Conference Championship Analysis- Week 11 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 10 games.

ACC AtlanticClemson (My surprise preseason playoff pick is turning out very well.)

ACC CoastalNorth Carolina (The Heels clinch the division crown with a road win over either NC State or Virginia Tech or a Pitt loss to either Louisville or Miami. Oddly enough, if the home team wins all of those games, then the Panthers of Pitt will get the bid to the ACC title game.)

Big Ten East- Ohio State (If Ohio State knocks off Michigan State at home next week and Michigan beats Penn State, then the Ohio State-Michigan game will be a de facto division championship game.)

Big Ten West– Iowa (The Hawkeyes clinch the division crown with a win over either Purdue or Nebraska or a Wisconsin loss to either Northwestern or Minnesota.)

Big 12- Oklahoma (In the preseason, I picked Oklahoma to finish with one conference loss and become the surprise Big 12 Champ. I’m going to stick with my preseason prediction and call Oklahoma to win out from here and not only win the Big 12 title but get a spot in the four-team playoff as well.)

Pac-12 NorthStanford (Despite the Cardinal’s heartbreaking loss to Oregon, Stanford is still in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 North, as they will clinch the division title with a win at home over Cal on Saturday or an Oregon loss to either Southern Cal or Oregon State.) 

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 will be no exception. After this Saturday’s crazy action, we are down to a three horse race between Southern Cal, Utah, and UCLA. The Bruins trail the Utes and Trojans by a game at this point but they face both squads in their final two regular season matchups. Unfortunately, UCLA has to play both of these opponents on the road so I don’t think they’ll make up their current deficit. I’m actually calling for the Utes to hold on to this division crown because I think USC will pick up another loss next weekend at Oregon.)

SEC East- Florida (The Gators become the first team in the country to clinch a conference or division title this season by virtue of their narrow win over Vandy.)

SEC West- Alabama (The Tide can clinch the division crown with a win over Auburn or an Ole Miss loss to either LSU or Mississippi State)

AAC EastTemple (South Florida’s upset win over Temple on Saturday certainly made this division title race a lot more interesting. The Owls now face a must-win proposition at home against Memphis on Saturday. A loss there and USF will control their own destiny in the division race. I think the Owls will squeak by Memphis and also UConn to claim the AAC East but it will certainly not be easy.)

AAC WestHouston (The Cougars will host one-loss Navy the day after Thanksgiving in a de facto division title game. That matchup will undoubtedly be the Group of Five game of the year, but before that, the Cougars better be careful not to stumble in a trap game next weekend at UConn.)

C-USA EastWestern Kentucky (Like the AAC West (see above), the C-USA East crown will come down to the season’s final weekend as the Hilltoppers host co-leader Marshall on the day after Thanksgiving in a de facto division championship game.)

C-USA WestLouisiana Tech (Conference USA will actually have de facto semifinal games this season, as the C-USA West championship will also be decided on Thanksgiving weekend when LA Tech hosts Southern Miss. You got to give the conference schedule-makers props for having the foresight to match the league’s top 4 teams during its final regular season weekend.)

MAC EastBowling Green (The Falcons have to be considered one of the hottest teams in the country they way they have ripped through their MAC opposition so far this season. They have already clinched the MAC East title, but their toughest challenge yet comes Tuesday night against MAC West power Toledo.)

MAC WestNorthern Illinois (This division race got really wild as a result of Northern Illinois’ road upset of Toledo. Four teams still have a legitimate shot of winning this division as Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan are all tied atop the division standings and Central Michigan is just a game back. The Chippewas have the easiest remaining schedule and own the head to head tiebreaker over NIU, but I think Northern Illinois finds a way to beat Western Michigan and Ohio at home and retain the MAC West title for the sixth consecutive season.)

MWC MountainBoise State (In a weekend full of shocking sports upsets (Western Illinois over Wisconsin in college bball, Holm over Rousey, Arkansas over LSU), New Mexico’s win as a 30 point underdog in Boise was probably the biggest. I picked New Mexico to be a surprise team this season and finally get back to a bowl game but I didn’t expect them to challenge Boise for the division championship! Nevertheless, that’s exactly what the Lobos have done however, as five teams: Air Force, Boise, New Mexico, Utah State, and Colorado State all have a shot at claiming the MWC Mountain Division. The Broncos no longer control their own destiny but I still think clinch this division by winning out and watching New Mexico drop one of its last two conference contests.)

MWC WestSan Diego State (The Aztecs will clinch this division with a win over either UNLV or Nevada or a Nevada loss to Utah State.)

Sun BeltArkansas State (The Red Wolves stand alone in first place in the Sun Belt with two very winnable games left against lowly New Mexico State and Texas State. Should the Red Wolves somehow stumble, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are waiting in the wings only a game back.)

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