When No. 18 Tulane plays host to No. 22 UCF in the 2022 AAC Championship Game at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans on Saturday there are not only interesting storylines, but national implications. The Green Wave are putting together one of the best seasons in program history after clinching 10 wins for the first time since 1998. Tulane edged two-time defending AAC champ Cincinnati 27-24 behind 181 yards and two touchdowns on the ground from running back Tyjae Spears in Week 13. 

UCF has found high-level success behind dynamic dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. Plumlee threw for 2,195 yards, rushed for 848 yards and posted 24 total touchdowns to lead the most productive offense in the AAC. However, the last two weeks since beating Tulane have been a slog. UCF barely escaped South Florida after Plumlee suffered an injury, and lost against Navy two weeks ago. 

UCF is one of the most storied Group of Five programs of the past decade with AAC championships in both 2017 and 2018. Tulane has not won a conference championship of any type since the 1998 Conference USA championship team. A trip to the New Year's Six is on the line for the winner. 

Tulane vs. UCF: Need to know

Rematch: The Knights and Green Wave faced off earlier in the premier matchup in the Group of Five this season. UCF went up 31-14 in the third quarter, but Tulane pulled it to within a touchdown with 1:46 remaining. UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee decimated the Green Wave on the ground with 176 yards and two touchdowns, while Tulane running back Tyjae Spears posted 130 yards on just eight carries. 

New Year's Six: Tulane and UCF are the only teams ranked in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings. Short of a shocker, the winner of this game should earn the Group of Five's automatic bid in the New Year's Six and will be playing an at-large team in the Cotton Bowl. The Knights have made numerous such trips to major bowl games over the past decade, including the Fiesta Bowl in 2013, Peach Bowl in 2017 and Fiesta Bowl again in 2018. Conversely, Tulane has not played in a major bowl game since 1939, when the Green Wave was a member of the SEC. In fact, Willie Fritz has clinched as many bowl appearances on his own (four) as the program had before him in the last 40 years. 

Strength on strength: While Willie Fritz is known as an offensive coach, the Green Wave have earned a trip to the title game with their suffocating defense. Tulane ranks No. 1 in the AAC in scoring defense and No. 2 in total defense, only behind two-time champ Cincinnati. However, UCF provides a unique challenge as the No. 1 yardage offense in the conference at more than 486 yards per game. The Knights -- and oddly, South Florida -- were the only teams to score more than 30 points against Tulane this season. Defensive coordinator Chris Hampton will have his hands full. 

How to watch Tulane vs. UCF live

Date: Saturday, Dec. 3 | Time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: Yulman Stadium -- New Orleans
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)

Tulane vs. UCF prediction, picks

The Green Wave are hitting their stride right as the Knights are struggling. Tulane topped two-time champion Cincinnati and crushed fourth place SMU by 35 points. UCF lost 17-14 against Navy and needed a late push to escape a horrid South Florida team. Willie Fritz's team won't let this opportunity pass them by and earn a conference championship for the first time since 1998. Prediction: Tulane -4

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Dennis Dodd
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Tom Fornelli
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Chip Patterson
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Barrett Sallee
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Shehan Jeyarajah
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David Cobb
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Jerry Palm

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