Crowning the state champions for the 2019 season

by Zach Bigalke

College football is as fun on a regional level as on a nationwide basis. This week’s SMQ dives in to select state champions for every state in 2019.

The 2019 season is now officially in the books with LSU’s victory over Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship. The champions have been determined at every level of the game, and we can start to do a retroactive examination on all that we have witnessed over the course of the year.

In that spirit, this week’s Sunday Morning Quarterback is going to take a different look at everything we have witnessed over the course of the past five months, from the early Week 0 games in August through the January 13 title game between the Bayou Bengals and the defending national champion Tigers.

Too often we get wrapped up in national championship fever. I am as guilty of that as any other fan of the sport, turning my mind toward national championships even as I begin to start framing out a long-dormant project in new ways.

Regionality is an odd thing to conceptualize, as that map shows. We will spare the academic discourse for the moment, but suffice to say there is a logical argument for using a map sectioned out as the one is above. (The labels for each of the regions correlate to Woodard’s American Nations, the book referenced in the above tweet. I highly recommend giving it a read if you are interested in American history.)

For the most convenient and accessible sense of regionality, though, we do not have to think theoretically. There is already a geopolitical reality familiar to all Americans, that of the division into 50 states. These lines on the map help determine what makes a state rivalry versus a border war. Group a few together and conferences start to form.

In that spirit, let’s do a thought experiment and consider who might be the top team in each state. These are listed here in alphabetical order by state, without consideration for which might be the most competitive state championship or the most dominant state champion among the bunch. The key is not to rank the states, but to rank the teams within a state.

Remember as well that these are all judgment calls as definitive, in the end,  as the College Football Playoff selection committee might release. All judgements are final, and take everything with a big grain of salt!

Alabama: Alabama Crimson Tide (11-2)

Alabama missed out on the College Football Playoff for the first time since the four-team setup began in 2014. The Crimson Tide still won 11 games, concluding the season with a lopsided takedown of Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. They lost to LSU as well as Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but still reached 11 wins despite a season marked by Tua Tagovailoa’s ankle and hip injuries. Even with the head-to-head loss against Auburn, the Crimson Tide finished two wins ahead of the Tigers to claim the title of the best team in the Yellowhammer State.

Alaska: No programs

None of Alaska’s colleges and universities field football programs. Neither of the major state schools at Fairbanks or Anchorage have a team, and thus the title for the nation’s largest state by landmass remains vacant for another season. The legend of the Ice Bowl rests dormant, waiting for a revival.

Arizona: Arizona State Sun Devils (8-5)

For the second straight season under Herm Edwards, Arizona State showed signs of vaulting to the next level. They also showed several instances of inexplicable backsliding. The Sun Devils toppled eventual Pac-12 champion Oregon, but they also lost every game in division play except the annual Territorial Cup rivalry game against Arizona. Arizona State capped the season with a Sun Bowl win over Florida State to get to eight wins.

Arkansas: Central Arkansas Bears (9-3)

The Razorbacks continue to be an SEC mess. Arkansas State missed their opportunity to step up in the Sun Belt race. That left Central Arkansas to carry the torch for the Natural State, as they tied Nicholls for the Southland Conference title. Though they fell in the second round of the FCS playoffs to Illinois State, the Bears still outperformed their Arkansas counterparts across all divisions of college football.

California: San Diego State Aztecs (10-3)

San Diego State missed their opportunity to play for the Mountain West title when they lost to Hawaii in the penultimate game of the regular season. What proved to be Rocky Long’s last season with the Aztecs, however, ended with a resounding 48-11 victory over Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl to get to 10 wins. The Aztecs toppled UCLA and took advantage of downswings at USC, Fresno State, and other lower-division programs to claim California’s crown.

Colorado: Air Force Falcons (11-2)

The Colorado School of Mines has a case to make for the title in the Centennial State, after advancing to the octofinals of the Division II playoff and finishing the year 12-1. Air Force, though, put together an 11-2 season that merited the victory in Colorado this season. The Falcons earned two Power Five victories over Colorado and Washington State, and finished the year in both major polls for the first time since 1998.

Connecticut: Yale Bulldogs (9-1)

With UConn on its way out of the American Athletic Conference and fading into irrelevance in 2019, the door was open for a blueblood of the sport to step up and claim the Connecticut state title. Yale shared the Ivy League crown with Dartmouth this season, losing to the Big Green in their head-to-head matchup, but the Bulldogs do not have to share the spoils in the Nutmeg State after going 9-1 and finishing far ahead of any other team in their territory.

