Winners and Losers: What the conference championship landscape looks like heading into Week 14

There’s just one week left in the 2019 college football regular season. The time has flown by.

And that means that conference championship weekend is just two weeks away. And there’s still a lot in flux as we head to the last weekend of the season. Just four of the 10 conferences know who its title game participants will be. The seven others won’t until the final week of the regular season is over.

Here’s a look at how each conference’s title race is playing out with our best guess for the matchups in the conferences still looking for division winners.

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AAC

East: No. 19 Cincinnati clinched the division with a win over Temple on Saturday night.

West: No. 18 Memphis clinches the division with a win over Cincinnati on Friday. If Memphis loses and Navy beats Houston, Navy wins the west.

Likeliest conference championship game: No. 18 Memphis vs. No. 19 Cincinnati.

ACC

Atlantic: No. 3 Clemson clinched the division with its win over NC State earlier in November. The Tigers were off on Saturday. 

Coastal: Virginia and Virginia Tech play on Friday. The winner of that game gets to lose to Clemson in the title game. The Cavaliers beat Liberty on Saturday while Virginia Tech posted a shutout against Pitt and knocked the Panthers out of the division race in the process.

Likeliest conference championship game: No. 3 Clemson vs. Virginia. The Cavaliers get the edge because they’re at home, snapping a 15-game losing streak to the Hokies.

Baylor is heading to the Big 12 Championship Game. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)
Baylor is heading to the Big 12 Championship Game. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

Big 12

The Big 12 title game is set. No. 9 Oklahoma will play No. 14 Baylor. Both Oklahoma and Baylor have one loss in the conference. Every other Big 12 team has at least three conference losses. Oklahoma beat TCU on Saturday night 28-24 in a game that was unexpectedly close and tense in the fourth quarter while Baylor easily dispatched Texas on Saturday afternoon.

Big Ten

East: No. 2 Ohio State clinched the East with a 28-17 win over No. 8 Penn State on Saturday. Had Penn State won, the Nittany Lions could have clinched the East with a win over Rutgers on Saturday. Instead, Ohio State only has bragging rights on the line against No. 13 Michigan on Nov. 30. 

West: No. 10 Minnesota plays No. 12 Wisconsin on Saturday. The calculus there is simple too. The winner takes the division and plays Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. The Gophers beat Northwestern on Saturday while Wisconsin beat Purdue.

Likeliest championship game: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Minnesota. Like Virginia, Minnesota gets the edge because it’s at home.

Conference USA

East: Florida Atlantic wins the division with a win over Southern Miss on Saturday. If FAU loses, Marshall can win the division with a win over Florida International. 

West: Let’s get crazy. UAB beat Louisiana Tech on Saturday. Both teams are tied with Southern Miss atop the division. If all three teams have the same result in the final weekend, UAB wins the tiebreaker. If two of the teams are tied at the end of the season the tiebreaker is head-to-head between the tied teams.

Likeliest championship game: FAU vs. UAB

MAC

East: Miami (Ohio) clinched the division with a win over Akron on Wednesday.  

West: Western Michigan and Central Michigan are tied atop the division. Western beat Central earlier in the season and owns the tiebreaker. If WMU beats Northern Illinois on Tuesday, it wins the division. If WMU loses, CMU can win the division with a win over Toledo on Friday.

Likeliest championship game: Miami (Ohio) vs. Western Michigan

MWC

The Mountain West title game got determined late Saturday night. No. 20 Boise State beat Utah State to clinch the Mountain division while Hawaii beat San Diego State to clinch the West division. The two teams will play in two weeks for the conference title.

Pac-12

North: No. 6 Oregon’s loss to Arizona State didn’t do anything to its chances of winning the North. The Ducks had the division wrapped up before Week 13.

South: No. 7 Utah controls its own fate. A win against Colorado in the final week of the season means Utah is in the title game. A loss means USC wins the division.

Likeliest championship game: No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 7 Utah

LSU is No. 1 and will meet No. 4 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
LSU is No. 1 and will meet No. 4 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

SEC

Like the Big 12, the SEC championship game is set. No. 1 LSU won the West with a victory over hapless Arkansas on Saturday. No. 4 Georgia clinched the East with a win over Auburn in Week 12 and beat Texas A&M on Saturday. LSU ends the season against A&M in Week 14 while Georgia plays Georgia Tech.

