Conference Championship Analysis

For the sixth-straight year, I will be publishing weekly November columns analyzing the conference championship races.  Like my bowl bubble watch, there is not really a column like this on any other mainstream college football site.  Bold teams have already clinched their division or conference.  Italicized teams are my predicted champions of their respective conferences/divisions at this point in time.  This list is updated through all week 11 games.

ACC AtlanticFlorida State (All the Noles have to do is beat either Miami or BC to clinch the division crown.)

ACC CoastalDuke (This division race is still wide open, but Duke definitely had the edge at this point.  In fact, if FSU knocks off Miami on Saturday night, the Blue Devils will just need to win two of their remaining three games against UNC, VT, and Wake to clinch the ACC Coastal for a second consecutive season.)

Big Ten East- Ohio State (The Buckeyes just need to win two of their last three: at Minnesota, vs. Indiana, and vs. Michigan to clinch the division crown.) 

Big Ten West–  Wisconsin (Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are all tied atop the division standings at 4-1.  Minnesota will be heavy underdogs in their last three so their chances of getting to the conference title game are slim to none.  Wisconsin gets the slight edge over Nebraska because they host the Huskers this Saturday in which will likely be a de facto division title game.

Big 12- Baylor (Baylor, TCU, and Kansas State are all tied atop the conference standings at 5-1.  Kansas State’s chances of winning the Big 12 are slim by virtue of losing their head to head matchup with TCU and having to travel to Waco at the end of the season.  Both Baylor and TCU should win out, so the Bears will likely win the Big 12 thanks to their victory over TCU.)

Pac-12 NorthOregon 

Pac-12 SouthArizona State (The Sun Devils are the current frontrunners, but UCLA, Arizona, and Southern California are all still in contention, sitting a game back of ASU.)

SEC East- Missouri (One of the most interesting conference/division title races this season may be the SEC East.  Missouri is currently the clubhouse leader but they have three tough games left: at Texas A & M, at Tennessee, vs. Arkansas.  Meanwhile, Georgia is a game back and if they can knock off Auburn on Saturday then they will be the favorite to get to Atlanta.  If both teams falter, then the Florida Gators could sneak through, assuming they get by South Carolina on Saturday afternoon.)

SEC West- Alabama (The SEC West once again runs through Tuscaloosa as the Tide control their own destiny for this division title one more time.  Mississippi State is currently the division leader but the Tide will pass them if they can beat the Bulldogs at home on Saturday.  If they do that, then all they will need to is beat arch rival Auburn to clinch the West.  Auburn and Ole Miss are still in the picture, but they will both need help to get to Atlanta.)

American- UCF (Memphis, UCF, East Carolina, and Cincinnati all have one conference loss, and at this point in the season, you have to assume at least one of them will finish at 7-1.  Memphis has best chance as they have already played five conference games and should be heavily favored in their remaining three.  They also own head to head tiebreaker over the only other 1-loss team they played Cincinnati.)

C-USA EastMarshall (The Thundering Herd will be heavily favored in their remaining three games: vs. Rice, at UAB, vs. Western Kentucky, and all they will need to do is win two of them to clinch the division.)

C-USA WestLouisiana Tech (In the preseason, I made the surprising prediction that LA Tech would win the C-USA despite coming off a losing season in 2013.  That pick is looking really good right now as the Bulldogs are currently undefeated in conference play and sit alone atop the division standings.  If Marshall beats Rice this weekend, that division lead will grow to two games and only require LA Tech to beat either ODU on the road or Rice at home to win the division title.  UTEP could also technically win this division, but the Miners need a lot of help.)

MAC EastBowling Green (After a disappointing start to the season, the Falcons of Bowling Green have rebounded nicely and stand firmly in control of the MAC East title race.  In fact, Bowling Green just needs to win one of their remaining three games: vs. Kent State, at Toledo, and vs. Ball State to earn a trip to the MAC title game.)

MAC WestToledo (Northern Illinois’ victory over Toledo tonight made this race a lot wilder. There are now three teams tied atop the MAC West, Western Michigan, Toledo, NIU, with a fourth squad, Central Michigan, only a game back and still in contention. Despite the Rockets loss tonight, I still like them to win the division because of their favorable remaining schedule,: vs. Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan, and their head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Western Michigan.)

MWC MountainBoise State (The first of two wild Mountain West division title races! Four teams in each division are still in contention to get to the title game, so you should see a wild final three weeks to the season in this league. Boise State, Colorado State, Utah State, and Air Force are all in contention in the Mountain Division, but Boise is currently the frontrunner based on their head-to-head victory over Colorado State. The Broncos control their own destiny, as all they need to do is win their final three games against San Diego State, Wyoming, and Utah State to get to their first Mountain West conference title game. Interestingly enough, Colorado State may end up with the best New Years Six resume of the Group of Five teams, but because they won’t be a conference champ, they won’t be eligible for selection.

MWC WestNevada (Both division title races in the MWC are wide open at this point, as Nevada, San Diego State, Fresno State, and San Jose State all are within a game of the MWC West lead. Nevada was my surprise preseason pick to win this division, and even if they lose to Air Force this weekend, they have a great shot at getting to the conference title game. In fact, with a San Diego State loss to Boise on Saturday, Nevada would host Fresno State in a de facto division title game on November 22nd. San Jose faces the longest odds of the four squads in contention, as they already have three losses and will be underdogs in two of their remaining three games.

Sun BeltGeorgia Southern/UL-Lafayette (Like the American Athletic Conference, the Sun Belt is a league that has neither a conference championship game nor a true round-robin conference schedule. That poses a problem when you have a situation like this year where there are two undefeated conference leaders who don’t play each other. In fact, UL-Lafayette and Georgia Southern should both be favored in the remainder of their league games (GSU: vs. Monroe: ULL: at Monroe, vs. App. St, at Troy) setting up a probable co-Sun Belt championship. If both teams were to falter, Arkansas State is waiting in the wings with one-loss, but they did lose head-to-head matchup against the Ragin’ Cajuns earlier this season.

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