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Ranking Every State by Its College Football Teams

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2014

Ranking Every State by Its College Football Teams

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    In college football, not all states are considered equal.

    On this very patriotic of holidays, Memorial Day, we've decided to honor one of our country's most beloved sports…while also sparking a healthy debate on which state is better than another on the gridiron.

    There are 128 schools that play at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, and while top-25 polls and bowl results can tell us about how individual schools rank against each other, those don't take into account a state's full body of work. That's where we come in.

    Using their FBS programs' 2013 performance as a barometer, we've taken the initiative to rank the states based on the state of their football prowess. Where does your commonwealth or territory stand? Check it out, then show your state pride in the comments.

Unranked States

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    Only 41 states are home to an FBS program, meaning there are nine that don't qualify for this ranking. That group (Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont) does feature some pretty solid FCS teams such as Delaware, Maine and three-time defending national champion North Dakota State.

    NDSU, which lost its coach (Craig Bohl) to Wyoming during the offseason, is considering a potential move to FBS, so if that happens, the Peace Garden State may soon join the official ranking. For now, those in North Dakota will have to be satisfied with wins over FBS teams in each of the past four seasons as well as a chance for a fifth FBS scalp when the Bison open the 2014 campaign at Iowa State.

41. New Mexico

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    FBS teams: New Mexico, New Mexico State

    2013 combined record: 5-19

     

    The Land of Enchantment has only been enchanting for opponents of late, as neither New Mexico nor New Mexico State has finished with a winning record since 2007.

    New Mexico has been a doormat in the Mountain West for several years despite one of the more productive running games in the country that coach Bob Davie has employed to try and counter his team's lack of playmakers. The situation is much worse at NMSU, where the Aggies spent last year as an independent (they'll join the Sun Belt in 2014) and ended last season by snapping a 24-game losing streak to FBS opponents.

40. Wyoming

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    FBS teams: Wyoming

    2013 record: 5-7

     

    It makes sense that the least populated state in the country has only one FBS program, and Wyoming residents love their Cowboys no matter how they fare or what odd combination of yellow and brown the team wears on the field.

    It's been an up-and-down stretch for Wyoming, which has been under .500 the last two years and has to travel to both Michigan State and Oregon this season under new coach Craig Bohl.

39. Hawaii

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    FBS teams: Hawaii

    2013 record: 1-11

     

    It's been far from paradise for the Aloha State's football team, which since being a BCS buster (and then getting busted by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl) in 2007 has had just one winning season. The Rainbow Warriors bottomed out in 2013, going 1-11 and needing a win over Army in the finale to avoid their first winless record since 1998.

    Long a destination for power conference teams to come for a bowl-like atmosphere in the regular season—not to mention the ability to host a 13th game to make up for the trip—Hawaii will host Washington and Oregon State at the outset in 2014. The Warriors last beat a power conference opponent in 2011.

38. Connecticut

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    FBS teams: Connecticut

    2013 record: 3-9

     

    Since moving up from FCS in 2000, it's been a mostly successful run for Connecticut, capped by a Fiesta Bowl appearance after the 2010 season. But the Huskies have been on a downward trend since then with three straight sub-.500 campaigns, including last year's effort that began with nine straight losses.

    With a new coach (Bob Diaco), a watered-down league (the American) and a schedule that features six teams that had losing records last season, the chance to move up this list is there for UConn. For now, the Nutmeg State is the East Coast's worst in FBS.

37. Colorado

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    FBS teams: Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State

    2013 combined record: 14-24

     

    The epicenter of the Rocky Mountains has three teams that are all on or near Interstate 25, each with its own distinct fanbase and football history. While Colorado's is the richest, only Colorado State has had any success the past two seasons.

    CSU helped kick off the 2013 bowl season in style with a wild comeback to beat Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl, while Air Force and Colorado could only sit back and watch. The military academy had its worst season in program history, going 2-10, while Colorado finished 4-8 for its eighth straight losing campaign.

36. Massachusetts

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    FBS teams: Boston College, Massachusetts

    2013 combined record: 8-17

     

    Though its FBS contingent doubled in 2012 with Massachusetts moving up, that addition actually lowered the state's reputation because of how bad the Minutemen have been. UMass has gone 1-11 in both years and is heading toward independent limbo with its announced departure from the Mid-American Conference in 2015.

    Boston College remains the gold standard in the commonwealth, though the Eagles' 7-6 marks in 2010 and 2013 have been the best in that stretch.