Sun Belt

The Sun Belt title game was figured out on Saturday. No. 24 Appalachian State locked up the East with a win over Texas State while Louisiana won the West with a win over Troy.

Here are this week’s winners and losers.

WINNERS

Virginia Tech: After Virginia Tech lost 45-10 at home to Duke on Sept. 27, there were legitimate questions about Justin Fuente’s job status — especially on the heels of a losing season in 2018. Since then, however, the Hokies have completely flipped the script and are now in a position to go to the ACC title game. Saturday’s 28-0 win over Pitt was the sixth in seven tries since the Duke loss. On top of that, it was the final game at Lane Stadium for longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster and he went out with a shutout. How cool is that? It marked the second straight shutout for the Hokies. The program hadn’t accomplished that since 2005. The ACC Coastal champion will be decided next week against rival Virginia. The Hokies have won 15 straight in the series. 

Michigan is 9-2 and plays Ohio State in Week 14. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Michigan is 9-2 and plays Ohio State in Week 14. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

No. 13 Michigan: Michigan has really hit its stride in the month of November. Since losing to Penn State on Oct. 19, the Wolverines have reeled off four straight victories in dominating fashion. The latest was a beatdown of Indiana, 39-14, in Bloomington. Shea Patterson had another huge outing in the win, throwing for 366 yards and five touchdowns to help his team improve to 9-2 with archrival Ohio State visiting Ann Arbor next weekend. The second-ranked Buckeyes improved to 11-0 and clinched the Big Ten East by beating Penn State on Saturday. Michigan hasn’t knocked off OSU since 2011. 

No. 10 Minnesota: Minnesota bounced back from its first loss of the season and is another step closer to winning the Big Ten West. The Gophers knocked off Northwestern 38-22 behind a four-touchdown performance from Tanner Morgan, three of which went to Rashod Bateman, the Big Ten’s leading receiver. With the win, Minnesota improved to 10-1 on the year. The Gophers reached the 10-win mark for the first time since 1905 and got to seven Big Ten wins for the first time ever. Next week, Minnesota will host Wisconsin with the Big Ten West on the line and “College GameDay” in town. 

Kedon Slovis, QB, USC: No. 23 USC closed out its regular season with three straight wins, capped off by Saturday’s 52-35 victory over UCLA. The Trojans were dominant offensively, and freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis led the way once again. Slovis completed 37-of-47 passes for a program record 515 yards and four touchdowns in the win. It marked Slovis’ third straight game with at least 400 passing yards and four touchdowns. Not bad for a true freshman, huh? 

USC finishes the season at 8-4. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
USC finishes the season at 8-4. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Navy: Navy kept its AAC West hopes alive with a come-from-behind victory over SMU on Saturday. The Midshipmen trailed 21-10 at halftime but stormed back to win, 35-28. The winning score came on a 70-yard burst from speedy QB Malcolm Perry. Perry carried 38 times for 195 yards and two scores in the win. He also had 162 yards and a touchdown through the air. With the win, Navy can win the division if it beats Houston next week and Memphis loses to Cincinnati, who clinched the AAC East by beating Temple, 15-13. Now 8-2, Ken Niumatalolo has engineered quite a turnaround after going 3-10 in 2018. 

Cal: Cal finally won the Big Game, and it did so in dramatic fashion. The Golden Bears dropped a nine-game losing streak to rival Stanford by pulling out a 24-20 road win on Saturday. Cal fell behind 20-17 with 2:23 to play, but responded by going 75 yards in just six plays to take the lead on a Chase Garbers touchdown run with 1:19 to go. The Cal defense then stuffed Stanford on fourth-and-short on the ensuing drive to seal the win and clinch bowl eligibility. The Golden Bears can clinch a winning record with a road win over UCLA next week. 

Charlotte: Charlotte is bowl eligible for the first time in program history. The 49ers have only been playing since 2013, but reached the five-win mark three separate times. But it took the first season under Will Healy to get to win No. 6. That came on Saturday in a 24-13 victory over Marshall. Charlotte trailed 13-10 entering the fourth, but two Victor Tucker touchdowns — one on the ground and another through the air — gave the 49ers the victory. 

