Conference Championship Analysis- Week 10 Edition

For the tenth-straight season, I will be publishing weekly columns late in the season which analyze all of  the FBS conference championship races. Like my bowl bubble watch, there is not really a column like this on any other mainstream college football site.  Bolded 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 3, 2018.

ACC AtlanticClemson (The Tigers will play what could be a de facto ACC Atlantic Championship game next weekend in Chestnut Hill.  Clemson will clinch the division with a victory; while BC will still need to knock off Florida State and Syracuse if they somehow upset the Tigers.)

ACC CoastalVirginia Tech  (While the ACC Atlantic has turned into one of the most predictable division races in the country, the Coastal has become the most unpredictable.  Somehow, the lowly Pitt Panthers have come out of nowhere to take the lead in the division standings. Pittsburgh hosts Virginia Tech next weekend in a matchup to determine the division frontrunner, and despite their recent struggles, I am still going to predict the Hokies to win that one and then win out from there to claim the Coastal crown.)

Big Ten EastOhio State (Even though everyone is hating on the Buckeyes right now and rightfully so, Ohio State still controls its own destiny in the division title race and has a very manageable late season schedule.  I think the Bucks will get by Michigan State next week thanks to their superior athleticism, and then take care of Michigan at home in the season finale to clinch another Big Ten East championship.)

Big Ten WestNorthwestern (Seemingly out of nowhere, Northwestern has emerged to take the lead in this division title race.  With that being said, the Wildcats still have to make the tough trip to Iowa City next week to take on the Hawkeyes.  If they win that one, they will all but clinch their first-ever Big Ten division title. Even with a loss though, the Wildcats will be able to still clinch the West with wins over lowly division bottom-dwellers Minnesota or Illinois, thanks to their head-to-head to head tiebreaker over both Purdue and Wisconsin.   Can you believe a team that lost non-conference home games to both Duke and Akron could be playing for the Big Ten Championship?)

Big 12Oklahoma/West Virginia (Thanks to the Mountaineers wild victory over Texas on Saturday, West Virginia has put itself in great position to play in the Big 12 Championship Game in four weeks.  Iowa State and Texas are still in contention as well, but I am going to predict the Mountaineers to win out, and for the Cyclones and Horns to each lose a game down the stretch.  Interestingly, this would setup a situation where West Virginia and Oklahoma would play each other in consecutive weeks, as the two are already set to meet in the regular season finale in Morgantown on the Friday after Thanksgiving.)

Pac-12 NorthWashington (As long as the Huskies knock off lowly Oregon State at home in two weeks, this year’s Apple Cup will be a de facto division title game.  Because Washington has owned Wazzu in that contest over the past few seasons, I am going to predict that Washington wins out to claim a third consecutive Pac-12 North title.)

Pac-12 SouthSouthern California (Wow!  Talk about a wild division race… there are currently four teams in this division tied for first and the other two squads are just a game back!  My preseason pick for Arizona to win the Pac-12 South looked early on like it could be one of my worst all-time. Now, the Wildcats are right in the thick of this division race!.  However, Arizona still has to travel to Wazzu so I can’t pick them to take the division crown at this point. Instead, I am going with USC who has the easiest remaining schedule of the group.  How big would that be for playoff purposes if Wazzu could avenge its only loss and beat the Trojans in the Pac-12 Title Game!)

SEC EastGeorgia (The Bulldogs have become the first team in college football to clinch a berth in their league’s conference title game, thanks to their dominant victory over Kentucky on Saturday.)     

SEC WestAlabama (The SEC Championship Game will be exactly what everyone expected and what everyone wanted to see after last year’s national title classic.  Alabama and Georgia will play each other in postseason play again in Atlanta. This one should end up being a CFP play-in game.)

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AAC EastUCF (The defending national champion Knights have once again bowled everyone en route to a 8-0 start.  They, however, have a tough remaining schedule featuring games against two of the other division title contenders: Temple, and Cincinnati, as well as a matchup against the always tricky Midshipmen of Navy.  Fortunately, the Knights get all but one of those contests at home, so I am going to predict for UCF to win out and once again play in the American Athletic championship game.)

