Conference Championship Analysis- Inaugural 2016 Edition

For the eighth-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 games played on November 9, 2016.

ACC AtlanticClemson (The Tigers will clinch the ACC Atlantic with a home win over Pittsburgh on Saturday or a victory over Wake the following weekend.)

ACC CoastalVirginia Tech (The Hokies are tied with the Heels for the division lead but they possess the always important head-to-head tiebreaker between the two teams.  As a result, Virginia Tech controls its own destiny and just has to win home games over Georgia Tech and Virginia to clinch the Coastal.)

Big Ten EastOhio State  (Even though the Buckeyes currently trail Michigan by a game in the division race, Ohio State hosts the Wolverines in the regular season finale on November 26th.  If Ohio State wins there, there will likely be a three-way tie between OSU, Michigan, and Penn State, which the Buckeyes will win by virtue of Penn State having a worse overall record.)

Big Ten WestWisconsin (There is currently a three-way tie for the division crown between the Badgers, Cornhuskers, and Golden Gophers but Minnesota has to travel to both Madison and Lincoln in the final three weeks of the season.  Conversely, Nebraska and Wisconsin should both win out, but Wisconsin possesses the head-to-head tiebreaker between the two squads.)

Big 12Oklahoma (I’m predicting the Sooners drop their road tilt against West Virginia next weekend, but they should still be able to defend their Big 12 title, as I think the other two teams in contention, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, will also drop at least one game down the stretch.)

Pac-12 NorthWashington (Even if Washington or Washington State lose one of their upcoming games, the division crown should come down to the Apple Cup on November 25th.  The game is in Pullman and I picked Wazzu to win the division in the preseason, but the Huskies have just looked so dominant that I’ve got to pick them to win that game at this point.)

Pac-12 SouthColorado (The always interesting Pac-12 South comes down to a three-way battle between Colorado, Southern Cal, and Utah.  The Buffs have the advantage at this point because they a one game lead on the Utes and Trojans and get to host Utah in the season finale.  If Colorado does manage to pull off a division and/or conference title, then it will be the Cinderella story of the year in college football unless neighboring Wyoming manages to do the same in the MWC Mountain, see below.)

SEC EastTennessee (Interestingly, the Vols currently sit all the way back in 5th in the current division standings, but they should win out with remaining games against Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt.  If they do that, then they will just need Florida to lose at home to South Carolina on Saturday or the following week at LSU.  I’m predicting the Gators drop the latter of those two contests which will give the Vols a second opportunity to get blown out by Bama.)

SEC WestAlabama (If Auburn can survive a road trip to Athens this Saturday, then the division title will come down once again to another Iron Bowl matchup between Alabama and Auburn.  I’d give the Tigers a puncher’s chance in that game if they were playing at home, but they’re not going to beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa.)

AAC EastTemple (It’s crazy to think that Temple is on the brink of consecutive division championships in football, but all the Owls need to do is take care of business against conference bottom-dwellers Tulane and ECU to make a second consecutive conference championship game.)

AAC WestNavy (This week’s battle between division leaders Tulsa and Navy will go along way in deciding who wins the AAC West, and even though Tulsa is favored, I’m giving the Midshipmen the advantage since they’re playing at home.  Houston and Memphis are also in the mix but needs to win out and have both of those squads drop one of their remaining games.  This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Midshipmen, but this team continues to overperform year in and year out under Niumatalolo.)

C-USA EastWestern Kentucky (The Hilltoppers should be able to defend their division crown this season by taking care of business against both North Texas and Marshall in their remaining two games  In fact, if ODU loses to Southern Miss this Saturday, then WKU can clinch with a win over the Mean Green this weekend.)

C-USA WestSouthern Miss (Louisiana Tech currently has a one game lead in the division standings over UTSA and Southern Miss, but LA Tech has to play both of those teams in their final two games of the season.  I believe they will split those matchups by beating UTSA and losing to Southern Miss, and the Golden Eagles will win out to repeat as division champs.)

MAC EastOhio (The Bobcats have a de facto two game lead in the division standings by virtue of their head-to-head win over Miami-OH.  As a result, Ohio just needs to beat either Central Michigan or Akron in their final two games to get a berth in the MAC Title Game and have a shot to win their first conference championship game since 1968.  A feat I predicted them to achieve in my preseason predictions)

MAC WestWestern Michigan (As long as Toledo takes care of business next weekend against Ball State, their will be a de facto division title game in the final week of the regular season between the Broncos and Rockets.  Western Michigan will have a distinct advantage their playing at home with the more talented roster.)

MWC MountainBoise State (The Wyoming Cowboys shockingly have a one game lead in this division at the present time, but a brutal remaining schedule calls for me to pick them to drop two of their remaining games, vs. San Diego State and at New Mexico.  The Lobos of New Mexico would also have to drop another game for Boise to win this division, but with consecutive road tests against Utah State and Colorado State on the horizon, I think New Mexico will do just that.)

MWC WestSan Diego State (The Aztecs are the first and only team in the country to clinch a division/conference championship so far in 2016.)

Sun BeltTroy (There is currently a three-way tie atop the Sun Belt Standings between Troy, Arkansas State, and Appalachian State.  This Saturday’s epic matchup between Troy and Appalachian State will go a long way in deciding who wins the Sun Belt Championship, but even if the Trojans win that one, they have to face Arkansas State the following week.  However, both of those games are in Troy,  so I’m predicting the Trojans to find a way to win them and become this year’s surprise Sun Belt Champion.)


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