Tulane no longer has sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference.

The Green Wave lost 38-31 at home to UCF on Saturday to drop into a three-way tie with the Knights and Cincinnati atop the AAC.

Tulane (8-2, 5-1 AAC) — which fell four spots to No. 21 in the College Football Playoff rankings after the loss — has a quick turnaround as it faces SMU (6-4, 4-2) in its home finale Thursday night in New Orleans.

“We’ve got to move on, there’s no doubt about it,” Green Wave coach Willie Fritz said. “It’s just what you have to do. SMU’s a really good team. We are going to have to really put it together quickly.”

Tulane, which concludes the regular season at Cincinnati on Nov. 25, can still guarantee itself a spot in the Dec. 10 conference title game, which will be played at the home of the regular-season champion, by winning its last two games. And winning the AAC would all but assure the Green Wave would be the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Tulane found itself trailing UCF 10-0 barely four minutes into the game. They fell behind by 17 points three different times and fought back, but could never get even.

“We’ve got to stay locked in,” Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt said. “We can’t let (the loss to UCF) affect us.”

The Green Wave allowed 336 rushing yards to UCF, including 176 by quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. That’s 136 more rushing yards than Tulane had allowed in its previous worst performance against the run.

The Mustangs are 7-0 against Tulane as members of the AAC. SMU remains in contention in the conference race, but won’t be if they lose to the Green Wave.

SMU has the running game to potentially replicate UCF’s success against Tulane.

Camar Wheaton, a transfer from Alabama, scored his first two collegiate rushing touchdowns and rushed for 112 yards, the same total teammate Tyler Lavine had, in a 41-23 victory at South Florida on Saturday.

“They complement each other really well,” Mustangs first-year coach Rhett Lashlee said.

Tanner Mordecai added 280 passing yards and two touchdowns as the Mustangs became bowl eligible after their third consecutive victory.

“Look, we expect to go to bowl games, and so that’s not the end-all, be-all,” Lashlee said. “We aren’t finished yet. We’ve got two big games coming up. We’re 2-0 in November, but that’s not the end of it.

The Mustangs have gone to bowls each of the last three seasons, but each year they managed to enter the AP Top 25 before a late-season slide dropped them from the final rankings.

“I think we’re developing the toughness that we want our program to have,” Lashlee said. “I think we’re developing that finishing mindset we want to have.”

Three of the Mustangs’ losses have been by one score — seven points against Maryland, eight points against TCU and two points against Cincinnati.

–Field Level Media