For the thirteenth consecutive 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 which will be published within the next couple of days, 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 5, 2022.
ACC Atlantic– Clemson (The Tigers clinched the ACC Atlantic by virtue of Syracuse’s loss to Pittsburgh. With that being said, it was still a bad Saturday for Clemson, as they likely had their national championship hopes dashed with an ugly loss in South Bend.)
ACC Coastal– North Carolina (Don’t get me wrong, the Tar Heels are playing good football right now, but they are basically going to win this dumpster fire of a division by default. They now have a de facto 3 game lead on the rest of the field since they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Duke. Thus, all they need to do to clinch a spot in the ACC title game is one more conference game again either Wake, Georgia Tech, or NC State.)
Big 12– TCU/Texas (The Horned Frogs appear to be in great shape to clinch one of the two Big 12 title game spots, as they have a two game lead over the rest of the league with only three games left in the season. However, they also have to play two of the three teams tied for second place in the league, Baylor and Texas, on the road in the next two weeks. so they certainly have a lot of work to do still. I think ultimately the Frogs will split those two games and then beat Iowa State at home in its finale to get one of the two Big 12 title game spots. The second title game spot is entirely up for grabs, but after this road win in Manhattan on Saturday, I am picking Texas to find a way to AT & T stadium in December. )
Big Ten East– Ohio State (As usual, the Buckeyes and Wolverines appear to be on a collision course for their annual de facto Big Ten East title game on rivalry weekend. This year, I give Ohio State the edge in that one since the game is Columbus home, so I think the Buckeyes will ultimately arrive in Indianapolis with a perfect 12-0 record.)
Big Ten West– Illinois (Despite their upset loss to Michigan State on Saturday, the Illini are still in prime position to win the Big Ten West. They still have a game lead on the rest of the field, and a home win against Purdue next weekend would give them the head-to-head tiebreaker over all of their closest division challengers. That tiebreaker could end up being huge, as Illinois is likely to drop their second to last game of the season at Michigan.)
Pac-12– Oregon/Southern Cal (The Ducks are rolling right now, but they still have three tricky games to end the season, vs. Washington, vs. Utah, and at Oregon State. I am predicting all three of those games to be fairly close, but I am picking Oregon to win all three and earn the first spot in the Pac-12 title game. The second spot will likely be decided by the epic November 19th clash between USC and UCLA. I am picking the Trojans to ultimately edge out the Bruins in the Rose Bowl and earn a date against the Ducks on December 2nd with the winner potentially earning a College Football Playoff bid.)
SEC East– Georgia (The Bulldogs took a commanding lead in the SEC East race with their dominant win over the Vols on Saturday. All they need to do now is beat either Mississippi State or Kentucky in the new two weeks to clinch the division crown. With that being said, both of those teams are good and both contests are on the road, so the Dawgs still have some work to do. I am going to predict that Georgia actually gets upset in one of those two contests, but definitely not both.)
SEC West– LSU (Shockingly, LSU controls its own destiny in the SEC West by virtue of their upset win over Bama on Saturday night. They do finish the season with two tricky road games, at Arkansas and at Texas A & M, but they will likely only need to win one of those two contests, as I think Ole Miss will lose to either Bama, Arkansas, or Miss. State.)
American– Cincinnati/Tulane (There is a lot more parity in the AAC title race this year than there usually is, as there is no dominant unbeaten team from this league in 2022 like there usually is. Tulane is the current frontrunner, but they have to play both of the teams right behind them in the standings, Cincinnati and UCF, in the final three weeks of the season. I am going to call for the Green Wave to split those games with a win at home against UCF and a road loss to Cincy. If that happens and both Cincy and Tulane win the rest of their remaining games, then we’ll have an immediate rematch situation in which the Bearcats and Wave will play each other in Nippert Stadium during both rivalry weekend and championship weekend.
