NCAA – Power Five Conference Championships (UPDATED)

With the final “regular” season weekend upon us in college football, there are still some teams that are fighting for a berth in their conference championship games.

In the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the College Football Playoff (CFB) determines the champion after a four-team playoff, whose placement is determined by the CFB rankings. Teams are fighting through the regular season to compete for a berth in the “New Year’s Six” (NY6) bowl games – the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Peach Bowl – two of which host the national semifinals on a rotating basis (this season’s semifinals are the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl, for example).

At least it’s better than the BCS

The NY6 bowls use the bowl rankings to place the clubs in the semifinal, and the bowls that aren’t hosting the semifinals get their choice from the teams in the rankings. They typically chose from the Top 12 in the rankings, though they have been required to choose from outside the top 12 if a surprising team wins a conference championship.

As of today, this is what the Top 12 in the bowl rankings look like:

  1. Alabama (11-0)
  2. Clemson (11-0)
  3. Notre Dame (11-0)
  4. Michigan (10-1)
  5. Georgia (10-1)
  6. Oklahoma (10-1)
  7. LSU (9-2)
  8. Washington State (10-1)
  9. UCF (11-0)
  10. Ohio State (10-1)
  11. Florida (8-3)
  12. Penn State (8-3)

Chances are, not all 12 of these teams will qualify for the NY6. They could lose this weekend, or in the conference championship next week, which will shuffle the rankings a bit. Plus, in a few of the Power 5 Conferences – whose champions are guaranteed a NY6 berth – teams below the top 12 could win their way to the NY6 by claiming their conference title. Plus, two teams currently in the top 12 – Notre Dame and UCF – either don’t belong to a conference (Notre Dame) or are in a “Group of Five” conference (UCF). If they finish the season undefeated, they will most likely qualify for a NY6, with a 12-0 Notre Dame team probably ending up in the semifinal.

With all that said, I wanted to take a look at how the Power Five conferences are currently shaking out. Of the ten participants in those conferences’ championship games, only six seven spots have been claimed, with games this weekend determining the other fourthree spots. A couple of teams that have clinched spots will most likely need to win those championship games to make a NY6 bowl; otherwise they will end up in one of the other 34 bowl games.

Here’s how the Power Five conferences currently stand, and how the games this weekend will impact the championship games next weekend (already qualified teams are in bold). CFP rankings for teams outside the top 12 are also included:

Atlantic Coast Conference:

Atlantic DivisionClemson (11-0, 8-0 in conference) has clinched division title
Coastal DivisionPittsburgh (7-4, 6-1) has clinched division title (ranked 24th in latest CFP rankings)

Championship Game – Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, NC), 1 December 2018, 8:00pm EST

Note: A Clemson win in the championship game would be their fourth in a row; this is Pittsburgh’s first trip to the ACC championship game.

Big Ten Conference:

East Division – Ohio State (11-1, 8-1) has clinched a share of the division title and the berth in the Championship game.

Michigan (10-1, 8-0) have clinched at least a share of the title; can claim outright with win against Ohio State (game played at Ohio State on 24 November 2018 at 12:00pm EST). Ohio State (10-1, 7-1) can clinch share of division and berth in championship game with a win against Michigan. UPDATE: Ohio State defeated Michigan 62-39 to clinch the division title and win their 7th straight against Michigan.

West DivisionNorthwestern (7-4, 7-1) has clinched division title and berth in championship game (19th in CFP rankings)

Championship Game – Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN), 1 December 2018, 8:00pm EST

Note: This is Northwestern’s first appearance in the Big Ten Championship game; Ohio State has three appearances (and two wins, including last season), while Michigan has never appeared in the title game.

Big 12 Conference:

No divisions here, but the top two teams advance to play in the title game. No teams have clinched yet. UPDATE: With Texas’ win over Kansas, they have qualified for the conference championship game. UPDATE 2: Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 59-56 to clinch the number one seed in the championship game.

Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1)
(9-3, 7-2) (14th in CFP rankings)

Two teams can still join Texas in the title game next weekend:

  • Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1)
  • West Virginia (8-2, 6-2) (13th in CFP rankings)

Texas plays first and needs to win against Kansas (12:00pm from Lawrence, Kansas) to stay alive for the championship berth. Texas won 24-17 to clinch a spot in the Championship.

Oklahoma and West Virginia face off tonight in Morgantown. If Oklahoma wins, they are in, and will be the #1 seed in a game against Texas.

If West Virginia wins, all three clubs tie at 7-2 in the conference, and West Virginia and Texas would qualify for the championship game because they both beat Oklahoma. West Virginia would be the #1 seed due to an earlier win against Texas.

Championship Game – AT&T Stadium (Arlington, TX), 1 December 2018, 12:00pm EST

Note: This is the second time since 2010 (when there were 12 teams in the conference) that the league is decided by a championship game. In last season’s game, Oklahoma defeated TCU 41-17.

Pac-12 Conference:

North Division: Washington (9-3, 7-2) (16th in CFP rankings) clinched the division and the berth in the championship game.

Washington State (10-2, 7-2) has clinched at least a share of the division and will clinch a berth in the championship game with a win against Washington in the Apple Cup (game played at Washington State 23 November 2018, 8:30pm EST). Washington (8-3, 6-2) (16th in CFP rankings) can clinch a share of the division and a berth in the championship game with a win over Washington State. UPDATE: Washington defeated Washington State 28-15 to win the Apple Cup and clinch the division title. Washington State should stay in the top 12 of the CFP rankings and clinch a spot in a NY6 bowl, however.

South DivisionUtah (8-3, 6-3) (17th in CFP rankings) has clinched the division and the berth in the championship game.

Championship Game – Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA, 30 November 2018, 8:00pm EST

Notes: This will be Utah’s first appearance in the championship game. Washington has played in one championship game, winning back in 2016 against Colorado. Washington State has never played in the championship game. Utah lost to both North division contenders during the season.

Southeastern Conference (SEC):

East DivisionGeorgia (11-1, 7-1) has clinched the division and the berth in the championship game.

West DivisionAlabama (11-0, 7-0) has clinched the division and the berth in the championship game.

Championship Game – Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, GA), 1 December 2018, 4:00pm EST

Notes: Alabama is the defending national champion. This will be Alabama’s 12th appearance in the championship game, and they have seven wins. Georgia is the defending SEC champion (they defeated Auburn last season), and this will be their 7th appearance overall, with three titles. Georgia’s only loss on the season was to LSU (a 36-16 loss), while Alabama beat LSU 29-0.

We’ll update how things look for championship weekend next week, as well as take a look at the non-NY6 bowl games after next weekend. Way back at the beginning of the season, I thought another Alabama national championship was inevitable, but it will still be settled on the field at Levi’s Stadium on 7 January 2019.

Until next time…

Last Update: 24 November 2018, 12:30pm EST

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