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Meet college football’s Team of 2018 for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

College football doesn’t have state championships, exactly. But we can still pick the best season in every state.

One of my biggest regrets about college football is that it doesn’t have state championships. It has big in-state rivalry games, and winning a conference or the Playoff is definitely fun and all, but there’s nothing exactly like being crowned king of your own state.

Thankfully, there are no rules on the internet. So for the second year in a row, I have appointed a Team of the Year in every state and the District of Columbia.

The guiding rules: You don’t have to be an FBS team. Winning at a lower level is more fun than losing at a higher one. Head-to-head results matter, as do championships and a team’s overall success. In college football fashion, there’s some subjectivity to these picks, by me:

Here’s the rationale for every pick.

  • Alabama: Alabama was the second-best team in college football. The Tide destroyed Auburn en route to the national title game.
  • Alaska: There are no college football teams in Alaska. So I award Team of the Year in our northernmost state to the guy and his dogs who won the Iditarod. The musher is Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway, and his lead dogs are named Russeren and Olive.
  • Arizona: Herm Edwards’ Arizona State beat Arizona in the Territorial Cup and finished ahead of the Wildcats in the Pac-12 South. FCS Northern Arizona didn’t do much, though it did cruise past FBS UTEP all the way back in Week 1.
  • Arkansas: Arkansas State won eight games, but Ouachita Baptist went 12-1 and didn’t lose until its second game of the Division II playoffs. Great year for the Tigers.
  • California: It’s hard to argue anyone put on a better show than 12-2 Fresno State. The Bulldogs won the Mountain West by winning at Boise State, and they finished ninth in S&P+ after whooping the above-mentioned Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
  • Colorado: All of the state’s FBS teams were bad. So was the lone FCS team. But DII Colorado State-Pueblo made the playoffs and beat the Colorado School of Mines once it got there, before falling to eventual national semifinalist Minnesota State-Mankato.
  • Connecticut: Well, it’s not UConn. DII New Haven won a game in the playoffs, so the Chargers go over FCS Central Connecticut, which went 6-5 but didn’t make the playoffs. There’s also a fine case for Trinity, which went 8-1 in DIII’s NESCAC.
  • Delaware: Delaware got to the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2010, when the Fightin’ Blue Hens lost to Eastern Washington in the title game.
  • Florida: UCF had another excellent year and might have done more if its star QB hadn’t gotten hurt late. But Florida won a New Year’s Six bowl.
  • Georgia: Valdosta State won the Division II national title in an awesome game against Ferris State, played in the world’s most ornate high school stadium. I’ll take the Blazers over the more famous team in their state, which got whomped by both LSU and Texas.
  • Hawaii: Hawaii wasn’t that good, but the Rainbow Warriors’ offense was one of the more enjoyable parts of the season, especially early. Also, there’s no other team.
  • Idaho: Boise State had a strong year, even it if wasn’t a Boise State strong year. More importantly, the Broncos played the most efficient bowl game of all time — the First Responder Bowl, which got canceled during the first quarter.
  • Illinois: Northwestern won the Big Ten West, and that was inspiring, because it showed that literally anyone, no matter how inefficient and statistically underwhelming, can win a Power 5 division if all the teams around it have mediocre or worse years at the same time. The Wildcats deserve our praise. But NIU won its conference championship game.
  • Indiana: Notre Dame made the College Football Playoff because it didn’t lose any games. Then it lost to one of the best teams of all time. It was a pretty good year! Next.
  • Iowa: Morningside won the NAIA national championship. We appreciate champions at all levels, and it’s not like the two FBS Iowa teams did anything to supersede a title.
  • Kansas: None of the NCAA programs from this state did anything special. Garden City, the team the new Last Chance U coach hates, made the JUCO title game. Benedictine almost won the NAIA title game, and I’m giving the Ravens the nod.
  • Kentucky: No doubt it’s 10-win Kentucky, with its best season since 1977.
  • Louisiana: LSU got destroyed by Alabama, but other than that, the Tigers had an enjoyable and solid year, capped by ending UCF’s 25-game win streak at the Fiesta Bowl.
  • Maine: The Maine Black Bears had a great year, getting farther in the FCS playoffs (to the semifinals) than they ever had before.
  • Maryland: Division III Johns Hopkins made it to the national semifinals before falling to powerhouse Mount Union. The Blue Jays beat another Maryland school, Frostburg State, to claim the state championship and get that far. Additional props to Towson for making the FCS playoffs, something it hadn’t done since making a run to the championship game (and promptly getting North Dakota Stated) in 2013.
  • Massachusetts: Neither Boston College nor UMass showed anything special in FBS. Same with Harvard and Holy Cross in FCS. Nor did its various teams in the DII Northeast 10. You know who did play well? MIT, which went a solid 9-1 before getting pureed by Johns Hopkins in the first round of the DIII playoffs, 49-0. Roll Engineers.
  • Michigan: Though they beat Michigan State despite many Spartan hijinks, Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines had an embarrassing season. So I’m going with Ferris State, which went 15-1 and just missed against Valdosta State in that great DII championship game.
