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The future of the conference championship game in college football is beginning to change in a significant way. While the Big Ten has yet to make any adjustments to how it will ultimately crown a conference champion in football, other conferences are making moves they feel is best for their respective situations.
The ACC has already begun exploring a different scheduling technique that would include a 3-5-5 format with three permanent rivals every season for every ACC member and rotating the other 10 schools over two seasons with five one year and five more the next. The ACC also seemed to be taking the lead in the movement to eliminate divisions in its conference structure, which would pave the path to a 3-5-5 scheduling format. The top two teams in the ACC would then play for the ACC Championship at the end of the season.
In the past couple of days, the PAC-12 and Mountain West Conference have taken strides to drastically change their championship game formats as well. The PAC-12 has not scrapped the two-division format at this point in time, but it did pass a change that will pit the two teams with the highest conference winning percentage in the PAC-12 championship game, regardless of division. This format would have resulted in a different PAC-12 championship game in five of the past 11 seasons, although last season’s game would not have been altered.
The Mountain West Conference is moving more in the direction of the ACC by ditching its division structure beginning in 2023. As a result, the two teams with the highest winning percentage in conference games will square off in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game.
All of these changes are being made possible by a decision by the NCAA to lift the restrictions on conference championship games. The NCAA used to require conferences to have 12 members in a division format to hold a conference championship game. However, the Big 12 was granted an exemption from that requirement in recent years despite only having 10 members, which was a step toward updating the way conference championships are crowned. With changes coming to the Big 12 membership with Oklahoma and Texas leaving for the SEC and the conference adding UCF, Houston, BYU, and Cincinnati, discussions are ongoingly centering on how the Big 12 will be structured moving forward.
As for the Big Ten, there are still calls for the conference to scrap divisions and take on a similar scheduling strategy as the ACC, which would seem to work well with an eight-game or nine-game conference schedule. And it looks like there will be plenty of debate on what the Big Ten should do.
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