Conference Championship Analysis- Week 10 Edition

For the ninth-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 4, 2017.

ACC AtlanticClemson (By virtue of the Tigers controversial win over the Pack on Saturday, all Clemson needs to do is beat lowly Florida State at home next weekend to clinch the ACC Atlantic.)

ACC CoastalMiami-FL (The Canes are the ACC Coastal Champs thanks to their big victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday night.)

Big Ten EastOhio State (This division race just got a whole more interesting thanks to Saturday’s upsets of the Buckeye and Nittany Lions.  Now, both Michigan and Michigan State, find themselves back in the race with a legitimate chance of representing the Eastern Division in the title game.  The winner of next week’s matchup between OSU and Michigan State will be the division front runner, and I have to give the Buckeyes the edge there, especially at home.  Nevertheless, even if Ohio State wins next Saturday, if they were to lose their season finale in Ann Arbor, then we could have a wacky 4 way tie for the division crown between Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State.  In such an instance, Ohio State would still represent the East in the Big 10 Title Game.)

Big Ten WestWisconsin (As predicted, Wisconsin has become the first team in the country to clinch their division’s championship thanks to their win over Indiana on Saturday.)

Big 12Oklahoma/TCU (So now that there is an official Big 12 title game, the battle for the # 2 spot is more important than actually winning the regular season championship.  Oklahoma’s thrilling win over the Pokes on Saturday really puts them in the driver’s seat for the league’s regular season champion.  I think they beat TCU next Saturday in Norman but then will have to beat the Frogs again in the conference championship game at Jerry’s World.  Iowa State actually has the head-to-head tiebreaker over both squads but I feel like they will lose one of their last three contests, vs. Oklahoma State, at Baylor, and at Kansas State which will likely setup a rematch of next weekend’s Oklahoma/TCU game.)

Pac-12 NorthWashington (The Huskies have a huge game next Friday night at Stanford, but given the injury concerns of Bryce Love, I think Washington finds a way to win that one to take a stronghold on the division race.  They may need to also beat Wazzu in the Apple Cup to clinch the Pac-12 North, but that shouldn’t be too tall of a task based on the way the Cougars have played on the road recently.)  

Pac-12 SouthSouthern California (By virture of USC’s dominant win Saturday night over Arizona, the Trojans just need to beat either Colorado or UCLA to clinch their first division championship in the Clay Helton era.)    

SEC EastGeorgia (The Dawgs join Wisconsin and Miami as the only major conference teams to clinch division championships at this point in the season.)

SEC WestAlabama (The Tide are in firm control of the SEC West thanks to their win over LSU last night, but if Auburn can somehow knock off the top two teams in the country in their final two conference games, Alabama and Georgia, then they will emerge as the outright SEC West champions.  Bama can clinch the division next weekend, however, with a win over Mississippi State and a Georgia win over the Tigers.)

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AAC EastUCF (As long as South Florida can get by Tulsa on November 16th, the end of season clash between the Bulls and UCF should still be a de facto division title game.  I’m giving the Knights the advantage in that one thanks to home field advantage and an overall more talented roster.  Keep in mind, UCF finished 0-12 just two short seasons ago.  Scott Frost has engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college football and deserves to be the hottest major conference coaching candidate in the country.)

AAC WestMemphis (Before the season, no one pegged Memphis’ November 18th matchup against SMU as a potential division championship game, but that is what it may very well end up being.  First, however, SMU will need to beat Navy next Saturday.  If they don’t, Memphis will clinch the division crown with a win over either the Mustangs or lowly Pirates of ECU.  

C-USA EastFlorida Atlantic (When Butch Jones and Lane Kiffin respectively took over FIU and FAU this past offseason, a lot of people, including me, laughed at how far these former coaching titans had fallen.  With that being said, both have done an incredible job in their first year at their new programs.  The two coaches will face off in two weeks in what could be a de facto division championship game between the two squads currently sitting atop the C-USA East  standings.)

C-USA WestNorth Texas (I finally have to back off my preseason prediction that LA Tech claims the Conference USA West now that they’ve lost at home to their main challenger North Texas.  Now, it is the Mean Green’s title to lose as all they need to do is beat either lowly Rice or UTEP to claim a shocking C-USA West title.  A North Texas/Florida Atlantic C-USA title  game would certainly been one of the most shocking conference championship games ever to be played, as both squads were predicted to finish near the bottom of their respective divisions.)

MAC EastOhio (In what was supposed to be a two-team race between Ohio and Miami-OH, the Zips of Akron have surged to a surprising lead in this division.  Akron plays both of those teams in the upcoming weeks, so we’ll see what they are truly made of in November.  Ohio actually has the tougher remaining schedule and has to play the Zips on the road, but I still think they win the MAC East by first falling to Toledo but then beating Akron six days later.)

MAC WestToledo (The Rockets now have firm control of this division thanks to their win over the Huskies of Northern Illinois on Thursday night.  They just need to win two of their final 3 contests, at Ohio, at Bowling Green, and vs. Western Michigan, to clinch the division.)

MWC MountainBoise State (In the preseason, this division race looked to be as wide open as ever, and through nine weeks, that assessment hasn’t changed.  The Broncos were my reluctant preseason MWC Mountain Champion pick, and I’m going to stick with them despite their difficult remaining schedule.  I think they will lose either at Colorado State or Fresno, but they can still afford one conference loss thanks to their head-to-head victory over Wyoming back on October 21st.)

MWC WestSan Diego State (This was supposed to be San Diego State’s division to dominate this season, and it sure looked that way through the month of September.  However, the Bulldogs of Fresno State, have come out of nowhere to seize the MAC West lead and emerge as the early front runner for surprise team of college football in 2017.  UAB, Arizona, Florida Atlantic, Iowa State, and North Texas are also in the running for that crown, but none of those teams posted the putrid 1-11 mark that the Bulldogs did last season.  Nevertheless, Fresno has a brutal schedule down the stretch (at Hawaii, at Wyoming, and Boise), and even though they possess the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Aztecs, I think Fresno loses two of those contests to allow San Diego State to eek out a division title.)    

Sun BeltArkansas State (My buddy told me all year that Appalachian State was immensely overrated and that was proven true on Saturday, when the Mountaineers fell to lowly UL-Monroe.  Now, the conference championship is the Red Wolves’ to lose, and given the way they have dominated their conference competition so far, they may just win out despite a difficult season finale against Troy.)

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