There are just two full weeks left in the 2023 college football regular season. That means it's crunch time for teams that are still involved in their respective conference championship hunts. There are still plenty of hopefuls; as of Friday, four out of the five power-conference championship games still have at least one spot open.
The SEC Championship Game is already set. No. 1 Georgia, representing the SEC East, and No. 8 Alabama out of the SEC West are set to face off in Atlanta, Georgia, for the third time in the last six years. The Crimson Tide won each of the past two meetings.
Otherwise, the remaining races are fairly open. Florida State is the only other power-conference team with a clear postseason outlook after nabbing a spot in the ACC Championship Game by finishing conference play with an 8-0 record. The Seminoles close the year with North Alabama and a road trip to Florida, their in-state rival from the SEC.
The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 title games are all completely unsettled. Each race varies in terms of ferocity and number of teams still involved, with multiple complex tiebreakers potentially coming into play, so it felt appropriate to take a deep dive into each outlook as the season winds down.
This one could be pretty straightforward. No. 4 Florida State has already locked down a spot in the ACC title game, making its first appearance since 2014 when the Seminoles downed Georgia Tech to secure a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
No. 10 Louisville can clinch a bid with a win against Miami on Saturday. The Cardinals haven't played for a conference title since joining the ACC in 2014. A Louisville loss to Miami keeps the door open for Virginia Tech and No. 20 North Carolina.
Here's how those tiebreakers would play out:
- Virginia Tech: Win out with a Louisville loss to Miami. Virginia Tech would have a better record against common opponents than Louisville and North Carolina with wins against Virginia, NC State and Pitt.
- North Carolina: Win out with a Louisville loss to Miami AND another Virginia Tech loss. This would create a tiebreaker with Louisville dependent upon "winning percentage versus common opponents based on the order of finish." Without getting too deep in the weeds, the Tar Heels would need Miami to finish ahead of Georgia Tech in the conference standings, given that both teams are common opponents for UNC and Louisville. North Carolina beat Miami and lost to Georgia Tech; the Cardinals beat Georgia Tech but lose to Miami in this scenario.
Again, let's start with the simplest scenario. Whoever wins in the regular-season finale between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan captures the Big Ten East. It doesn't necessarily matter (for conference standings) what happens this weekend as both teams hold the head-to-head win over Penn State.
All No. 16 Iowa has to do is win one of its last two games to capture the Big Ten West. That's not necessarily a layup. Illinois, Iowa's Week 12 opponent, is starting to hit its stride with a scorching-hot John Paddock at quarterback, and Nebraska has impressed under first-year coach Matt Rhule.
If Iowa loses out, then Northwestern, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota all have a shot at the Big Ten West title through various complex tiebreaker scenarios. Purdue is the only team in the division that mathematically cannot win it.
Nebraska is in the best position behind the Hawkeyes as it already holds a head-to-head win over Illinois. The Cornhuskers would need to win out, with Iowa also losing to Illinois and Minnesota losing at least one more game.
Without diving too deep into any other hypothetical scenarios that could play out (we would be here all day), here are the key head-to-head wins for each remaining Big Ten West contender:
- Northwestern: Minnesota, Wisconsin
- Wisconsin: Illinois
- Minnesota: Nebraska, Iowa
- Illinois: Minnesota
Again, none of this matters if Iowa can win a single game between now and the postseason. With how the West has played out this year, though, that's not a guarantee.
Texas' path to the Big 12 Championship Game is clear. All the No. 7 Longhorns need to do is win out and they're in. When it comes to which team has the best shot at joining them in Arlington, that's where things get a bit more complicated.
Assuming Texas wins out, there's a chance that No. 21 Kansas State, No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 23 Oklahoma State end up in a three-way tie for second. The Big 12 released a statement on Wednesday clarifying its confusing tiebreaker rules, placing the utmost importance on head-to-head wins. With that in mind, if Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all win out, Oklahoma State will get a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game by virtue of being 2-0 against the Wildcats and Sooners.
Here's the simplest path for every other team remaining in contention:
- Oklahoma: Win out, Kansas State and Oklahoma State both lose once.
- Kansas State: Win out, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma both lose once.
- Iowa State: Win out, Oklahoma loses at least once.
Iowa State is the dark horse here. The Cyclones lost to Oklahoma in their second conference game, which means that the Sooners hold the tiebreaker if both teams finish 7-2 in the standings. However, Iowa State boasts a win against Oklahoma State and could cause some serious chaos over the last two weeks. Its remaining games are against the top of the table (Texas and Kansas State).
No. 5 Washington, No. 6 Oregon, No. 11 Oregon State and No. 17 Arizona are the only teams left in the race for the Pac-12 Championship Game. Of those four, Washington is in the best spot. The undefeated Huskies need just one win in the next two weeks to secure their spot. They'd like to go 2-0 to keep in good standing for the College Football Playoff.
Oregon, with its lone loss thus far coming against the Huskies, and Oregon State would both need to win out to grab what is likely be the second spot. For the Beavers, that's easier said than done. They host Washington this weekend and then travel to Eugene to take on the Ducks in the regular-season finale. That's about as brutal of a two-week stretch as they come.
Then there's Arizona. The Wildcats need to win out against Utah and Arizona State but will require a lot of help, too. They need Oregon State to lose to Washington but beat Oregon. Assuming Oregon takes care of business against Arizona State, that means both the Wildcats and Ducks would be 7-2 with no head-to-head tiebreaker and identical records against commons opponents (6-2). That would bring the third tiebreaker, "winning percentage versus common opponents based on the order of finish," into play. Arizona, with a win against Oregon State and a loss to USC, would need the Beavers to finish ahead of the Trojans in the final conference standings.