Saturday's win over Central Florida earned Tulsa the Conference USA's West division title and home-field advantage in the conference championship game. In other words, Saturday's matchup with SMU will have no effect one way or another on TU's postseason path.
That means the Golden Hurricane can just take this game off because there's nothing of consequence to play for.
Not so fast.
There's a lot of school history that can still be made this season, and it starts Saturday. Listening to coach Bill Blankenship at his weekly press conference, it was clear that this Hurricane team isn't ready to take the foot off the gas, especially with so much left to play for.
The first remaining goal TU is shooting for is the 12-win mark. Tulsa has never won more than 11 games in school history, but a win against SMU coupled with the C-USA title game and then a bowl game would get TU to that 12th win. As Blankenship explains, a loss Saturday and that goes down the drain.
"There's a possibility of winning 12 games; well you can't do that if you don't get 10. So if we want to be special, we've got to win No. 10 at SMU."
The second goal is an undefeated conference record. It would be TU's first unbeaten conference slate since entering Conference USA back in 2005, and would also mark just second time any C-USA team has run the regular season table in that time period (Houston, 2011).
The third goal relates to the second, but it takes it to the next level. If TU beats SMU then wins the title game, it will be the first time any C-USA team has ever finished undefeated in regular season conference play and then gone on to win the conference championship game. Once again, Houston came the closest just last year, going 8-0 in conference play only to get drilled by Southern Miss in the championship game.
"The fun part is, I want an opportunity for these players to do what no one else has done, and that's run the table," Blankenship said. "If you can run the table and win a championship, that's (something) that's not been done in Conference USA."
Finally, there's a great opportunity for some impressive individual accomplishments. Take Alex Singleton for instance. Singleton already has the TU record for all-time rushing touchdowns and single-season rushing touchdowns, but if the "A-Train" can find the end zone two more times, he'll tie Chicago Bears All-Pro and former Tulane star Matt Forte for No. 5 on Conference USA's all-time rushing touchdown list. Junior Trey Watts also has a shot at history. Watts needs just 155 more yards to become the 13th player in TU history to reach the 2,000 career yard mark. Ja'Terian Douglas also reached the career 2,000-yard mark this season, and if Watts can get there too, it would mark only the second duo of teammates in TU history with 2,000 career rushing yards (Micheal Gunter & Ken Lacy in 1982). Finally, fullback Willie Carter needs 109 total yards in the final three games to reach the 2,000 total-yard mark for his career.
It's been a special season so far for the Golden Hurricane, but they can't afford to lose focus now. Treating this week's trip to SMU like a must-win game keeps a hungry and motivated mindset for the players. Coach Blankenship is confident.
"This team has been very mature in their approach. The look in their eyes when we last met is that they get it."
Saturday's game is far from meaningless. It's the next turn on the path to TU history.