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Ryan Cooper | | November 26, 2016

How each conference championship matchup was decided

  Washington beat Washington State to set up a Pac-12 Championship Game against Colorado.

The divisions are clinched, and it's time to look forward to some conference championships.

This season brought no shortage of twists and turns, a lot of questions with much fewer answers. But now the divisions are settled, and we can embark on the next week of buildup to the games that will decide who reigns supreme in each conference.

The competitors in those eight conference championship games have been decided, most of which came down to the final week of the regular season. Here is how each conference championship game came to be after the conclusion of Week 13.

American Athletic Conference


Temple and South Florida each sit atop the AAC East with 7-1 records. However, USF’s one loss came against the one team it could not afford to lose to, a 46-30 defeat by Temple a few weeks ago. As such, the Owls held the tiebreaker and only needed to win at home against a last-place East Carolina team, and the Owls did just that, winning 37-10 to take the division. They could have clinched earlier in the day, but USF was able to hold down the fort against UCF.


6-1 Navy already clinched the division with a win over East Carolina last week thanks to head-to-head wins over both Houston and Tulsa.

Atlantic Coast Conference


No. 4 Clemson has already clinched the division with a 7-1 record, holding a head-to-head tiebreaker over Houston, which has the same record. Both teams play SEC opponents this week.


NC State played spoiler to its in-state rival North Carolina, allowing Virginia Tech to breathe easy on Saturday as the ACC Coastal Division champion. Virginia Tech holds the tiebreaker over the Tar Heels thanks to a blowout win earlier in the season, rendering the Hokies' game against Virginia on Saturday moot.

Big 12

There is no conference championship game, but the game that will decide the winner of the conference is still worth looking at. That will come during conference championship week on Saturday, Dec. 3 with No. 10 Oklahoma State traveling to No. 8 Oklahoma. The Sooners are 8-0 in conference play, but a loss would give them and the Cowboys identical 8-1 records, giving the Cowboys the tiebreaker.

Big Ten


Penn State is heading to the Big Ten Championship Game after a Saturday that needed two things to go right. Ohio State helped the Nittany Lions out by beating Michigan in double overtime, leaving Penn State to control its own destiny. The Nittany Lions took it from there, shaking off a slow first half to top Michigan State and take the East.


Nebraska needed a win and Wisconsin loss at Minnesota on Saturday in order to clinch the Big Ten West. Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, they couldn't complete their part of the deal, getting throttled 40-10 by Iowa. Therefore, by virtue of tiebreaker, No. 6 Wisconsin clinched the division and a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. For good measure, Wisconsin beat Minnesota to put a stamp on the division title.

Conference USA


Thanks to the Hilltoppers blowing out Old Dominion last month and handing the Monarchs their only loss in conference play, Western Kentucky controlled its own destiny in the final week of the regular season, just needing a win over Marshall. The Hilltoppers did not mess around, exploding to a 41-0 halftime lead and winning easily to punch its ticket to the conference championship.


Louisiana Tech wrapped up the division last week by blowing out Texas San Antonio, giving the 6-1 Bulldogs a two-game lead in the division, but really three games when the tiebreaker is factored in.

Mid-American Conference


Due to the MAC’s tradition of midweek games, the winner of the division was decided Tuesday night with Ohio beating Akron 9-3 to clinch the East with a 6-2 record. That mark was identical to the one of Miami (Ohio), but the Bobcats held the tiebreaker with a win in the first week of MAC play.


The West division came down to a game with Toledo visiting Western Michigan, but the Broncos were simply too much for the Rockets. Western Michigan put the finishing touches on a perfect regular season, beating Toledo 55-35 to advance to the MAC Championship Game, where only Ohio stands in the way of a New Year's Six spot.

Mountain West


Boise State could not get past Air Force on Friday, handing Wyoming the Mountain Division title before it even had to take the field against New Mexico a day later. Each team came in with one loss in conference play, but the Broncos' loss came to the Cowboys, giving Wyoming the tiebreaker. Therefore, Boise State's second loss clinched the division for Wyoming.


San Diego State was the first team to clinch a division nationally, wrapping up the West a few weeks ago. The Aztecs hold a ridiculous three-game lead, or four when factoring in the tiebreaker.



Washington put the foot on the pedal early and didn't let go, scoring four touchdowns in the first quarter to beat Washington State 45-17 in a winner-take-all contest Friday for the Pac-12 North.


With second-place Southern California done with Pac-12 play, the pressure was completely on Colorado to close out the division. The Buffaloes survived their first challenge in Week 12 by beating Washington State, but the road did not get any easier against No. 22 Utah, with a loss giving USC the tiebreaker and division title. However, Colorado was cool under pressure and beat the Utes in a good one, setting up a Pac-12 Championship Game with a lot of potential.

Southeastern Conference


No. 15 Florida’s goal-line stand against LSU last week clinched the division for the two-loss Gators, who are done with conference play and thus cannot be caught by three-loss Tennessee, which holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.


Top-ranked Alabama’s 7-0 SEC record has already clinched the division, making this week’s Iron Bowl against Auburn for nothing but pride and rankings purposes.

Sun Belt

The Sun Belt is the other conference with the Big 12 that does not play a championship game. There are still two more games to be played in conference play, with unbeaten Arkansas State controlling its own destiny but Appalachian State and Troy right behind with one loss each. Arkansas State holds the tiebreaker with Troy but does not play Appalachian State this year.

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