No matter what happens against the Mustangs on Saturday, Tulsa will be playing for the conference title next week.
While SMU is leaving Conference USA for greener pastures at the end of the season, Tulsa has clearly established itself as the program to beat in the West Division in 2012.
The Golden Hurricane have become one of the most consistent programs in the FBS, going to 7 bowls in the last 9 seasons despite losing two head coaches (Steve Kragthorpe and Todd Graham) to BCS schools in that time.
That turnover may have contributed to their decision to hire Bill Blankenship, a coach with over 20 years of experience in Oklahoma high schools whose only college experience came as offensive assistant for Graham from 2007-2010, in 2011.
Blankenship has kept the program going at a high level. Their only losses in 2012 have come in tight games against a school from the Big 12 (Iowa State) and SEC (Arkansas).
As a result, 9-2 Tulsa will represent a huge challenge to a 5-6 SMU team that needs a win on Saturday to go bowling for the fourth consecutive season. The Hurricanes offense is rated 29th in the country and their defense is 32nd; the Mustangs units are 63rd and 61rst respectively.