35. Idaho

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    FBS teams: Boise State, Idaho

    2013 combined record: 9-16

     

    Last year was one of the worst for the land of potatoes in the past two decades, and for once it wasn't just because of woeful Idaho.

    Boise State's 8-5 mark in 2013 signaled the first time since 2005 the Broncos failed to win double digits. For the Vandals it was more of the same, which is to say bad results, as the school with only four winning records since rejoining FBS in 1996 went 1-11 as an independent.

34. Arkansas

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    FBS teams: Arkansas, Arkansas State

    2013 combined record: 11-14

     

    The state's two FBS teams are moving in opposite directions, with Arkansas of the SEC losing ground to perennial Sun Belt contender (and power program coach groomer) Arkansas State.

    The Razorbacks are coming off a 3-9 season that included an 0-8 mark in the SEC, the first time they've gone winless since joining the league in the 1990s. Arkansas State, though, was 8-5 last year and has won 28 games (including a pair of bowl victories) in the past three seasons despite having a new coach each year.

    Sadly, these schools have never met in FBS play, nor is any future matchup scheduled, so Natural State supremacy will have to be judged subjectively instead of on the scoreboard.

33. Nevada

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    FBS teams: Nevada, UNLV

    2013 combined record: 11-14

     

    Last year was a role reversal for the state's FBS teams, as it was UNLV carrying the banner (and the schools' rivalry trophy) rather than Nevada.

    The 2013 season marked UNLV's first appearance in a bowl game since 2000, but the Runnin' Rebels will have to savor whatever fond memories came from that blowout loss to North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl since the program has been banned from postseason play in 2014 because of a low APR (Academic Progress Rate) score. Nevada is eligible, though, and the Wolf Pack will be looking to return to a bowl after last season's 4-8 record snapped a stretch of eight consecutive winning seasons.

32. New Jersey

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    FBS teams: Rutgers

    2013 record: 6-7

     

    Rutgers made its one and only year in the American (formerly Big East) an uninspiring one, as the Scarlet Knights started 4-1 only to need a win on the final day of the regular season to get into a bowl game. Then they got beat handily by Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl.

    Headed into the Big Ten this fall, Rutgers will bring with it a stretch of eight winning seasons in the last nine but also a 13-31 all-time mark against its future conference opponents. That includes a 2-22 mark against Penn State, which the Knights last beat in 1988 and which they open Big Ten play against at home on Sept. 13.

31. New York

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    FBS teams: Army, Buffalo, Syracuse

    2013 combined record: 18-20

     

    Despite having three FBS programs—more than 30 other states—New York has never really been considered a college football hotbed. It doesn't help that all three teams are in upstate New York, with only one (Army) considered in the vicinity of the population center and media mecca of New York City.

    But New York had two bowl teams last year for the fifth time ever and the first that involved Buffalo instead of Army as the partner to Syracuse. Buffalo was blown out in its game, while Syracuse edged Minnesota to win the Texas Bowl, and Army was left home after a third straight season of three or fewer wins.

30. West Virginia

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    FBS teams: Marshall, West Virginia

    2013 combined record: 14-12

     

    Just over 200 miles separates Marshall and West Virginia along Interstate 79, yet the schools have only met 12 times, including the inaugural meeting in 1911. West Virginia has claimed all dozen games, including a record-setting 69-34 romp in 2012, yet it's Marshall's program that appears to be heading in the right direction.

    The Thundering Herd played in the Conference USA title game last season, and behind underrated quarterback Rakeem Cato, they finished with 10 wins that included a victory over Maryland in the Military Bowl. West Virginia went 4-8 in 2013, ending the Mountaineers' streak of 11 straight bowl-bound seasons.

    The schools do not have any future meetings scheduled.

29. Kansas

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    FBS teams: Kansas, Kansas State

    2013 combined record: 11-14

     

    The Sunflower State had a very uneven year in 2013, starting with Kansas State losing at home to an FCS school (though that proved to be less embarrassing when North Dakota State won a third straight FCS title), but then was mostly positive for Big 12 rivals.

    K-State ended up finishing 8-5, despite a 2-4 start, and throttled Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. And while Kansas only went 3-9, that matched its best mark in the past four years and also included victories that snapped long skids to both Big 12 opponents and FBS teams, respectively.

