to the ball and making plays. We were able to do that. It was great. It was huge for our defense."

Michigan State (7-1), the Index's top defensive team allowing an FBS-low 215.6 yards per contest, has given up just three points in its last two games and joined Middle Tennessee State as the week's biggest risers - up 18 spots. The Spartans jumped to No. 43 and the Blue Raiders to 81.

Utah, which led the Index the week of Sept. 9, suffered the biggest fall - 19 places - to 32nd following a 19-3 loss at Southern California on Saturday. The Utes have dropped two in a row since stunning then-No. 5 Stanford 27-21 on Oct. 12.

A loser of 12 straight, Georgia State is last in the Index while playing in its first season at the FBS level.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2016
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

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