  • Minnesota: Minnesota State-Mankato had a tremendous year, going 13-1, with its only los coming to Ferris State in a DII semifinal. But I’m taking DIII St. John’s, which went 12-1 and only lost to eventual national champ Mary Hardin-Baylor. That loss came by 3, while Mankato’s loss to the eventual runner-up was by 17. Advantage, Johnnies.
  • Mississippi: Congratulations to the JUCO national champions, the original Last Chance U, East Mississippi Community College.
  • Missouri: The state has a bunch of DII teams. Several of them were good, but none of them were great. Mizzou won eight games and whipped Florida and Tennessee, which is a pretty good way for an eight-win Mizzou to distribute its wins. There’s also a case for Southeast Missouri State, which won a game in the FCS playoffs.
  • Montana: Montana State beat Montana head-to-head and won two more games.
  • Nebraska: One NCAA program in the state had a record of .500 or better: DII Chadron State. It does seem like the Huskers could take this mantle in 2019.
  • Nevada: This state has two NCAA programs. UNLV beat Nevada head-to-head, but that doesn’t quite cover the difference between UNR’s eight wins and UNLV’s eight losses. (At least I don’t think it does. I don’t presume to speak for anyone on either side of the rivalry.)
  • New Hampshire: It’s got to be Dartmouth, which went 9-1.
  • New Jersey: Princeton went 10-0 and won the Ivy League. (Get excited for your incoming offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State fans.)
  • New Mexico: Every team in the state was bad. UNM and New Mexico State both went 3-9. Three DII programs — Eastern New Mexico, Western New Mexico, and New Mexico Highlands — all finished below .500. So, I don’t get much joy from this, but New Mexico wins because it beat NMSU in the state’s most notable rivalry game.
  • New York: Army won more games than ever before, beat Navy, and put a historic bowl beating on Houston that helped get the Cougars’ head coach fired. Syracuse finished ranked 15th to the Black Knights’ 19th, and the Orange would also be a fair pick here. Same to Brockport, which went 11-1 in DIII.
  • North Carolina: North Carolina A&T went 10-2 and won its third Celebration Bowl in four years to remain atop HBCU football. The Aggies also beat nearby East Carolina of the AAC.
  • North Dakota: North Dakota State has won seven FCS titles in eight years, and if you’re reading this, and there’s a great chance the Bison would whoop your team too.
  • Ohio: Ohio State won the Rose Bowl.
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma made the Playoff. More importantly, the Sooners got to have Kyler Murray play football for a year.
  • Oregon: Oregon wins by default. You know about Oregon State’s malaise, but none of the state’s FCS, DII, or DIII teams made the postseason at all either.
  • Pennsylvania: Penn State went 9-4 with a Citrus Bowl lost. That’s four times as many losses as DII West Chester had. The Golden Rams went 10-1 and beat in-state foe Slippery Rock to win the PSAC.
  • Rhode Island: Brown was bad. Bryant and Rhode Island were so-so. Salve Regina, a Division III school in Newport, went 7-4 and had the state’s most impressive year. The Seahawks won five in a row toward the end of the year.
  • South Carolina: Clemson, obviously.
  • South Dakota: South Dakota State still cannot beat North Dakota State, but it’s also still better than South Dakota, a longtime rival.
  • Tennessee: Memphis was probably the best team in the state, but the Tigers didn’t win anything of great significance. Vanderbilt finished with two fewer wins but had the extreme pleasure of beating Tennessee to make a bowl and keep the Vols out of one.
  • Texas: Mary Hardin-Baylor beat Mount Union in the Stagg Bowl to win the Division III national championship. Sounds like the Texas Team of the Year to me. Last year, this team was DII champ Texas A&M-Commerce, which is still the only scholarship football team in Texas to win a title since Vince Young was at UT.
  • Utah: What a year for Utah State.
  • Vermont: There are three NCAA teams in this state. All of them are Division III. Castleton went 2-8. Norwich went 3-7. But Middlebury went a respectable 5-4.
  • Virginia: Virginia lost to VT in just about the most gutting fashion imaginable, but the Hoos still had a great year by their standards and beat South Carolina 28 to freaking nothing in their bowl game. They deserve this spot over FCS James Madison and Division III Randolph-Macon, a pair of playoff teams. I think.
  • Washington: Yes, UW beat Washington State in one of the Cougars’ most demoralizing Apple Cup losses yet. But the Cougars finished ranked higher, won more games, and had an awesome College GameDay moment that was years in the making. They were one of the most fun teams in the sport, and so I’m lifting them up over Washington and Eastern Washington, a national semifinalist in FCS (which they beat head-to-head)
  • Washington, D.C.: Howard wins out with a prolific offense and .500ish record in FCS.
  • West Virginia: As great as WVU making the Horns Down a program-wide thing was, the best season any team had was DII Fairmont State going 9-2 in the Mountain East.
  • Wisconsin: It probably shouldn’t be the Badgers. DIII Wisconsin-Whitewater made it to a national semifinal and had the best body of work of any Wisconsinite team.
  • Wyoming: Wyoming is the only game in town.

Here are 2017’s map and list, which include 20 of the same teams you see above.

Where do you disagree with this list?

I’m guessing two states — Virginia and Washington — will be controversial. Please know that I labored over them. Where else? Let me know in the comments.