Who Plays in Conference Title Games and How Do Tiebreakers Work?


60 percent of the Football Bowl Subdivision Conference title game seats are picked before the last weekend of the regular season. But the other 40 percent is enough to swear off math for a while.

For every ACC or SEC that has their matchup set, there’s a Pac-12 going deep into the tiebreaker list. For every Big 12 with a clear set of scenarios, there’s an American Athletic that turns to a computer formula tiebreaker.

Here’s the full rundown on how to sift through it all while digesting a Thanksgiving feast (or the leftovers) this weekend.

College Football Playoff Ranking: LSU Holds Back USC for No. 5

ACC: No. No. 8 Clemson (10-1, 8-0) and No. 17 North Carolina (9-2, 6-1) had their divisions clinched earlier last week. They meet in Charlotte in the final ACC title game with the Atlantic and Coastal formats.

Big Ten: The East Division is easy to figure out. No. No. 3 Michigan (11-0, 8-0) and No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0) will sort that out Saturday in the Horseshoe, with the winner likely ending up locked in a playoff berth as a result.

Unsurprisingly, the West can be a mess. Iowa (7-4, 5-3) can move into the division with a win Friday at home to Nebraska. The Hawkeyes have a head-to-head tiebreaker over Purdue (7-4, 5-3), who can win the division with a win over Indiana combined with a loss in Iowa. If both Iowa and Purdue lose and Illinois (7-4, 4-4) can take on Northwestern, the Illini will go to Indianapolis.

And what if Iowa, Purdue, and Illinois all lose, which would be a whole Big Ten West thing? Iowa will claim the division.

Big 12: No. 4 TCU (11-0, 8-0) sewed up one spot. No. 12 Kansas State (8-3, 6-2) can claim the other with a win over Kansas or a loss in Texas to Baylor. No. 23 Texas (7-4, 5-3) would get a rematch of its 17-10 loss to the Horned Frogs if it beat Baylor on Friday and Kansas State falls the following night.

Pac-12: No. 6 Southern California (10-1, 8-1) finished conference play and secured a berth for the title game. No. 9 Oregon (9-2, 7-1) can join the Trojans in Las Vegas in a victory over No. 21 Oregon State.

And if the ducks stumble? They can still make it if No. 13 Washington (9-2, 6-2) loses to Washington State in the Apple Cup. The Huskies and No. 12 Utah (8-3, 6-2) still have some hope, as Pac-12 Hotline’s Jon Wilner explained.

Washington’s path includes winning his game and taking wins from Oregon State and Cal (over UCLA). Utah needs to win its game (against Colorado, so it’s probably good to go) and then let Washington, Oregon State and UCLA prevail.

There’s nothing like fourth tiebreaks to make someone’s head spin.

SEC: This one was locked up two Saturdays ago. No. No. 1 Georgia (11-0, 8-0) won the East Division again, while No. 5 LSU (9-2, 6-1) will take the West even if it loses to Texas A&M. The Tigers have a head-to-head tiebreaker over No. 7 Alabama (9-2, 5-2) in case it comes to that.

American Athletics: The winner of Friday’s Tulane-Cincinnati game wins the regular season championship and hosts the conference title game. Both teams are 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the league.

No. 22 Central Florida (8-3, 5-2) can secure second spot with a victory over South Florida (1-10, 0-7). But a Knights loss would throw things into chaos. Coupled with a Cincinnati win over Tulane, it would return the No. 19 Green Wave to No. 24 Cincinnati for the title game. Along with a win in Tulane and a loss in Houston to Tulsa, Cincinnati would travel to Tulane.

Then there’s the combination of losses at Central Florida and Cincinnati and a win at Houston that would send the Bearcats and Cougars (7-4, 5-2) to a tiebreaker in which the highest-ranked team in four computer formulas made the trip to New York. Orleans.

Conference USA: Texas San Antonio (9-2, 7-0) has earned hosting duties heading into Conference USA. (The Roadrunners are one of six C-USA schools headed to the American next season.) North Texas (6-5, 5-2) earns the other spot with a win over Rice or a loss in Western Kentucky against Florida Atlantic. Western Kentucky (7-5, 5-2) needs a win and a loss in North Texas to play for the league title.

Kickers save TCU and Michigan (college football winners and losers)

Central American: Ohio (9-3, 7-1) won the East Division thanks to Tuesday’s 38-14 defeat of Bowling Green. The Bobcats, seeking their first MAC title since 1968, will face West Division winner Toledo (7-4, 5-2) on December 3 in Detroit. Toledo has a lead over Eastern Michigan (7-4, 4-3) but holds the head-to-head tiebreak.

