Conference Championship Analysis- Week 12 Edition

For the eleventh-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 16, 2019.

ACC AtlanticClemson 

ACC Coastal Virginia Tech (As we head down the stretch of the season, there is now a three-way tie in the loss column in the ACC Coastal with Virginia sitting at 5-2 and Virginia Tech and Pitt both at 4-2.  The advantage on paper goes to UVA as all they need to do is win their home finale against Virginia Tech, a game in which the Cavs will likely be favored, and Virginia will clinch the division a possibly a berth in the Orange Bowl.  The problem is that Virginia has lost 15 straight to Virginia Tech and 19 of the last 20 meetings. Because of that and because the Hokies seem to be peaking at the right time, I am picking the Virginia Tech beat Virginia for a surprise ACC Coastal Championship and Orange Bowl berth in Bud Foster’s final season.  Before that matchup though, the Hokies need to take care of business this Saturday at home against Pitt.) 

Big 12Oklahoma/Baylor (Even though Baylor choked away a 28 point lead in their loss to Oklahoma on Saturday, they still moved one step closer to clinching their first berth in the Big 12 title game by virtue of Texas’ loss to Iowa State.  The Bears have a two game lead over the 3rd place teams in the league and can lose to Texas this weekend and still get to their conference title game as long as they take care of Kansas in the season finale. Meanwhile, Oklahoma can clinch a Big 12 title berth with a win over either TCU or Oklahoma State in their final two games.) 

Big Ten EastOhio State (The de facto Big Ten East Championship will likely be played this Saturday in Columbus between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions.  The Bucks will eventually clinch the division with a win; meanwhile, Penn State will need to beat OSU and then knock off lowly Rutgers in their finale.)

Big Ten WestWisconsin (Even though the Golden Gophers suffered a heart-breaking road loss to Iowa on Saturday, they still control their own destiny in the Big Ten’s West Division and would clinch the division with a win over Wisconsin in their season finale.  Meanwhile, Wisky needs to get by Purdue this weekend to setup a de facto division championship game against Minnesota the following weekend. As an aside, I think there is an excellent change of Minneapolis finally getting a visit from ESPN College Gameday for that matchup if both the Gophers and Badgers win this weekend.  Nevertheless, I am predicting Wisconsin to win both of those final two contests and earn a rematch against Ohio State in Indianapolis.)  

Pac-12 NorthOregon (The Ducks are officially headed to San Francisco for the conference title game in three weeks!)  

Pac-12 SouthUtah (The Utes currently have a one game lead over Southern Cal as they head into their final two games of the Pac-12 slate.  Utah needs to beat Arizona on the road and Colorado at home to clinch a second straight trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game, and I am predicting they Utes win both of those games, even though this week’s road trip to Tucson will be more difficult than people might expect.  The Utah/Oregon Pac-12 title game could have some playoff implications if both teams come into it with one loss a piece.) 

SEC EastGeorgia (The Dawgs officially clinched the SEC East this weekend by virtue of their nail-biting win over Auburn.)     

SEC WestLSU (After surviving a legitimate scare in Oxford, the Bayou Bengals just need to win one of their final two home contests against Arkansas and Texas A & M to clinch a berth in the SEC Championship Game for the first-time since 2011 and break the eight year stranglehold the state of Alabama has had on this division.)    

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AAC EastCincinnati (After surviving a scare against USF, the Bearcats are in the driver’s seat in the AAC East, as they hold a two-game lead over the rest of the division.  Cincy just needs to win one of their final two games to clinch the AAC East, but interestingly, both contests should prove extremely challenging (vs. Temple, at Memphis).   I do think the Bearcats win one of those two and earn a trip to the American conference title game for the first-time in school history.)

AAC West Memphis (There is currently a three-way tie in the loss column in the AAC West between Navy, Memphis, and SMU.  Navy and SMU play each other this Saturday, so one of those teams will pick up a second conference loss this weekend.  Memphis has already played, and more importantly beaten, both SMU and Navy so they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over both squads.  As a result, they are the only team in this division who controls its own destiny, as they clinch the division with wins over USF and Cincy.  The regular season finale against Cincinnati will be a tight game for the Tigers, but because Memphis will be playing at home, I am going to call for them to win out and earn a bid into the AAC conference championship game.  Interestingly enough, Memphis and Cincinnati may very well play each other in consecutive weeks as the two face off in the regular season finale and as of now are projected to play again in the conference title game a week later.  Interestingly enough, if the two teams split those games, then the AAC may get left out of the New Year’s Six bowls in favor of a one-loss Group of Five champion like Boise State or Appalachian State.)

C-USA EastMarshall (The Thundering Herd are currently tied with the Owls of FAU for first in this division, but Marshall won the head-to-head meeting between the two on October 18th.  As a result, Marshall just needs to pick up wins against Charlotte and FIU to earn a berth to the C-USA Title Game for the first-time since 2014. Also, even if the Herd falter against one of those two teams, Florida Atlantic could also lose one of their remaining games, as they have to play a tough Southern Miss squad in their season finale.)

C-USA WestLouisiana Tech (This division race tightened up over the weekend as LA Tech dropped its first conference game against Marshall.  However, the Ragin’ Cajuns still own the head-to tiebreaker over both Southern Miss and North Texas, so they will be able to clinch the division with wins over UAB and  UTSA. This week’s trip to Legion Field could prove difficult for Skip Holtz’s squad, but Southern Miss could also drop one of their final two as they have to square off against Western Kentucky and FAU.)  

MAC EastMiami-OH (The Redhawks have come out of nowhere to officially clinch this division with two weeks to go in the season!  This is quite an impressive run for a team that I predicted to finish 4-8 this year.)  

MAC WestWestern Michigan (As a result of Toledo’s loss to Northern Illinois, the Broncos now have firm control of this division race, as all they need to do beat that same NIU squad on the Thursday before Thanksgiving to clinch the MAC West.)

MWC MountainBoise State (The Broncos are still undefeated in conference play, but have a tough road trip to Logan, Utah this weekend to play the Aggies of Utah State.  Air Force and Utah State are both just a game back from the Broncos and can both get back in the conference title race if Utah State beats Boise on Saturday.  However, I’m predicting Boise finds a way to win that game to clinch a third consecutive Mountain Division Championship.)

MWC West Hawaii (This weekend’s San Diego State/Hawaii matchup serves as a de facto division championship race, as the winner will clinch the West Division of the MWC.  It should be a great game, but I am giving the edge to the Rainbow Warriors in that one since they’re hosting the Aztecs at home on the island.)

Sun Belt EastAppalachian State (App State struggled with Georgia State for a quarter or so on Saturday but then pulled away to take a big step towards another division championship.  The Mountaineers now just need to knock off lowly Texas State and Troy to earn a trip to the Sun Belt title game.)

Sun Belt WestUL-Lafayette (The Ragin’ Cajuns have a one game lead in the division standings and because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Arkansas State, Lafayette just needs to knock off either Troy or UL-Monroe to win the Sun Belt’s West Division and set up a likely rematch with Appalachian State.) 

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