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Championship Saturday Primer – Big East, Pac 10, WAC and Sun Belt Conference

Championship Saturday will be filled with games to watch as the college football regular season comes to an end, with the notable exception of next week’s Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. The SEC will feature the game most people will be paying attention to as the Auburn Tigers look to clinch a spot in the BCS Championship game. Their opponents, South Carolina, will look to give Steve Spurrier an SEC championship in a third decade.

Other championship games on the schedule include the Big 12 championship between Oklahoma and Nebraska, the ACC bout between preseason favorites Virginia Tech and Florida State, and the Conference USA championship game between Southern Methodist and Central Florida. The MAC championship will be decided Friday night between Miami (Ohio) and Northern Illinois.

Then there are the conferences that do not play a championship game. The Big Ten already completed their season (Illinois plays one more game this weekend at Fresno State) with a three-way tie for first place between Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State. A BCS ranking will be used to determine which school will represent the conference in the Rose Bowl, and Wisconsin has that playing in their favor right now.

This leaves the Pac-10, Big East, WAC and Sun Belt with a couple details to clear up on Saturday. Here is a rundown of what is still up for grabs in each conference.

Big East

Connecticut can make things easy if they win at South Florida on Saturday night. Win and the Huskies will celebrate their second Big East championship and enjoy their first trip to a BCS bowl game in January. It is possible that Connecticut can still lose and reach the BCS. They will know what they need to do by the time they take the field Saturday night in Tampa. Both West Virginia and Pittsburgh play at noon on Saturday, leaving the Huskies plenty of time to know whether or not they will need to win against South Florida.

West Virginia is next in line. A UConn loss and a West Virginia victory would give the Mountaineers their fifth Big East title since 2003. The Mountaineers must win in order to reach the BCS once again. West Virginia hosts Rutgers Saturday afternoon for a noon kickoff.

The Pittsburgh Panthers are a long shot in the Big East because they do not hold any tiebreaker against West Virginia or Connecticut. Pittsburgh lost both head-to-head match-ups with their Big East rivals but they can still earn the conference’s automatic BCS spot with a win against Cincinnati on Saturday. Pittsburgh needs to win and for West Virginia and Connecticut to lose. The Panthers hold a 7-2 series advantage against the Bearcats but Cincinnati has won two straight meetings.

Connecticut wins Big East if…

  • Win at South Florida
    or
  • West Virginia AND Pittsburgh lose

West Virginia wins Big East if…

  • Win vs. Rutgers
    and
  • Connecticut loses to South Florida

Pittsburgh wins Big East if…

  • Win vs. Cincinnati
    and
  • West Virginia and Connecticut lose

Pac-10

The Oregon Ducks have their bills pointed toward the BCS championship game but they still must get by rival Oregon State in the 2010 edition of the Civil War. Upsets in this game are no out of the question when there is so much riding on the game, but a loss would still mean Oregon is going to the Rose Bowl at the least.

Last week’s win against Arizona clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 title but the Ducks own the possible tiebreaker with the Stanford Cardinal by virtue of a head-to-head victory earlier in the season.

Oregon wins Pac 10 outright if…

  • Win at Oregon State

Stanford wins share of Pac 10 if…

  • Oregon loses to Oregon State (auotmatic BCS berth to Oregon)

WAC

Nevada threw a wrinkle in to the plans for Boise State last week with a great overtime victory at home. The Broncos may catch a brief sniff of the BCS bowl invites but that may be all they get. Oh how the mighty have fallen. All of the major bowl projections are slating Boise State in to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which will be played in San Francisco the day before the BCS Championship game in January.

Now the WAC is in line for a three-way split for the conference championship for the first time since 1999 when Fresno State, Hawaii and TCU all tied for the football title. Nevada plays at Louisiana Tech this weekend and Boise State finishes their season at home against Utah State. Both teams will be favored to win and if both win they will tie Hawaii for the top record in the conference at 7-1 in the WAC. From there the conference would stay put, leaving it up to the bowl games to decide whom they want.

Hawaii is always open for the Hawaii Bowl as long as they qualify, so expect the Warriors to stay home for their bowl game. Nevada, in an interesting twist, would likely head to the Humanitarian Bowl played on the home field of Boise State. Meanwhile the Broncos may be packing their bags for San Francisco unless any BCS bowl game makes a stunning decision.

Three Way tie if…

  • Nevada and Boise State win Saturday

Hawaii wins if…

  • Nevada and Boise State lose Saturday

A win by Nevada or Boise State clinches a share of the WAC title.

Sun Belt

Not much to sort out in the Sun Belt Conference other than whether or not Florida International will win the conference outright or share the honor with Troy. The surprising Golden Panthers are one step closer to pouncing on their first conference crown since playing college football. Consider the fact that this is a program that started playing football in 2002 and had just 14 wins entering the 2010 season (ten wins were vacated by the NCAA for rules violations) and this year Florida International has won six games, all in conference play, and there is no doubt this is a bit of a stunner.

They already have clinched a share of the conference title by winning against Troy earlier this season but the Trojans can still play their way in to a share of the conference championship by winning on Saturday if Florida International stumbles against preseason conference favorite Middle Tennessee.

Florida International wins the Sun Belt outright if…

  • Win vs. Middle Tennessee
    or
  • Troy loses to Florida Atlantic

Troy wins Sun Belt if…

  • Wins at Florida Atlantic
    AND
  • Florida International loses to Middle Tennessee

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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