AAC WestHouston (I said in last week’s column that Houston’s two game cushion may prove important if they are to stumble, and what do you know, the Cougars get upset by the upstart Mustangs of SMU.  With that being said, Houston is still a game in front of the field, and even though I could see them stumbling to either Temple or Memphis down the stretch, I think SMU also loses to Memphis, which would enable the Cougars to still clinch the division crown.)

C-USA EastFlorida International (This division race was turned upside down on Saturday as the top teams in the division, Marshall and Florida International, were both upset by division rivals.  As a result, Middle Tennessee is back in the driver’s seat holding a half game lead over FIU. However, I predict FIU will rebound from their blowout loss to FAU today to win out and earn a shocking bid to the C-USA title game by virtue of their head-to-head tiebreaker over Middle Tennessee.  Find me someone who predicted a UAB/FIU conference title game in their preseason predictions please!)

C-USA WestUAB (The Blazers surprised the country last season with their literal rise from the ashes, as they contended for a division title and played in a bowl game in their first year back as a football program.  Now, they look to be taking things one step further as they shockingly sit atop the C-USA West standings at 6-0 in conference play and 8-1 overall. Interestingly, their only defeat came against lowly Coastal Carolina in blowout fashion.  The Blazers have already beaten their two closest challengers: Louisiana Tech and North Texas, so even if UAB were to stumble in their tricky season finale against Middle Tennessee they would still clinch the division by virtue of their head-to-head tiebreakers.  Thus, all the Blazers need to do is beat Southern Miss at home next weekend to clinch a most shocking berth into the Conference USA Championship game.)

MAC EastBuffalo (It appears that it is going to be a battle between the Bobcats of Ohio and the Bulls of Buffalo for the MAC East championship this fall.  The two play on November 14th in what could be a de facto MAC Championship Game; however, if Ohio stumbles to Miami of Ohio next week, then the Bulls could lose to Bobcats and still clinch the division with wins over lowly Kent State and Bowling Green.)

MAC WestNorthern Illinois (Thanks to Ohio’s blowout upset of Western Michigan on Thursday night, the Huskies now have a  two game lead on the field in this division. Their three remaining regular season games are all tough so they still have work to do, but NIU is firmly in the driver’s seat for the MAC West crown.)

MWC MountainBoise State (If the Broncos can get by Fresno next week, then they will get to host division leader Utah State in a de facto division title game in their regular season finale.  Both games will be extremely difficult for Boise to win, but because both are being played at home on the Smurf Turf, I’m going to stick with my preseason prediction and call for the Broncos to win out and repeat as division champs.)

MWC WestFresno State (Just like last season, Fresno and San Diego State are the two teams battling it out for the MWC West Division Championship.  Currently, the Bulldogs definitely look to be the more complete football team of the two, so I am calling for them to knock off the Aztecs at home on November 17th and repeat as division champs.)

Sun Belt EastAppalachian State (It is the first year of division play in the Sun Belt, and we have a pair of interesting division races in this league despite each division only having five teams in it.  For the second straight week, a major upset has shaken up the Sun Belt East standings, as UL-Monroe beat down Georgia Southern in a classic letdown spot on Saturday. As a result, Troy stands alone atop the division with a perfect 5-0 conference mark.  However, the Trojans have to play both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern on the road in November. I am predicting Troy wins in Statesboro next Saturday, but then loses to App State in the de facto division championship game.)

Sun Belt WestArkansas State (Despite only being 2-3 in conference play, the Red Wolves are only a game back in their division title race.  I am predicting the Red Wolves to beat division frontrunner UL-Monroe in two weeks and then win out. Meanwhile, I think UL-Lafayette will lose its season finale against Monroe to send Arkansas State to the first-ever Sun Belt Championship Game.)

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