Delaware: Wesley Wolverines (10-2)

Delaware finished 5-7, while Delaware State went just 2-10 in 2019. As the Blue Hens and the Hornets, that left the state championship in the first former British colony to ratify the Constitution to fall to Division III Wesley. The Wolverines advanced to the Round of 16 in the Division III playoffs before falling to conference rival Delaware Valley (of Pennsylvania) after defeating the Aggies in the regular season.

Florida: West Florida Argonauts (13-2)

Florida won the Orange Bowl to complete an 11-2 season. UCF trounced Marshall to reach 10 wins. Florida Atlantic won the Conference USA title. Only one team in the Sunshine State can claim a national championship, however, and none of these teams fit the bill. Instead, it was a young West Florida program that swept through the Division II playoffs and upset Minnesota State in the final after finishing second behind Valdosta State in the Gulf South Conference standings. The Argonauts claimed the national title in just the fourth year of the football program’s existence.

Georgia: Georgia Bulldogs (12-2)

Georgia missed out on the College Football Playoff, finishing first team out at No. 5 when the selection committee released their final set of rankings for 2019. They still claimed the SEC East for the third straight year, though a strange double-overtime defeat at home against South Carolina dampened an otherwise impressive performance. Their only other loss came against LSU in the SEC title game, but the Bulldogs sealed their spot atop the Peach State with a 52-7 blowout of Georgia Tech at the end of the regular season.

Hawaii: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (10-5)

As the only college athletic department on the islands with a football program, the Rainbow Warriors win the annual state title by default. This year, however, Hawaii truly earned the crown after a season where they claimed the MWC West title and won 10 games for the first time since 2010 and the sixth time in school history. Nick Rolovich’s team started the year with a defeat of Arizona in Week 0 and opened 2-1 against Pac-12 competition. They completed the 10-win campaign with a 38-34 takedown of BYU on their home turf in the Hawaii Bowl.

Idaho: Boise State Broncos (12-2)

Boise State returned to the top of the Mountain West in 2019 and won 12 games for the ninth time in 24 FBS seasons. Bryan Harsin’s Broncos ended the season on a sour note as they fell 38-7 to former coach Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies in the Las Vegas Bowl. They also fell by three points at BYU, but boasted a perfect record in conference play that included a pair of wins over Hawaii and victory against Air Force. They didn’t reach the New Year’s Six or defeat their Power Five opponent in the bowl, but Boise State stood atop the Gem State pecking order.

Illinois: North Central Cardinals (14-1)

Illinois, Northwestern, and Northern Illinois all failed to finish above .500 this season. Illinois State made it through to the FCS quarterfinals, where they lost a tense 9-3 defensive struggle in North Dakota State’s narrowest victory of the season. The best performance, though, came from Division III North Central College of Naperville. The Cardinals romped to a 41-14 victory over Wisconsin-Whitewater in the school’s first appearance in the Division III national championship, and they also defeated perennial threat Mount Union earlier in the playoffs.

Indiana: Marian Knights (12-1)

Indiana didn’t quite get to nine wins, as the Hoosiers collapsed in the Gator Bowl against Tennessee. Instead of Tom Allen’s team, the best in Indiana this season was Marian University. The small private liberal arts school in Indianapolis started its program in 2007, and nearly won its third NAIA national championship in its 13th season of existence. The Knights ran the table in the Mid-States Football Association, then reached the NAIA title game before falling against Morningside 40-38 as a late comeback bid ran out of time.

Speaking of Morningside…

Iowa: Morningside Mustangs (14-0)

The private school on the western Iowa border in Sioux City has won 29 straight games after capturing their second consecutive undefeated NAIA national championship. The Mustangs pipped other, bigger programs like 10-3 Iowa and 7-6 Iowa State for the Hawkeye State title thanks to their ninth consecutive Great Plains Athletic Conference crown and run through the NAIA playoffs. Pitching four shutouts in 14 games, the Mustangs ran the slate and won by an average of nearly 40 points per game even with close contests in the final two rounds of the playoffs.

Kansas: Kansas State Wildcats (8-5)

Kansas had an up-and-down season that showed some promise under new head coach Les Miles. Kansas State fared even better under their new leader, Chris Klieman, who put together a respectable eight-win season in his first year after leaving North Dakota State for Manhattan. The biggest steal was the Wildcats’ takedown of Oklahoma to ruin the Sooners’ perfect season to that point. Most importantly, they downed the Jayhawks by four touchdowns on the road to claim the state title.

