Conference Championship Analysis- Week 12 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 20, 2021.

ACC AtlanticClemson (My longshot pick for the Tigers to finagle their way back to the ACC Title game continues to chug forward.  Clemscum is now in the clubhouse with a 6-2 final record in ACC play, and all they need to do to clinch the division is have Wake lose a tough road game at BC and NC State lose to UNC, something they have done a lot of in recent years.  As soon as Clemson squeaked by Louisville two weeks ago, I said I think Clemson is going to find a way to win this division, and I still think that is the case– but God, I hope not.)

ACC Coastal Pittsburgh (I picked Pitt to be my surprise team in the ACC this season, as I thought they would finish 2nd place in the ACC Coastal behind only Miami.  Well, the Panthers have exceeded even my lofty expectations for them as they have now clinched the ACC Coastal championship with their win over Virginia on Saturday.  Truly an amazing story.)  

Big 12Oklahoma/Oklahoma State (The Cowboys have become the first team to officially clinch a berth in the Big 12 title game as a result of their surprisingly dominant victory over Texas Tech on Saturday.  They will be joined by Oklahoma if the Sooners knock off the Cowboys in Bedlam next Saturday, but if Oklahoma falters and Baylor beats Texas Tech next weekend, then it will be the Bears playing OK State for the conference crown in two weeks. I am predicting the Sooners to continue their dominant run over the Cowboys next Saturday to set up an immediate Bedlam rematch in the Big 12 Championship Game.) 

Big Ten EastOhio State (The Buckeyes and Wolverines will play a de facto Big Ten East championship next Saturday in Ann Arbor, and even though Michigan is the home team, you got to pick OSU to win that one based on their recent domination of their rivals from the North.) 

Big Ten West–  Wisconsin (The Big Ten West joins the ACC Atlantic with having as many as three different teams that can still win its division championship with just one weekend to play.  The Badgers will clinch with a victory over Minnesota next Saturday.  Iowa will win the division title with a victory over Nebraska and a Minnesota win over Wisky.  Finally, Minnesota can still claim the Big West crown with a win over Wisconsin, an Iowa loss to Nebraska, and a Purdue victory over Indiana.  I am picking the first of these scenarios to come to fruition, as the Badgers should beat the Gophers for the 17th time in 18 years to clinch their fifth Big Ten West crown in the past seven seasons.)  

Pac-12 North– Oregon (Despite their blowout loss in Salt Lake City on Saturday, the Ducks still control their own destiny for the Pac-12 North Championship.  They can clinch the division crown with a home victory over Oregon State next weekend, which I believe they will do without too much trouble next Saturday. If the Ducks do falter, then Oregon State will win the division if Washington wins the Apple Cup over Wazzu on Friday.  If Washington State and Oregon State both win next weekend, there will be a three-way tie atop the Pac-12 North standings, and the Cougars of Wazzu will advance to the Pac-12 title game by virtue of their intra-division record.)

Pac-12 SouthUtah (The Utes became the first team to clinch a berth into the Pac-12 Championship Game as a result of their dominant win over Oregon on Saturday night.  Utah could very well be meeting up with the Ducks again in a Pac-12 title game rematch in two weeks. )

SEC EastGeorgia 

SEC WestAlabama (The SEC title game of the century is on, as the Tide clinched a berth in the SEC Championship against Georgia with their victory over Arkansas on Saturday afternoon.)  

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AmericanCincinnati/Houston (It is all set now!  The AAC became the first conference to finalize their title game as Cincinnati clinched the second spot in the AAC Championship Game with their dominant win over SMU on Saturday.  Assuming Cincy gets by ECU on the road next weekend, then the American Conference Championsihp Game will be played in Nippert Stadium and have College Football Playoff implications.  Guess who picked this matchup way back in the preseason?)

C-USA EastMarshall (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 will meet Western Kentucky in a de facto division championship game next Saturday and because that game will be played Huntington, I am picking Marshall to beat WKU and earn a surprise berth to their second straight conference championship game. 

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 thanks to their miraculous win over UAB on Saturday, UTSA has officially clinched a division crown.  What a magical season it has been for Jeff Traylor’s group.)  

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 two teams will play each other in the de facto division title game next Saturday, and I am picking the Redhawks to pull off the upset on the road and earn a berth to the MAC title game.)

MAC WestNorthern Illinois (Thanks to their thrilling overtime win over Buffalo on Wednesday night, Thomas Hammock’s Cinderella Huskies have clinched the MAC West crown!   This is truly an incredible 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.)

MWC MountainUtah State (As a result of Wyoming’s upset over the Aggies on Saturday we now have a three-way tie atop the division standings with Boise State, Utah, State, and Air Force all sitting 5-2 with one conference game left to play.  If all three teams win next weekend, then the Falcons will claim the Mountain Division championship by having the better division record than Utah State and the head-to-head win over Boise.  However, I am picking Boise State to lose their season finale at San Diego State next Friday, which would then give Utah State a surprise division championship assuming they can get past the lowly Lobos of New Mexico in a game also scheduled for Friday.)

MWC WestSan Diego State (The Aztecs survived a road scare from UNLV on Saturday to hang on to their one game lead over Fresno State in the Mountain West’s Western Division.  SDSU will have a difficult season finale next Friday against Boise, but because they are hosting that one, I am picking the Aztecs to win that one and hold off Fresno for the division crown.) 

Sun Belt EastAppalachian State (By virtue of their victory over Troy, the Appalachian State Mountaineers have clinched the Sun Belt East championship and get a rematch with UL-Lafayette in the conference title game.)    

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 rankings of all 18 division/conference championship races as we enter the last week of the season:

  1. ACC Atlantic (between NC State, Wake Forest, and Clemson)
  2. Big Ten East (between Ohio State and Michigan)
  3. Big 12 (between Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Baylor)
  4. Big Ten West (between Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa)
  5. Pac-12 North (between Oregon, Washington State, and Oregon State)
  6. MWC Mountain (between Utah St., Air Force, and Boise State)
  7. Conference USA East (between Marshall and Western Kentucky)
  8. MWC West (between San Diego State and Fresno State)
  9. MAC East (between Kent State and Miami-OH)
  10. MAC West (already clinched by Northern Illinois)
  11. Conference USA West (already clinched by UTSA) 
  12. Pac-12 South (already clinched by Utah)
  13. SEC West (already clinched by Alabama)
  14. ACC Coastal (already clinched by Pittsburgh)
  15. Sun Belt East (already clinched by Appalachian State)
  16. American (already clinched by Cincinnati and Houston)
  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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