Zach Hintze, K, Wisconsin: Want to see one of the longest field goals in Big Ten history? Of course you do. Wisconsin’s Zach Hintze blasted a school-record 62-yarder as time expired in the first half. It is tied with two others for the second-longest field goal in Big Ten history. Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen holds the record. He booted a 63-yarder at Michigan State back in 1981. 

Ohio coach Frank Solich: Ohio probably hasn’t played as well as it expected this year, but it still had reason to celebrate its 66-24 win over Bowling Green on Tuesday night. The win was No. 111 for Frank Solich at the school, setting a Mid-American Conference record. Solich, 75, has been at Ohio since 2005. He previously was the head coach at Nebraska. 

Bonus winner

LSU coach Ed Orgeron: LSU crushed Arkansas on Saturday night. The Razorbacks haven’t won an SEC game since beating Ole Miss on Oct. 28, 2017. That’s a span of 18-straight games. So what Orgeron said after the Tigers’ win isn’t untrue.

LOSERS

Miami: Miami had been playing really well in the second half of the season — until Saturday. The Hurricanes, winners of four of their last five, were upset 30-24 by Florida International at Marlins Park in a miserable performance, one of the worst in recent memory. FIU led 13-0 at halftime and 23-3 early in the fourth quarter. Miami managed to make things interesting, cutting the lead to 23-17 with 3:10 to play, but FIU put the final nail in the coffin after a failed Miami onside kick. FIU, led by former Miami coach Butch Davis, clinched a bowl berth with the win. The Hurricanes dropped to 6-5.

Texas: What was supposed to be a big season for Texas just keeps getting worse. The Longhorns dropped to 6-5 with a 24-10 loss at Baylor on Saturday. And the game wasn’t as close as the final score may indicate. Texas wouldn’t reach the end zone until there was just one second left in regulation. The loss was another underwhelming performance from Tom Herman’s offense, and now the Longhorns need to beat Texas Tech just to ensure they finish with a winning record. Herman has a lot of work to do to get his program back on track.

Maryland: A miserable season for Maryland may have hit rock bottom. The Terps dropped their sixth straight game on Saturday, falling at home to Nebraska in embarrassing fashion. Final score: 54-7. Yikes. Nebraska entered the game on a four-game losing streak of its own, but it managed to absolutely demolish the Terps at Maryland Stadium. The Terps, who mustered only 57 passing yards against Nebraska and are now 3-8, have been outscored 165-28 in the month of November.

Maryland head coach Mike Locksley looks on prior to an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Will Newton)
Maryland head coach Mike Locksley looks on prior to an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Will Newton)

SMU: SMU had a chance to get the ball back one last time in the final minute against Navy, but a boneheaded mistake doomed the Mustangs. Leading 35-28 with 1:05 to go, Navy brought its offense out onto the field at its own 31-yard line on fourth-and-2. There was no way Navy would risk giving the ball back to SMU deep in its own territory, but Ken Niumatalolo decided to try to draw SMU offsides. Remarkably, it worked. SMU’s Rodney Clemsons jumped offsides, giving Navy a first down. From there, the Midshipmen took two knees to run out the clock and wrap up a win.

Kansas: Kansas put up a really good effort against Iowa State, but ultimately fell 41-31 in Ames. The Jayhawks took a 31-27 lead with 10:42 to play, but ISU scored twice in the final five minutes to pull out the victory. The loss dropped KU to 3-8 on the year, and also clinched a remarkable stat. Kansas went the entire decade without winning a conference road game. That’s an 0-43 mark. Yikes.

NC State: NC State might be the worst team in the ACC. The Wolfpack fell 28-26 to Georgia Tech on Thursday night, dropping to 4-7 overall on the season with a 1-6 mark in conference play. NC State staged a comeback after trailing 28-10 late in the third quarter, but still came up short against a Yellow Jackets team in its first year under Geoff Collins. It was the fifth straight loss for the Wolfpack, who will miss a bowl game for the first time in five seasons.

North Texas: North Texas had the chance to keep its bowl hopes alive, but instead it lost to a one-win Rice team, 20-14. Rice jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and was able to hang on for its second straight victory after an 0-9 start. With coach Seth Littrell back in the fold alongside heralded QB Mason Fine, this was supposed to be one of the better teams in Conference USA. Instead, the Mean Green are just 4-7 on the year.’

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