Kentucky: Kentucky Wildcats (8-5)

Kentucky and Louisville both finished 8-5, and the Cardinals technically finished higher in their division and conference. The Wildcats, though, get the nod as the top team in the Bluegrass State thanks to their head-to-head victory over Louisville in the Governor’s Cup battle at the end of the regular season. They reached eight wins with a 45-13 blowout of the Cardinals followed up by a Belk Bowl win against Virginia Tech, thanks to wide receiver-turned-quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. and his prolific all-purpose abilities.

Louisiana: LSU Tigers (15-0)

LSU stands atop the college football pyramid by the end of college football’s 150th season. After running the table with a prolific offense and a competent defense that swept through the SEC West and landed the top seed in the College Football Playoff, the Tigers hung 63 points on Oklahoma and another 42 on Clemson — which boasted the top-ranked defense in the country — to secure the national title. In the process, Ed Orgeron’s team became the fourth LSU squad to win a national championship and secured the Pelican State’s title as well.

Maine: Maine Black Bears (6-6)

After reaching the FCS semifinals last year, it was a down season for Maine. The Black Bears finished 6-6, good enough to finish in a four-way tie for fifth place in the Colonial Athletic Association. There was no FCS playoff berth this year in Orono, but the Black Bears still finished at .500. That was more than any of Maine’s six Division III teams could say in 2019, making the flagship university the champion in the Pine Tree State.

Maryland: Navy Midshipmen (11-2)

Had Memphis lost to Cincinnati in their regular-season finale, Navy would have played the Bearcats in the AAC championship game instead of the Tigers getting an instant rematch. Instead, the Midshipmen had to settle for top-dog status in the Old Line State as they also claimed the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy with a 34-25 win over Air Force and a 31-7 takedown of Army. Navy also earned their 11th win of the season with a 20-17 win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl.

Massachusetts: Worcester Polytechnic Engineers (10-1)

The state of Massachusetts did not have a bellwether year in college football. FBS independent UMass finishing 1-11. Harvard was an afterthought in the Ivy League, ending the year 4-6. The most impressive performances in the state this year came at the Division III level, where MIT and WPI had a spirited battle for the New England Athletic Conference title. MIT beat the Engineers head-to-head, and ultimately claimed the Division III playoff spot for the league, but WPI finished as co-champions as they rounded out a 10-win season for the best record in the Bay State.

Michigan: Ferris State Bulldogs (12-1)

Michigan was supposed to threaten for the Big Ten title. Neither the Wolverines nor the Spartans were ever really in contention in the East, though, and Central Michigan lost the MAC title game. The best team in the Great Lakes State was not at the FBS level but rather Division II Ferris State. The Bulldogs won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and won their regional in the Division II playoffs ran the table before falling to eventual national champion West Florida in the semifinals.

Minnesota: Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-2)

Minnesota missed its chance to play in the Big Ten championship when they lost the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe against Wisconsin at the end of the regular season. Still, P.J. Fleck’s squad finished with double digits in the win column for the first time since 2003 and finished with 11 wins for the first time since going 13-0 in the 1904 season. Along the way, the Golden Gophers lost only to the Badgers and Iowa and claimed big wins over Penn State at home and against Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

Mississippi: Alcorn State Braves (9-4)

Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State turned to new coaches after the end of the 2019 season, which does a great job of articulating how the year went in Oxford and Starkville. The team in the Magnolia State with the most impressive season, in the end, was SWAC champion Alcorn State. The Braves earned a trip to the Celebration Bowl, the annual HBCU national championship that kicks off the bowl season, after taking down Southern 39-24 in the SWAC title game. In the Celebration Bowl the Braves lost to NC A&T, but they were still state champions.

Missouri: Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (9-3)

Missouri had a rough year, falling against Wyoming in the season opener and ending the season 6-6. 2019 was far better to Southeast Missouri State, even if they did lose 50-0 head-to-head against the Tigers. The Redhawks were the Ohio Valley Conference co-champions with Austin Peay, making the FCS playoffs. There they lost to Illinois State, but Southeast Missouri State can still bask in the glory of finishing the year as the best team in the Show Me State.