Conference USA– UTSA/North Texas (The C-USA has scrapped divisions, like several other leagues have done, and now pit their top two teams in the league against one another in their conference title game. The Roadrunners are the only team unbeaten in league play and have a de facto two game lead over the rest of the conference by virtue or their head-to-head win over the Mean Green. Thus, they can clinch the first spot in the Conference USA title game by just winning two of their final three games: vs. UTEP, at Rice, vs. Louisiana Tech. North Texas will likely be able to earn the second spot in league championship by simply beating either UAB or Rice down the streatch. I believe the Mean Green will lose on the road to the Blazers next Saturday, but their late week 13 bye week should given them enough preparation time to take care of Rice at home in the season finale.)
MAC East– Ohio (Buffalo, Bowling Green, and Ohio find themselves currently deadlocked in a three way tie atop the MAC East division standings and ultimately the only three teams still in the running for this division title. The Bobcats own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bulls, and the Bulls have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Falcons, so only Ohio is in control of its own destiny for the division crown. I am going to pick the Bobcats to win their last three games: at Ball State and Miami-OH and at home vs. Bowling Green in the finale, to clinch this division, though none of those games down the stretch will be easy. Keep in mind that Ohio has still now won a conference title since 1968, and wouldn’t it be wild if they finally won the MAC in a year they were predicted to finish near the bottom of the league.)
MAC West– Toledo (While the MAC East is still fairly wide open, the MAC West race can be clinched in the next few days. If Toledo beats Ball State on Tuesday and Northern Illinois knocks off Western Michigan on Wednesday, then the Rockets will clinch the MAC West. If Ball State does spring the road upset on Tuesday, then they will become the division frontrunners but would still likely have to beat both Ohio and Miami-OH down the stretch to hold off Toledo.)
MWC Mountain– Boise State (The Broncos have had a strange season in that they are undefeated in league play but experienced upset losses in all three of their non-conference games against FBS opposition. Nevertheless, Boise controls its own destiny in this division title race and should be favored in two weeks in Laramie for what should be a de facto division title game against Wyoming.)
MWC West– Fresno State (The Bulldogs and Spartans of San Jose State are tied atop the West Division standings of the Mountain West, but Fresno owns the tiebreaker by virtue of their head-to-win over SJSU on October 15th. Both teams have some challenging games down the stretch, but I am going to pick the Bulldogs to hold off both the State schools of San Jose and San Diego to win this division title.
Sun Belt East– Coastal Carolina (The Chants took a huge step towards playing in their first Sun Belt conference championship game with their huge win over App on Thursday night. Coastal has a one game lead in the East division standings, and assuming both teams win out, then the Dukes of James Madison and the Chanticleers will meet on rivalry weekend in a de facto division title game.
Sun Belt West– Troy (The Trojans sit atop the Sun Belt West standings with a 5-1 record that should probably be 6-0 due to the fact their only league loss coming as a result of a flukey hail mary by App State on the final play of the game. Troy also has the head-to-head tiebreaker over both Southern Miss and South Alabama, so as long as they can knock off lowly Monroe and Arkansas State down the stretch, then they will win this division.
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 16 division/conference championship races:
- Big 12 (between TCU, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, Kansas, and Oklahoma State,)
- Pac-12 (between Oregon, Utah, Southern Cal, and UCLA)
- Big Ten East (between Ohio State and Michigan)
- SEC West (between, LSU, Ole Miss, and Alabama)
- AAC (between Tulane, UCF, SMU, East Carolina, and Houston)
- Big Ten West (between Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa, and Minnesota)
- MAC East (between Buffalo, Ohio, and Bowling Green)
- Conference USA (between UTSA, North Texas, Western Kentucky, Rice, Florida Atlantic, and Rice)
- Sun Belt East (Coastal Carolina and James Madison)
- MWC Mountain (between Boise State, Wyoming, and Utah State)
- MWC West (between Fresno State, San Jose State, and San Diego State)
- SEC East (between Georgia and Tennessee)
- Sun Belt West (Troy, Southern Miss, and South Alabama)
- MAC West (between Toledo and Ball State)
- ACC Coastal (between North Carolina, Duke, and Georgia Tech)
- ACC Atlantic (already clinched by Clemson)