Conference Championship Analysis- Week 11 Edition

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, 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 12, 2022.

ACC AtlanticClemson 

ACC Coastal North Carolina (The Heels were one of my preseason surprise picks for this season, but they even exceeded my expectations with this impressive run to the ACC title game.)  

Big 12TCU/Kansas State (The Horned Frogs have clinched the first spot in Dallas for the Big 12 championship game, and I believe they will be joined by another surprise team that wears purple, as K-State controls their own destiny for the second spot in this title game.  If the Wildcats somehow stumble either at West Virginia or Kansas, then Texas will be in the best position to capture that second title game bid.)

Big Ten EastOhio State (No matter what happens next weekend, the OSU/Michigan game will decide the Big Ten East champion for a second consecutive season.  I gotta give the Buckeyes the edge in that one since they will be playing at home, but that should nevertheless be a fascinating contest.)

Big Ten WestPurdue (Illinois seemed to have this division on lock a couple of weeks ago, but after back-to-back upset losses at home, Illinois has seemed to let its opportunity for a shocking division title slip away.  There is now a four-way tie atop the Big Ten West standings between Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, and the Boilermakers have by far the easiest remaining schedule  with matchups against league bottom-dwellers Northwestern and Indiana.  Iowa does own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Purdue, but the Hawkeys will likely be an underdog next weekend at Minnesota.  As long as the Golden Gophers take care of business there, then Purdue should win this division title just as I predicted in the preseason!)  

Pac-12– Oregon/Southern Cal (This league title race got wild on Saturday after both Oregon and UCLA got upset at home in dramatic fashion.  Now, there is essentially a three-way tie atop the league standings between Southern Cal, Oregon, and Utah, with UCLA and Washington sitting a game back.  Despite the chaos, I am going to stick with my preseason pick and my pick in this column from last week and call for USC and Oregon to meet in the Pac-12 title game.  That is because I am still predicting that the Ducks knock off both Utah and Oregon State down the stretch and for USC to beat UCLA next Saturday.  Unfortunately, none of these games will be as big as they previously seemed, as Southern Cal is the only Pac-12 team with a realistic shot at a CFP bid at this point.)

SEC EastGeorgia (The Bulldogs took care of business in Starkville in the one regular game season that I predicted them to lose.  They have now clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game, and I am sure they are ecstatic that they won’t have to play Bama when they get there.)

SEC WestLSU (The Tigers came out of nowhere over the course of the last month to clinch this division title.  Now, they can become the first two-loss team to crack the College Football Playoff field if they can beat UAB, Texas A & M, and Georgia in the final three weeks of the season.)


AmericanUCF/Cincinnati  (We now have a three way tie atop the American between UCF, Cincinnati, and Tulane, with SMU and Houston sitting a game behind those three squads.  The Knights of UCF have the advantage here because they have the easiest remaining schedule (vs. Navy, at USF), as well as the head-to-head tiebreaker over Cincinnati, Tulane, and SMU.  Thus, I believe UCF will win out to get the first bid to the AAC championship game.  Then, if Tulane and Cincnnati can both take care of business next weekend, they will play each other in the regular season finale for the second bid to this title game.  I have got to give the Bearcats the edge there, especially since that game is Nippert, so I think we’ll ultimately end up with a title game featuring this league’s two biggest powerhouse programs: UCF and Cincinnati.)

Conference USAUTSA/North Texas (The Roadrunners have officially clinched a spot in the C-USA title game by virtue of their win this Saturday over UTEP, coupled with North Texas’ loss to UAB.  The second spot in this conference championship game is still up for grabs, as North Texas, Western Kentucky, and Florida Atlantic are all essentially tied for second place with two conference losses.  The Mean Green, however, beat both of those teams head-to-head so all they need to do is knock off Rice in week 13 to claim the second spot in the Conference USA Championship Game.  If North Texas does somehow stumble in that one and the Owls of Florida Atlantic can beat Middle Tennessee next weekend, then FAU and Western Kentucky will play each other in a de facto C-USA championship play-in game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.)  

MAC EastOhio (The Bobcats took a huge step towards a division crown this week when they beat Miami-OH on the road on Tuesday and then saw the two other division title contenders, Buffalo, and Bowling Green, lose.  Ohio can in fact go ahead and clinch the MAC East next week if they knock off Ball State and Bowling Green loses to Toledo.   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 WestToledo (The Rockets have officially clinched their first division title in five years!) 

MWC MountainBoise State (The Broncos will play the Cowboys of Wyoming next Saturday in Laramie in what could be a de facto division title game.  Boise will clinch the division with a win in that one, but even if they do somehow lose that contest, they can still get into the Mountain West Championship Game if Wyoming were to lose the following weekend at Fresno and Boise simultaneously knocked off Utah State.)

MWC WestFresno State (The Bulldogs are now a game ahead of both San Diego State and San Jose State in the MWC West standings by virtue of their win over UNLV this weekend. They also own the head-to-head tiebreaker over both the Spartans and Aztecs, so all Fresno needs to do is beat either Nevada or Wyoming in the final two weeks of the season to earn a spot in the Mountain West Title Game.)

Sun Belt EastCoastal Carolina (The Chants took another huge step towards a division title with another nail biting victory, this time over Southern Miss, on Saturday night.  Coastal can clinch the Sun Belt East next weekend if James Madison loses to Georgia State, but if the Dukes win, then Coastal and JMU will be play a de facto division title game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.)

Sun Belt WestTroy (The Trojans of Troy and the Jaguars of South Alabama remain tied atop the Sun Belt West standings, but Troy owns the head-to-head tiebreaker between the two and has the much easier schedule to end the season.  As long as the Trojans can knock off off lowly Monroe and Arkansas State over the course of the next two weeks, then they will win this division and earn a spot in the Sun Belt Championship Game.)


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:

  1. Big 12 (between TCU, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State,)
  2. Pac-12 (between Oregon, Utah, Southern Cal, Washington, and UCLA)
  3. Big Ten East (between Ohio State and Michigan)
  4. AAC (between Tulane, UCF, SMU, Cincinnati, and Houston)
  5. Big Ten West (between Illinois, Purdue, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin)
  6. Sun Belt East (Coastal Carolina and James Madison)
  7. MAC East (between Buffalo, Ohio, and Bowling Green)
  8. Conference USA (between UTSA, North Texas, Western Kentucky, and Florida Atlantic)
  9. MWC Mountain (between Boise State, Wyoming, and Utah State)
  10. Sun Belt West (Troy and South Alabama)
  11. MWC West (between Fresno State, San Jose State, and San Diego State)
  12. SEC West (already clinched by LSU)
  13. SEC East (already clinched by Georgia)
  14. ACC Coastal (already clinched by North Carolina)
  15. MAC West (already clinched by Toledo)
  16. ACC Atlantic (already clinched by Clemson)


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