Montana: Montana State Bobcats (11-4)

Both Montana and Montana State had phenomenal Big Sky seasons in 2019, but the Bobcats win the Big Sky Country championship this season after taking down the Grizzlies 48-14 on the road in this year’s Brawl of the Wild. Montana State did not win the conference, but they rolled all the way to the FCS semifinals before running into the buzzsaw that is North Dakota State. The Bobcats still won 11 games, one more than their state rivals.

Nebraska: Midland Warriors  (7-4)

Nebraska was supposed to contend for the Big Ten West in Scott Frost’s second season at the helm. Instead the Cornhuskers missed out on a bowl game completely. Thus the best team in the Cornhusker State resided not in Lincoln but an hour north in Fremont, where Midland University went 7-4 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. The Warriors did not make the NAIA playoffs, but they finished with the best record in the state in 2019.

Nevada: Nevada Wolf Pack (7-6)

Nevada has only two college football teams, one in the north at the flagship university in Reno and the other in the south at the campus in Las Vegas. Normally the Silver State championship would be decided in the annual Battle for the Fremont Cannon, which was won this year 33-30 in overtime by UNLV. The Rebels, however, went just 4-8 and missed out on a bowl game. The Wolf Pack, on the other hand, went 7-5 in the regular season and played Ohio in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. As a result of their better overall year, Nevada wins the Sagebrush Award for 2019.

New Hampshire: Dartmouth Big Green (9-1)

Dartmouth technically shared the Ivy League title with Yale this season, but the Big Green boasted a 42-10 win over the Bulldogs at home for what nominally serves as a tiebreaker. No other team in the Granite State was quite as dominant as Dartmouth, whose only loss came at home against Cornell in the penultimate game of the season. That prevented an outright league crown, but Dartmouth undoubtedly wins the outright New Hampshire title after putting together the second-best scoring defense in the FCS at 12.4 points allowed per game.

New Jersey: Monmouth Hawks (11-3)

Monmouth ran into James Madison in the second round of the FCS playoffs, suffering an early exit in the process. Nevertheless, it was a successful year for the Hawks as they won 11 games and staked an outright claim on the Big South title ahead of Kennesaw State. Kevin Callahan’s crew won nine in a row after a 2-2 start to the year to lock down not just their playoff berth and the conference title but also the Garden State crown ahead of 8-2 Princeton.

New Mexico: Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds (8-4)

At the FBS level, both New Mexico and New Mexico State went 2-10 this season. That left one of the three Division II schools to claim the state title in the Land of Enchantment. Eastern New Mexico was the only one of the trio that finished above .500, finishing 8-4 overall. A 4-4 in Lone Star Conference record was good enough for only fifth in the league table, keeping the Greyhounds out of the Division II playoffs, but they were still better than anyone else in New Mexico this year to earn the state crown almost by default.

New York: Buffalo Bulls (8-5)

Buffalo didn’t get a chance to play for the MAC championship this season after falling in the title game last year, but they did win eight games to show life after Tyree Jackson and that cohort of players that went 10-4 in 2018. The Bulls lost just one game at home, a 21-20 overtime defeat against Ohio, and they trounced Charlotte in the Bahamas Bowl. With Army suffering a down year, Buffalo was the top team in the Empire State this season.

North Carolina: Appalachian State Mountaineers (13-1)

If not for a Halloween loss to Georgia Southern, Appalachian State likely would have earned a spot into the Cotton Bowl this season. The Mountaineers took down North Carolina in Chapel Hill and defeated South Carolina in Columbia en route to their second straight Sun Belt crown and a New Orleans Bowl takedown of UAB. It was a phenomenal showing that earned first-year head coach Eliah Drinkwitz a Power Five position at Missouri.

North Dakota: North Dakota State Bison (16-0)

For nearly a decade, North Dakota State has been the gold standard in college football dominance. Craig Bohl gave way to Chris Klieman, and the team kept rolling along. Then Klieman landed the Kansas State job after last year’s title, and defensive coordinator Matt Entz was the next man up. The Bison ran the table for their eighth FCS national title in nine years, with freshman quarterback Trey Lance going the entire year without throwing an interception as NDSU finished 16-0.