Mountain west: Boise State (8-3, 7-0) will receive Fresno State (7-4, 6-1) regardless of how this weekend plays out. The Broncos secured a 40-20 victory over the Bulldogs on the blue turf on October 8.

sun belt: Under other circumstances, Coastal Carolina (9-1, 6-1) would play for a division title this week at James Madison (7-3, 5-2). But with the Dukes ineligible for postseason games as part of their FBS transition, the Chanticleers will represent the East Division.

In the West, Troy (9-2, 6-1) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over South Alabama (9-2, 6-1), so the Trojans need a win (over 3-8 Arkansas State) or a loss in South -Alabama (against 3-8 Old Dominion). South Alabama needs a win and a Troy loss to secure a spot in the title game.

Five with most on the line

A look at teams with plenty to play for over Thanksgiving weekend

1. Southern California. The Trojans’ playoff path will need some help, especially in the form of a loss from at least one of the LSU or TCU in the next two weeks. But they’ll also have to do their part, meaning they face No. 15 Notre Dame (8-3) in their regular season finale. All the playoff chatter disappears when USC can’t handle an Irish team that has won eight out of nine.

Caleb Williams and USC catch a wave and ride it to a comeback victory over UCLA

2a. Ohio state and 2b. Michigan. There is an argument for placing these teams a bit lower. The cost of a loss may not even be to get bumped out of the playoffs. But whoever wins the showdown of undefeated gets an almost certain passage to the playoffs regardless of what happens in the Big Ten title game. That is quite a reward, even if the risk is not as great as for others.

3. TCU. The Horned Frogs remain in survival mode. And while that is not the case That It’s hard to imagine a scenario where TCU loses the Big 12 title game and still earns a place in the playoffs (for example, if Clemson, LSU, and Southern Cal lose at least once in the next two weeks), Sonny Dykes’ team looks no loss at home to last place Iowa State (4-7, 1-7 Big 12).

4. Clemson. While some skepticism is warranted regarding the Tigers’ resume, the fact is that a 12-1 Clemson team with an ACC title would spark some discussion for a spot in the semifinals. The Tigers can’t make it 12-1 without beating South Carolina (7-4), and the Gamecocks should have Clemson’s full attention after dropping 63 points to Tennessee in an offense that knocked the Vols out of play- offs hit.

5. Georgia. The Bulldogs can bow to their playoff berth a week early by defeating rival Georgia Tech (5-6), who have proved brave under interim coach Brent Key. Georgia ranks lower than the Big Ten undefeated for one simple reason: win or lose, it gets to play next week. The math isn’t hard: win one game to earn a spot in the semifinals and win both to clinch the No. 1 spot.

A weekly look at the race for the stiff-armed college football player’s favorite statue.

1. QB Caleb Williams, Southern California (3,480 yards, 33 TDs, three INTs passing; 316 yards, seven TDs rushing). With a big stage and facing a crosstown foe with his own conference title designs, Williams threw for 470 yards to make his strongest impression to date. He will have two more high-profile opportunities to shine – this weekend against Notre Dame and then in the Pac-12 title game. (Previous week: 3)

2. QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State (2,991 yards, 35 TDs, passing four INTs). In any other year, Stroud’s chances would likely have faded more after he accounted for one or fewer touchdowns in three of the Buckeyes’ past four games. But there is an excellent opportunity for a Heisman moment with Michigan coming to town on Saturday. (LW: 1)

3. QB Bo Nix, Oregon (3,061 yards, 25 TDs, six INTs; 509 yards, 14 TDs rushing). He clearly wasn’t much of a threat in the running game with a sore right ankle against Utah (except for a critical scoop late in the game), but he still threw for 287 yards to keep the Ducks in the Pac-12 title. pursuit. (LW: 5)

4. RB Blake Corum, Michigan (1,457 yards, 18 touchdowns rushing). The Wolverines star suffered a knee injury against Illinois last week and his standing for Ohio State’s de facto Big Ten East title game is uncertain. If he does play and he records a ninth consecutive rushing day over 100 yards, his chances of an invitation to New York will improve. (LW: 6)

5. QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (3,135 yards, 27 TDs, passing two INTs; 430 yards, five TDs rushing). The sixth-year senior’s college career ended with a torn ACL suffered in a South Carolina loss last week. He’ll still end up on some Heisman ballots – and with good reason. Hooker’s 10-plus games were better than most players’ 12 or 13. (LW: 2)

6. QB Max Duggan, TCU (2,858 yards, 26 TDs, three INTs passing; 291 yards, five TDs rushing). He threw for 327 yards, rushed for 50 and accounted for two touchdowns in a comeback win at Baylor. He and the Horned Frogs finish the regular season at home to Iowa State, where he has 15 touchdown passes and no interceptions this season. (LW: not ranked)

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