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American Championship Game Preview: SMU vs. Tulane

We make preview the AAC title game and make a pick.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Tulane at Florida Atlantic Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tulane Green Wave will look to win their second straight American Conference championship when they face the SMU Mustangs at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana. Both teams finished with 8-0 conference records and did not play each other during the 2023 season.

Tulane (11-1, 8-0) No. 50 FPI, No. 43 SP+

The Green Wave are not only looking to lock up their second straight American Conference title, but make a return to a New Year’s Six bowl game. Tulane is currently 23rd in the College Football Playoff rankings and would likely just need to win in order to secure its spot. It hasn’t been easy for the Green Wave this season as four of their eight conference games were decided by a score or less.

Quarterback Michael Pratt shook off an early-season injury to throw for 2,168 yards and 21 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Running back Makhi Hughes has really stepped up to handle the lion’s share in the running game with 1,246 yards and seven touchdowns. It’s a balanced group of receivers with Chris Brazzell II (41 catches, 670 yards, five touchdowns) and Lawrence Keys III (33 catches, 599 yards and seven touchdowns) leading the way.

On defense the Green Wave get a lot of pressure with their front four. Darius Hodges has 7.5 sacks and his 300-pound teammate Patrick Jenkins has 5.5 sacks. Lance Robinson leads Tulane with four interceptions and as part of a strong secondary.

DraftKings Sportsbook has Tulane as a 3.5-point favorite with total points set at 47.

SMU (10-2, 8-0) No. 20, No. 25 SP+

Second-year head coach Rhett Lashlee has led the Mustangs to their second season with 10 win or more since the glory days of the Pony Express. Back then the Mustangs did their damage in the run game with Eric Dickerson and Craig James, but these days it’s been the arm of quarterback Preston Stone running the show. Unfortunately Stone suffered a lower leg injury during last Saturday’s 59-14 rout of the Navy Midshipmen. Freshman Kevin Jennings will likely be called into duty. He has thrown for 198 yards and three touchdowns in limited action.

Running backs Jaylan Knighton, a transfer from the Miami Hurricanes, and L.J. Johnson might their roles increased. Knighton has rushed 645 yards, but struggled with injuries. Johnson, who has 523 yards on 99 carries, seemed to take over the No. 1 RB role this month but neither player was dressed against Navy. Camar Wheaton, a transfer from Alabama, is also in the mix.

SMU is a scoring machine on offense and won their conference games by an average of nearly 19 points. They have posted scores of 55, 69, 45 and 59 in conference games.

Odds at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Tulane -3
Total: 47
Moneyline: Tulane -155, SMU +130


75 degrees, rain, 8 MPH winds SW

Don’t forget before you bet

  • SMU’s QB Preston Stone is out for the season with a broken left leg.
  • SMU was already without starting WR Jordan Kerley and starting RB Knighton is questionable.
  • Tulane’s games have gone under 10 times this season.

Best bets for AAC Championship Game

Tulane -3 (Under 47)

Before the Stone injury, the over would have been the play here. Tulane’s defense has shown to be one of the best in the Conference and it’s hard to see SMU having anything near the same explosive capabilities (19th overall passing, 32nd overall rushing) with Jennings running the show. Tulane has a top 25 defense nationally and has faced a little better opposition down the stretch.