Ohio: Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1)

Ohio State entered the College Football Playoff as an undefeated Big Ten champion as the No. 2 seed against defending national champion Clemson. The Tigers pipped the Buckeyes after Justin Fields threw a late interception, but the six-point loss in no way diminished what was another phenomenal season in Columbus. Ohio State beat opponents by an average of 33 points per game as the proved worthy of a top-four seed at the top level of the sport.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Sooners (12-2)

Jalen Hurts proved an inspired transfer recruit, leading Oklahoma to another Big 12 championship and finishing second in the Heisman voting. The Sooners lost to Kansas State in the regular season, then fell to LSU in the Peach Bowl as the defense proved incapable of stopping Joe Burrow and the Tigers. Nobody could stop LSU this year, though, and otherwise they put up one impeccable performance after another. The 34-16 Bedlam win over Oklahoma State sealed the Sooner State title for the team from Norman.

Oregon: Oregon Ducks (12-2)

Oregon sent Justin Herbert off into the Pasadena sunset and off to the NFL with a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. The Ducks missed out on a spot in the College Football Playoff after a November loss to Arizona State, but they won a dozen games that included a resounding Pac-12 championship victory over Utah. While we usually think of Oregon as prolific on the offensive side of the ball, a huge part of the success in Eugene was a defense that ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense as they gave up only 16.5 points per game.

Pennsylvania: Penn State Nittany Lions (11-2)

After starting the year 8-0, Penn State suffered losses at Minnesota and at Ohio State in November to fall out of Big Ten contention. The Nittany Lions ramped up the year with a rivalry win over Pitt in State College, and sealed their 11-win season with an offensive explosion against American Athletic Conference champion Memphis in the Cotton Bowl. Journey Brown’s 200-yard game in the New Year’s Six victory bodes well for the Nittany Lions moving forward.

Rhode Island: Salve Regina Seahawks (4-6)

Rhode Island teams had an abysmal 2019 season, with the state’s four football programs finishing a combined 12-32. The three FBS programs in the state — Rhode Island, Bryant, and Brown — failed to step up to the occasion and seize the crown in a weak year. Thus the Ocean State title fell by default to Salve Regina, a Division III school with two thousand undergraduate students that came closest to .500 in the standings.

South Carolina: Clemson Tigers (14-1)

Clemson suffered the heartbreak of falling to LSU in the College Football Playoff national championship game. The Tigers saw their 29-game winning streak snapped against the Bayou Bengals, but they reclaimed another ACC title and reached the four-team playoff for the fifth straight season. Dabo Swinney’s team remains the juggernaut of the Palmetto State, especially after their sixth straight win over rival South Carolina.

South Dakota: South Dakota State Jackrabbits (8-5)

South Dakota State had highs and lows en route to an 8-5 finish. The Jackrabbits opened the year 6-1, their only loss coming at Minnesota in the season opener. They hosted ESPN’s College GameDay in late October when they hosted the Dakota Marker rivalry game against North Dakota State, a game they lost by only a touchdown. They finished in a tie for third in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and fell in their first FCS playoff game against fellow MVFC squad Northern Iowa, but the Jackrabbits were undoubtedly the best in the state. (Yes, even though they lost to South Dakota in the last game of the regular season.)

Tennessee: Memphis Tigers (12-2)

After two straight years of falling to UCF in both the regular season and the AAC championship game, Memphis broke through to earn the Group of Five spot in the Cotton Bowl this season. The Tigers went 12-2, their only losses coming in an inexplicable two-point loss at Temple and in the New Year’s Six matchup against Penn State. Brady White had a prolific season, as did breakout star running back Kenneth Gainwell to finish ahead of teams like Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State, and Austin Peay in the Volunteer State title race.

Texas: SMU Mustangs (10-3)

Both Texas and Texas A&M went 8-5 this season, leaving the door open for SMU to swoop in and claim the state championship. The Mustangs started the season with eight straight wins, led by Longhorns transfer Shane Buechele, before falling out of the American Athletic Conference race with losses in three of their last five games. Even so, it was the best season for the program since returning from the death penalty.

Utah: Utah Utes (11-3)

Had Utah toppled Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, there was a real chance that the Utes would have played LSU in the Peach Bowl rather than Oklahoma. Instead, Kyle Whittingham’s team was blown out by the Ducks and ended up all the way out of the New Year’s Six in the Alamo Bowl. A defeat to Texas in San Antonio, though, couldn’t keep Utah from ending up as the top team in the Beehive State — especially with a head-to-head win over BYU in the Holy War and BYU’s transitive victory over Utah State.

