College football doesn’t have state championships. That’s a pity for America’s most regional sport, even though plenty of rivalry games have a state-title feel.
Absent a state playoff system like in high school sports, it’s usually impossible to crown state champs in the college game. But that doesn’t mean we can’t award a Team of the Year title to some program in every state, regardless of level of competition.
So, let’s do that for some teams who had years worthy of celebration (or at least more worthy of it than any of their neighbors, in some cases).
The rules, briefly: You don’t need to be an FBS team to be a state’s Team of 2017, because winning big at a lower level is more fun than losing big at a higher one. Head-to-head results matter, as do championships and a team’s overall success.
And a note: I made a couple of research and production errors in the initial publication of this list. My fault, and thanks for bearing with me.
Winners in bold below:
- Alabama: Alabama. The Tide lost to Auburn, but a national championship — regardless of level — makes you the team of the year in a given state.
- Alaska: There are no NCAA, junior college, or NAIA schools in the state. We thus award an actual state championship to Bartlett High School in Anchorage. The Golden Bears actually won the ASAA Division I Championship, so they are truly state champs.
- Arizona: Arizona State, which was fun, made a bowl, and beat Arizona for the Territorial Cup, college football’s oldest rivalry trophy unless it’s not. The Sun Devils thus earned the title despite hiring Herm Edwards, also in the calendar year 2017.
- Arkansas: Central Arkansas went 9-0 in conference to top the FCS Southland. Arkansas State was likely the best team in the state and would’ve whooped Arkansas if the Razorbacks didn’t have a policy against scheduling the Red Wolves. ASU’s coach burned the Razorbacks at a speaking engagement, though.
- California: USC won the Pac-12 and did it by beating Stanford twice, including in the conference championship. Shoutout to the USD Toreros, however.
- Colorado: Colorado wasn’t as good as Colorado State, probably, but did win head-to-head. The Buffs take the title.
- Connecticut: Yale won an Ivy League championship. Central Connecticut State made the FCS playoffs and scored zero points once there.
- Delaware: Wesley went 10-2 and made the Division III playoffs.
- Florida: UCF.
- Georgia: Georgia.
- Hawaii: Hawaii, I guess, but feel free to consider San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny for that time he literally dragged a Hawaii guy across the turf.
- Idaho: Boise State.
- Illinois: Northwestern went 10-3 in a power conference, though NIU’s 8-5 and delightful win at Nebraska (featuring two pick-sixes) merited consideration.
- Indiana: Purdue had a great year, but Saint Francis won the NAIA national championship. Apologies to the Boilermakers.
- Iowa: Iowa beats Iowa State on a head-to-head tiebreaker.
- Kansas: Kansas State.
- Kentucky: Louisville beat Kentucky head-to-head, and neither WKU nor any of the state’s lower-division programs had all that special a year.
- Louisiana: LSU.
- Maine: Husson went 10-2 and won a game in the DIII playoffs.
- Maryland: Navy made and won another bowl game, in epic fashion against Virginia. Frostburg State won two games in the DIII playoffs and went 11-2. Kudos to the other other FSU.
- Massachusetts: Boston College beat Louisville and Florida State, lol. Yale beat Harvard and deserves runner-up status for that achievement.
- Michigan: Michigan State held off an upset bid by plucky upstart Michigan. The runner-up is Central Michigan, which beat both Western and Eastern Michigan.
- Minnesota: St. Thomas won a pair of DIII playoff games, and I’m not in the mood to reward the flagship Gophers with a state title for falling from 9-4 to 5-7.
- Mississippi: East Mississippi Community College, i.e. Last Chance U, won the junior college national title. Sorry about it, Egg Bowl.
- Missouri: Missouri claims this year’s crown, but only because Division II powerhouse Northwest Missouri State fell off a little bit.
- Montana: Montana State beat Montana to win the Great Divide Trophy. The Grizzlies had a better record (7-4 to 5-6), but that doesn’t concern us.
- Nebraska: There’s no choice but to award a split title to Chadron State and Wayne State, who both went 6-5 in Division II.
- Nevada: Nevada went 3-9 but gets the most underwhelming state title of any team here by virtue of the process of elimination and beating UNLV.
- New Hampshire: New Hampshire made the FCS playoffs and won a couple of times once it got there.
- New Jersey: Rather than giving Rutgers the nod at 4-8, let’s recognize the Monmouth Hawks for making the FCS playoffs and losing by 39 to UNI immediately.
- New Mexico: New Mexico State made a bowl game for the first time since 1960, then won that bowl game. Go Aggies.
- New York: Army, and it’s not much of a race.
- North Carolina: North Carolina AT&T went 12-0 and won the HBCU national championship in the Celebration Bowl. These Aggies are clearly deserving.
- North Dakota: North Dakota State won the FCS national championship.
- Ohio: Mount Union won the Division III national title, no matter what would happen if it played Ohio State head-to-head.
- Oklahoma: Oklahoma.
- Oregon: Oregon.
- Pennsylvania: Penn State.
- Rhode Island: Bryant went 6-5, far better than lowly Brown and Rhode Island, who combined for five wins.
- South Carolina: Clemson.
- South Dakota: South Dakota State beat South Dakota in the South Dakota Showdown Series and also finished with a superior record.
- Tennessee: Memphis wins here. (I’d foolishly awarded this to Vanderbilt at first, based on a head-to-head win against Tennessee. But the overall body of work makes it clear to me that the Tigers have earned it.)
- Texas: Texas A&M Commerce won the Division II national title, and I can’t even begin to express how much I don’t feel bad about awarding the Lions this title.
- Utah: Utah won seven games including a nice Power 5 bowl game, though if you think I should’ve put FCS playoff team Weber State here instead, you’ve got a strong case.
- Vermont: Castleton beat Norwich in the year’s lone head-to-head meeting between any of the three Division III programs in the state. But Middlebury, with its state-best 7-2 record, is your Vermont winner.
- Virginia: James Madison was awesome and almost won a second FCS title in a row, though North Dakota State beat the Dukes in the end.
- Washington: Washington beat Washington State for the Apple Cup.
- Washington, D.C.: Howard had a wonderful turnaround season and went 7-4, easily beating out 1-10 Georgetown. The Bison had the biggest upset in CFB history by point spread when they beat UNLV as 45-point underdogs in Week 1.
- West Virginia: West Virginia.
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin.
- Wyoming: Wyoming, the only college program in the state, won a bowl.
Probably not! Let me know where you differ.