College football’s regular season is coming down the final stretch, which means it is crunch time in the conference and division championship races. Not every team is playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but everybody seems to have some impact on the new postseason format.
The Big 12 may lack a conference championship, but it sure does still provide plenty of drama in the final weeks of the season. Baylor and TCU are battling for a potential College Football Playoff spot with identical records, which has sparked plenty of debate over the past couple of weeks. If the two end the year with the same conference record, it will be Baylor being recognized as the conference champion due to a head-to-head victory over the Horned Frogs earlier this season.
The American Athletic Conference lacks a conference championship game as well, for now, but it is up for grabs between Memphis, Cincinnati and UCF. East Carolina is not out of the running yet either. Memphis is in great shape with a head-to-head victory over Cincinnati and no East Carolina or UCF on the schedule. Win the final two games, and Memphis will win the division crown.
In the Sun Belt, FBS newcomer Georgia Southern is one win away from clinching at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship. Louisiana-Lafayette can tie for the crown with wins in the final two games of the season. Lafayette could win it with Georgia Southern losing to Louisiana-Monroe.
There is plenty of confusion over the various division races in other conferences though, so let’s take some time to review each as simply as we can.
Florida State has clinched the Atlantic Division and will play in the ACC Championship Game. The Coastal Division can be won by either Duke or Georgia Tech.
Duke takes the Coastal Division with wins against North Carolina and Wake Forest. If Duke loses either game, Georgia Tech will win the Coastal Division.
Ohio State needs to win one of its final two games to clinch the Big Ten East division. Michigan State can win the division if the Spartans win their remaining games and Ohio State loses its final two games. Count on the Buckeyes going to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game.
The Big Ten West is slightly more complicated. Wisconsin can wrap up the division with wins against Iowa and Minnesota. Wisconsin plays Iowa this weekend and Minnesota next so the Badgers can take matters into their own hands. If Wisconsin loses both games, then Nebraska, Iowa or Minnesota can win the division by winning the final two games of the season. Nebraska plays Minnesota and Iowa in its final two games. Iowa would also need Nebraska or Wisconsin to beat Minnesota on top of winning its final two games and seeing Wisconsin lose twice.
Oregon has already been locked into the Pac-12 Championship Game and is now awaiting the Pac-12 South champion to be determined. This one is about as confusing as the Big Ten West Division, unless UCLA wins its final two games against USC and Stanford. If UCLA wins both games, the Bruins will win the Pac-12 South crown.
Arizona, Arizona State and Utah all need to win their final two games and have UCLA lose at least once to have a chance. USC can win the division too with a win over the Bruins and one Arizona State loss. Arizona must win out and have UCLA lose twice. Arizona State can take it with wins in the final two games and a USC win over UCLA. UCLA can still win with a loss in either of its final two games if Arizona and Arizona State each lose a game.
Utah is still in the conversation but the Utes need lots of breaks in order to take advantage of the deep tiebreaker scenarios in the Pac-12. In order to get that far, Utah must win its final two games against Arizona and Colorado. Then, UCLA needs to beat USC but lose to Stanford. In addition, Utah will need Arizona to beat Arizona State to set up a five-team tie for the Pac-12 South. But this is a lot to ask considering the games remaining.
Both divisions in the SEC are undecided with time winding down. The East is simple to figure out, with Georgia being done with SEC play. Missouri has two SEC games left to play. If the Tigers lose either game, then Georgia goes to Atlanta to represent the SEC East. If Missouri wins its final two games, the Tigers return to the SEC Championship Game for a second straight season.
The SEC West has a few more teams in the mix, but Alabama has control. A win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl gives Alabama the SEC West championship. But if Auburn wins, then Mississippi State or Ole Miss can win the division if either team wins its final two games. Mississippi State and Ole Miss will play in the Egg Bowl over Thanksgiving weekend, so the pressure is on this week to win and stay in the running. Mississippi State hosts Vanderbilt and Ole Miss travels to Arkansas. Alabama owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Mississippi State, but Ole Miss owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Alabama and could add a tiebreaker against Mississippi State to clinch a head-to-head-to-head tiebreaker if needed.
Marshall has clinched the East Division in Conference USA even if the Thundering Herd collapse for two straight losses. Marshall owns a tiebreaker over Middle Tennessee, so the Herd will play for the Conference USA title. They will likely play Louisiana Tech out of the West Division. Louisiana Tech needs one win to clinch the division with two games to play at Old Dominion and home against Rice.
Mountain West Conference
Everything is up for grabs in the Mountain West Conference. Everything. The Mountain Division is down to Boise State, Colorado State, Utah State and Air Force. To keep things simple, if Boise State wins its final two games, the Broncos will play in the conference championship game. Utah State can win the division with wins in its final two games and a Colorado State loss. Colorado State can win the division by winning its remaining games and Boise State losing once. Air Force can sneak in with wins in its final two games and a Boise State loss and two Utah State losses. Air Force is on the very outside looking in, but they are not eliminated.
The West Division is only slightly easier to figure out.
Nevada can win the division with wins in the final two games. Nevada and Fresno State play this week. The winner of that game can claim the division with a regular-season finale victory regardless of what San Diego State does. Both Nevada and Fresno State own head-to-head tiebreakers against San Diego State. The Aztecs can win the division with wins in its final two games and if Nevada and Fresno State each lose once. Hawaii can end the year in a four-way tie for first place, but the Warriors have losses to San Diego State and Nevada that would keep them out of the division championship mix under even the best case scenarios.
Last, but certainly not least, the MAC Championship Game already has one division champion ready. Bowling Green returns to the MAC Championship Game to defend its title after clinching the East Division last week. The MAC West is still to be determined between Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan. Central Michigan is also in the mix. If NIU wins its final two games, the Huskies will be going back to Detroit to play for revenge against Bowling Green in a MAC championship rematch. Western Michigan is in with two wins and a Toledo loss. Toledo is in with two wins and a loss by Western Michigan and NIU. Central Michigan gets in with wins against Western Michigan and NIU losing once and Toledo losing twice.
Got all that?
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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