Vermont: Middlebury Panthers (9-0)

Within the insular world of the New England Small College Athletic Association, Middlebury emerged as the king of the closed loop this season. The NESCAC members all play only a round-robin schedule, and they eschew postseason play much like the Ivy League. As a result, the Panthers emerged as one of just four undefeated teams across all levels of college football and the first ever to sweep the NESCAC as they won by an average of 11 points per game. The closest victory was a 34-31 double overtime survival at Amherst.

Virginia: James Madison Dukes (14-2)

Virginia went to the Orange Bowl, performing admirably in defeat against Florida. But the 9-5 Cavaliers weren’t the best team in Old Dominion — nor was Old Dominion, for that matter. James Madison takes that prize after they went 14-2 and advanced to the FCS championship game. They didn’t have enough in the tank to topple North Dakota State, losing 28-20 in the title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco. The Dukes’ only other loss came in the season opener by seven points against West Virginia in Morgantown.

Washington: Washington Huskies (8-5)

It was a weird year for Washington in Chris Petersen’s last season at the helm. The Huskies came into 2019 with high hopes of contending for the Pac-12 North and repeating as conference champs. Instead, they fell in their Pac-12 opener at home against Cal to start a roller-coaster trend in Seattle. Prior to the Cal loss, the Huskies took down Eastern Washington by 33 points in the season opener and finished the regular season with their seventh straight Apple Cup victory over Washington State before downing Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

West Virginia: Marshall Thundering Herd (8-5)

Marshall was ostensibly a preseason contender in Conference USA, and they finished the year tied for second in the East a game behind league champion FAU. The Thundering Herd could have been forgiven losses to Boise State and Cincinnati, but inexplicable losses at Middle Tennessee and Charlotte by identical 24-13 scores proved their undoing. Doc Holliday’s team also collapsed against UCF as the Knights dealt out a 48-25 beatdown in the Gasparilla Bowl. Even then, the Thundering Herd finished better than a Mountaineers team that missed out on bowl season.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks (13-2)

In a year where Wisconsin went to the Rose Bowl and were a point away from taking down Pac-12 champion Oregon, it is hard to pick against the Badgers as the best team in the Badger State. Wisconsin-Whitewater, though, played in the Division III national championship against North Central. The Warhawks took down defending national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor in the quarterfinals, but ran out of gas in the final game of the year. Though they missed out on their seventh national title, Wisconsin-Whitewater played in the title game for the 10th time in school history.

Wyoming: Wyoming Cowboys (8-5)

As the only four-year institution in the Equality State, the University of Wyoming is another of the schools that by default wins the championship within its geographic borders. For the third time in the past four years, the Cowboys won eight games this season. Everything started with a Power Five statement win over Missouri to open the season and ended with an Arizona Bowl victory over Georgia State.

Hopefully this was a fun, informative, and diversifying look at college football in a new way as we begin to pack up the grill and close the books on the 2019 season.

As one final thought experiment before we head out for the week, let’s revisit the map that we saw at the top of this post:

Here are the champions within each of these distinct cultural regions:

  • Left Coast: Oregon Ducks (FBS/12-2)
  • Far West: Utah Utes (FBS/11-3)
  • El Norte: San Diego State (FBS/10-3)
  • Midlands: Penn State Nittany Lions (FBS/11-2)
  • New Netherland: Monmouth Hawks (FCS/11-3)
  • Greater Appalachia: Clemson Tigers (FBS/14-1)
  • New France: LSU Tigers (FBS/15-0)
  • Yankeedom: North Dakota State (FCS/16-0)
  • Deep South: Alabama Crimson Tide (FBS/11-2)
  • Tidewater: James Madison Dukes (FCS/14-2)
  • Spanish Caribbean: FAU Owls (FBS/11-3)

Given all these teams are either FBS or FCS programs, this conception of regional breakdown would make one amazing foundation for an integrated Division I championship.

But I digress, bringing the conversation right back to national championship discussions instead of remaining focused on states and regionality. As I said in the beginning, we are all guilty of that impulse and it is a hard habit to break.

Next: A brief history of national championship claims

What this thought experiment shows us, though, is that the beauty of college football is in these multitude of different ways we can think about success in the sport. Thinking about how we might consider these different levels of greatness beyond the national title is always a worthwhile endeavor — even if we do come right back to thinking on national terms in the end.

Zach is currently a graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology at Penn State focusing on the history and philosophy of sport. He has covered a variety of American and international sports online and in print since 2006 and was formerly the managing editor at Informative Sports and Sports Unbiased.