Conference Championship Analysis- Week 12 Edition

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 12 games.

ACC AtlanticFlorida State

ACC CoastalDuke (Despite dropping a tight one to Virginia Tech on Saturday, the Blue Devils are still in the driver’s seat in the Coastal. However, they will need to beat both of their in-state rivals, North Carolina and Wake Forest, in the season’s final weeks to hold off Georgia Tech for the division title.)

Big Ten East- Ohio State (The Buckeyes just need to win one of their last two vs. Indiana or Michigan to clinch the division crown.)

Big Ten West– Wisconsin (The Badgers can clinch the division crown next Saturday with a win over Iowa and a loss by Minnesota to Nebraska. Both of those things will probably happen, but if one of them doesn’t, then the Minnesota-Wisconsin season finale will likely be a de facto Big Ten title game.)

Big 12- Baylor (Baylor, TCU, and Kansas State are all tied atop the conference standings with one loss.  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 SouthSouthern California (We now have a four-way tie between USC, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State for the Pac-12 South division lead. The winners of the Battle for L.A. next weekend and the Duel in the Desert will have the inside track for it, but I am going to give the Trojans the nod right now because they’ve won one more conference game than their other contenders and they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Arizona.)

SEC East- Georgia (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 two tough conferece games left: at Tennessee and vs. Arkansas.  They have to win both to hold off Georgia, and I am predicting they drop one or possibly both games. However, keep in mind Missouri was faced with exact same situation last year needing to beat both Ole Miss and Texas A & M in the final two weeks of the season to hold off my South Carolina Gamecocks for the SEC East, and Mizzou did just that.)

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.  Here are the remaining scenarios: if Alabama beats Auburn in they Iron Bowl, the Tide claim the SEC West. If Auburn wins the Iron Bowl, then the Egg Bowl will become a de facto SEC West title game, as long as Ole Miss beats Arkansas next weekend. Alabama could actually lose the Iron Bowl and still win the West if Ole Miss loses to Arkansas next weekend and then beats Mississippi State in the finale.)

American- Memphis (UCF, Memphis 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 played more conference games than the other two and should be heavily favored in all of their remaining games.  They also own head to head tiebreaker over the only other 1-loss team they played Cincinnati.)

C-USA EastMarshall

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 with a two game lead.  LA Tech just needs to beat either ODU on the road or Rice at home to win the division title. UTEP and Rice could also win this division, but both need help.)

MAC EastBowling Green

MAC WestToledo (Northern Illinois’ victory over Toledo 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, 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 two 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 two games against 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 (Nevada was my surprise preseason pick to win this division, and even though they dropped a heartbreaker to Air Force on Saturday, they still have a great shot at getting to the conference title game. In fact, the Wolfpack will be hosting Fresno State in what is basically a de facto MWC West Division Championship Game next Saturday night. All the winner will have to do is beat an inferior opponent the following weekend, as Nevada plays UNLV and Fresno hosts Hawaii, and the division title will officially be theirs.)

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 heavily favored in the remainder of their league games (GSU: vs. Monroe; ULL: vs. App. St, at Troy) setting up a probable co-Sun Belt championship.)

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