Conference Championship Analysis- Week 11 Edition

For the twelfth 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 13, 2021.

ACC AtlanticClemson (My longshot pick for the Tigers to finagle their way back to the ACC Title game came to fruition this weekend.  Wake Forest beat NC State this weekend which paves the way for Clemson to find a way into the title game.  They will need to beat Wake next weekend and then have NC State lose to UNC and Wake lose at BC two weeks from now.  This scenario will leave the Tigers as the ACC Atlantic champions by virtue of their head-to-head tiebreaker over Wake Forest.)

ACC CoastalPittsburgh (Next weekend’s Pitt/Virginia matchup will go a long way in deciding this division.  Virginia would still need to beat Virginia Tech in the finale to clinch the title, but Pitt will clinch simply by beating Virginia next Saturday.  With Pitt playing at home, I am picking the Panthers to do just that.)  

Big 12Oklahoma/Oklahoma State (I venture to say that no conference has ever had a crazier weekend than the Big 12 had in Week 11, as the conference experienced three cataclysmic upsets.  It all started when Baylor beat Oklahoma to shake up the top of the Big 12 standings.  Then, Texas Tech knocked off Iowa State to obtain bowl eligibility while simultaneously crushing Iowa State’s hopes of playing in the Big 12 title game.  Those two upsets pail in comparison to the shocker we saw last night as Kansas knocked off Texas in overtime.  Oklahoma and Oklahoma State now lead the league at 6-1 and Baylor is a game back at 5-2.  I am going to pick Oklahoma to win their final two games, even though they are both tricky, to earn one spot in the Big 12 title game.  The other spot will go to OK State as I think the Pokes split their final two by beating Texas Tech and then losing to Oklahoma.  Oklahoma State would have the head to head tiebreaker over Baylor in this scenario, and Bedlam 2.0 would commence.)

Big Ten EastOhio State (The Buckeyes are currently a game ahead of both Michigan and Michigan State in the conference standings, but they do have to play both of these squads in the final two weeks of the season.  Ohio State has absolutely owned both of these teams in recent years, so I am picking the Buckeyes to win out and return to the Big Ten title game for the fifth consecutive season.) 

Big Ten West–  Wisconsin (The Badgers have won four out of the last six Big Ten West crowns, and despite their sluggish start to this season, they are in great position to make it five out of seven Big Ten West championships.  They are currently tied atop the division standings with Iowa, and because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Hawkeyes, the Badgers control their own destiny.  I think Wisconsin will win out from here with victories over Nebraska and Minnesota to clinch this division crown.)

Pac-12 North– Oregon (By virtue of their win over Wazzu on Saturday night, the Ducks have a two game lead in the Pac-12 North and just need to beat either Utah or Oregon State to win the division.  I think Oregon actually loses in Salt Lake City next weekend, but then I think they return home and defeat the Beavers to clinch the Pac-12 North title in their season finale.)

Pac-12 SouthUtah (The Utes technically have a one game lead in the Pac-12 South standings, but they really have a two game margin thanks to their head-to-head tiebreaker over Arizona State.  That means that Utah can still drop one of their final two down the stretch and still clinch a berth in the Pac-12 title game.  I think Utah actually wins both of these games, but even if the Utes lose their huge home matchup against Oregon, they will just need to beat lowly Colorado to win the Pac-12 South championship.) 

SEC EastGeorgia 

SEC WestAlabama (Thanks to Texas A & M’s loss in Oxford, Alabama just needs to win one of their final two games to clinch this division title.  Their season finale against Auburn will be tricky, but odds are the Tide go ahead and clinch their berth to the SEC title game next weekend with a win over Arkansas.)  

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AmericanCincinnati/Houston– The Cougars clinched a surprise spot in the AAC Championship Game on Saturday with their win over Temple.  Cincinnati will join them with either a win over SMU or East Carolina. As of now, I would say this is by far the most set in stone conference championship game out there, and guess who picked this matchup way back in the preseason?)

C-USA East– Marshall (I hate to brag too much about my preseason conference championship predictions, but when you are on, you are on.  It appears I may nail not just one, but both Conference USA division champs, despite neither of those squads being the consensus preseason favorite to win their division crown!  The Thundering Herd lost on Saturday to UAB, but they still just need to get by Charlotte next weekend to set up a de facto division title game vs. Western Kentucky to end their regular season.  Marshall is the home team for that affair so I will pick them to hold off the Hilltoppers for their second consecutive division crown.)  

