Conference Championship Analysis- Week 9 Edition

For the seventh-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 9 games.

ACC AtlanticClemson (The Tigers will clinch the ACC Atlantic with a win over Florida State on Saturday. As of now, my surprise preseason playoff pick is turning out very well.)

ACC CoastalNorth Carolina (If the Heels hold off the Blue Devils on Saturday for the second consecutive season, then UNC will hold a de facto two game lead in the division with three very winnable games remaining.)

Big Ten East- Ohio State  (This division race could get dicey if the Buckeyes knock off the Spartans on November 21st and then falter to the Wolverines the following weekend. If that happens and all three teams win their remaining conference games, then there will be a three-complicated way tie atop the standings. In this situation, the representative in the league championship game will be determined by league tiebreaker # 5: “The highest ranked team in the first College Football Playoff poll following the completion of Big Ten regular season conference play shall be the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game, unless the two highest ranked tied teams are ranked within one spot of each other in the College Football Playoff poll.  In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game.” I think Ohio State probably wins out, but if they don’t, watch out for some chaos.)

Big Ten West– Iowa (The Hawkeyes essentially hold a two game lead in the division standings by virtue of their head to head win over second place challenger Wisconsin. Four games remain and the Hawkeyes should be favored in all of them.)

Big 12- TCU (Who knows what’s going to happen in this league as all of the conference’s meaningful games will be played in the final five weeks of the season.)

Pac-12 NorthStanford (The Cardinal are in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 North by virtue of their narrow escape from Wazzu last Saturday.   They currently have a two game lead in the division race and can clinch the North crown with a win November 14th over perennial rival Oregon.)

Pac-12 SouthUtah (The Pac-12 South race is usually one of the tightest and most exciting in college football each year and this season appears to be no exception. The Utes currently possess a narrow one game lead over UCLA and USC but have challenging road tests against Washington and Arizona on the horizon, followed by a possible division title game against the Bruins on November 21.)

SEC East- Florida (The Gators can become the first team in the country to clinch a division title with a win over Vandy on Saturday.)

SEC West- Alabama (If the Tide can knock off LSU this Saturday, then they may find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of having to root for LSU to knock off Ole Miss on November 21. That’s because despite the Tide’s recent string of dominance, the Rebels own the tiebreaker over the Tide by virtue of their early season upset in Tuscaloosa.)

AAC East- Temple (Despite their heart-breaking loss to Notre Dame on Saturday night, the Owls still find themselves in good position to clinch the AAC East title. They have a two game lead over both USF and Cincinnati and already knocked off the Bearcats earlier this season. They can clinch a berth to the title game by beating SMU this weekend and South Florida on November 14th.)

AAC West- Houston (This division race is currently wide open as Houston, Navy, and Memphis are all unbeaten in conference play. The league race will get a little clearer after this weekend when the Cougars battle their most formidable inter-divisional foe in Cincinnati and Memphis hosts Navy. Right now I have to give the division title edge to Houston because they avoid Temple out of the East and get to host the Tigers and Midshipmen later this month. Could anyone have predicted a potential Temple vs. Houston conference title game in the preseason?)

C-USA EastWestern Kentucky (The C-USA East crown should come down to the season’s final weekend as the Hilltoppers host co-leader Marshall on the day after Thanksgiving. I expect the more-battled tested Hilltoppers to win that game easily.)

C-USA WestLouisiana Tech (I picked Louisiana Tech to win the division crown in 2014 and that’s exactly what they did. In 2015, I predicted them to repeat and it looks like they may very well do exactly that. Their season finale against co-leader Southern Miss could serve as de facto conference title game.)

MAC EastBowling Green (The Falcons have cruised their way through MAC play so far this season and with a win over Ohio this weekend, Bowling Green will have a de facto three game lead over the rest of the division.)

MAC WestToledo (Like both divisions in Conference USA, the MAC West looks primed to be decided with a de facto division title game on the last weekend of the season.   Stakes should be high when Western Michigan travels to Toledo the day after Thanksgiving for that one.)

MWC MountainUtah State (In the preseason, I picked the Aggies to shock the world and beat out Boise State for this division title. As of now, I am sticking with that pick as Utah State is tied with Boise but possess the head to head tiebreaker between the two. The Aggies also have to watch out for co-leader Air Force who hosts Utah State on November 14th.)

MWC WestSan Diego State (This division was the worst in all of college football last season, and while it hasn’t improved a lot in 2015, the Aggies of San Diego State have clearly emerged as the class of the MWC West in 2015. They currently have a two game lead over the rest of the division and clinch a spot in the conference championship game with wins over lowly Wyoming and UNLV.)

Sun BeltAppalachian State (In the preseason I wasn’t buying the App. State hype, but the Mountaineers have proven me wrong and can take a commanding lead in the Sun Belt with a win over Arkansas State on Thursday night.)

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