C-USA WestUTSA (The Roadrunners from San Antonio were the team I picked to play Marshall in the conference title game in my preseason conference championship predictions, and now they stand alone atop the divisions standings with a perfect 10-0 record.  Next week, UTSA will play UAB in what is essentially a de facto division title game, as the Roadrunners will clinch the division crown with a victory and the Blazers would just need to beat UTEP at home in their finale.  UTSA is the home team for next week’s matchup so I am picking them to beat UAB in a thriller and become this year’s Conference USA West Division champion.)  

MAC EastMiami-Ohio (Another surprise preseason division championship prediction may come to fruition here, as the Redhawks are tied with the Golden Flashes of Kent State for first place in the MAC East division.  Those teams will  play each other in what is likely a de facto division title game on November 27th, but somehow Ohio, who started the season as one of the worst teams in the country, is still in the mix.  They need to win out and get some help, but thanks to Ohio’s upset over Miami this past week, they are still hanging around in the division title race.   Can you imagine if a 5-7 Ohio Bobcat squad is playing in the MAC championship game and isn’t even bowl eligible!)

MAC WestNorthern Illinois (Thanks to their dramatic win over Ball State on Wednesday night, Thomas Hammock’s Cinderella Huskies are in the driver’s seat for the MAC West crown.  This is truly an incredible Cinderella story as Northern Illinois was absolutely terrible last season, and many experts, including myself, picked them to finish last in the division this season and near the bottom of all teams in FBS.  Nevertheless, the Huskies just need to knock off either Buffalo or Western Michigan in their final two games to clinch a shocking division championship!) 

MWC MountainUtah State (So as good as some of my preseason predictions were, two teams I picked to finish in the basement of their respective divisions, the aforementioned Northern Illinois Huskies and these Aggies of Utah State, are currently in the driver’s seat of their division title races.  The Aggies are a game ahead of second place contenders Boise and Air Force and also have the easiest remaining schedule of those three teams.  I think the Aggies beat both Wyoming and New Mexico over the next two weeks to become surprise Mountain Division champions.)

MWC WestSan Diego State (We have a great three-way battle in the MWC West Division title race, as the Aztecs now have a game lead over both Fresno and Nevada in the loss column thanks to their win over the Wolf Pack on Saturday night.  Fresno has the tiebreaker over both Nevada and SDSU though, so the Aztecs really need to beat both UNLV and Boise to clinch the division crown.  The Boise game will be tough, but because it is at home, I think the Aztecs will pull it out to win a berth in the Mountain West title game.)

Sun Belt EastAppalachian State (As a result of Georgia State’s shocking upset of Coastal on Saturday, the Mountaineers just need to win one of their final two contests, at Troy and vs. Georgia Southern, to clinch the Sun Belt East.  I expect the Mountaineers to wrap up this division crown next Saturday to setup a huge rematch against the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana.)    

Sun Belt WestUL-Lafayette 

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In addition to my usual analysis above of every conference/division title race, I am going to be adding a new feature to this article this season by ranking each race based on the intrigue each provides and the importance each holds in the overall college football landscape.  Here are my initial rankings of all 18 division/conference championship races:

  1. ACC Atlantic (between NC State, Wake Forest, and Clemson)
  2. Big Ten East (between Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State)
  3. Big 12 (between Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa and Baylor)
  4. ACC Coastal (between Pitt, UVA, Miami-FL, and Virginia Tech)
  5. Big Ten West (between Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue, and Iowa)
  6. MWC Mountain (between Utah St., Air Force, and Boise State)
  7. MAC West (all teams still technically alive)
  8. MWC West (between San Diego State, Nevada, and Fresno State)
  9. Conference USA East (between Marshall and Western Kentucky)
  10. MAC East (between Kent State, Miami-OH, and Ohio)
  11. Conference USA West (between UTSA and UAB)
  12. Pac-12 South (between Utah and Arizona State)
  13. American (between Cincy, Houston, SMU, and East Carolina)
  14. Pac-12 North (between Oregon, Washington State, and Oregon State)
  15. SEC West (between Alabama and Ole Miss)
  16. Sun Belt East (between App. State, Georgia St. and Coastal Carolina)
  17. SEC East (already cliched by Georgia)
  18. Sun Belt West (already clinched by UL-Lafayette)

College Football Championship Weekend Preview - MikeDropSports

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