28. Illinois

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    FBS teams: Illinois, Northern Illinois, Northwestern

    2013 combined record: 21-17

     

    The fifth-most populated state, with more than 12 million, has all three of its programs concentrated in the northeast portion of the Land of Lincoln to accommodate where most people live. Yet its the little guy of the three, at least in terms of national recognition, that's dominated the state of late.

    Northern Illinois has gone 46-10 the last four years, sending two of its coaches to power conference programs, reaching a BCS bowl game in 2012 and going 2-0 last season against schools from the Big Ten. Illinois and Northwestern only had two Big Ten victories between them in 2013, with one of those being Northwestern's season-ending win over the Fighting Illini.

27. Iowa

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    FBS teams: Iowa, Iowa State

    2013 combined record: 11-14

     

    Unless you're from the Midwest, states like Iowa don't tend to grab many headlines unless they fall at one end of the extreme or the other. That aptly describes Iowa and Iowa State's impacts on the FBS landscape last season.

    Iowa went 8-5 and reached a New Year's Day bowl game, losing to LSU in the Outback Bowl, but nothing about the Hawkeyes' season was very noteworthy. Same goes for ISU, which was probably a little better than its 3-9 record would indicate, but it still marked the fourth straight sub-.500 season for the Cyclones.

26. Virginia

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    FBS teams: Old Dominion, Virginia, Virginia Tech

    2013 combined record: 18-19

     

    This state's overall performance in 2013 comes with an asterisk, as Old Dominion's 8-4 mark during its first season transitioning from FCS included only five games (and a 1-4 record) against FBS opponents. The Monarchs face 11 FBS teams this year, including a full slate of Conference USA members.

    As far as the longstanding FBS members go, Virginia Tech went 8-5 but was blown out by UCLA in the Sun Bowl to end a second straight subpar (for the Hokies) season, while Virginia's 2-10 record, including an 0-8 tally in the ACC, was the Cavaliers' worst result since 1981.

25. Kentucky

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    FBS teams: Kentucky, Louisville, Western Kentucky

    2013 combined record: 22-15

     

    Instead of the Bluegrass State, Kentucky might as well be called the Transition State for all the movement and change going on at its three FBS programs.

    Louisville and Western Kentucky are both moving to new conferences in 2014, with the Cardinals joining the ACC after a 12-1 finish (that only resulted in second place) in the American and WKU shifting from the Sun Belt (where an 8-4 record didn't make the Hilltoppers bowl-worthy) to Conference USA.

    Then there's Kentucky, who lost to both in-state foes and went 2-10 for the second straight season, although the Wildcats appear headed in the right direction under coach Mark Stoops.

24. Indiana

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    FBS teams: Ball State, Indiana, Notre Dame, Purdue

    2013 combined record: 25-25

     

    The state of Indiana isn't nearly as renowned in college football as it is for its college hoops programs—this past season of basketball notwithstanding—but it still has some solid programs. Just not always at the same time.

    In 2013, it was Ball State and Notre Dame, which went 10-3 and 9-4, respectively. The Cardinals have been on a steady uptick since going 2-10 in 2009 but could be destined for a drop-off based on a talent exodus and a historical trend that shows they had a similar five-year rise from 2004-2008.

    Notre Dame, though not in the BCS picture after reaching the title game after the 2012 season, still managed its fourth straight year with a winning record. That may not seem that impressive for such a storied program, but it hadn't happened for the Irish since the late 1990s.

    Then there was Indiana, which at 5-7 failed to reach a bowl game for the sixth consecutive year, and Purdue, which at 1-11 was arguably the worst team in major college football in 2013.

23. Tennessee

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    FBS teams: Memphis, Middle Tennessee, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

    2013 combine record: 25-25

     

    Though the records this past season don't show it, there are two distinctly different pairs of teams in Tennessee: the SEC and the non-SEC.

    Tennessee and Vanderbilt are 42-9 all-time against Memphis and Middle Tennessee, which play in the American and Conference USA, respectively. But the only game involving two Volunteer State alums was the annual SEC clash between Tennessee and Vanderbilt, won by the Commodores to keep Tennessee out of a bowl for the third straight year.

    Vanderbilt, at 9-4, had the best mark in the state, beating Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Middle Tennessee was the only other bowl qualifier, losing to Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl to finish 8-5. Tennessee was 5-7, while Memphis' move from C-USA to the American resulted in a 3-9 mark and a sixth straight losing record.

22. Georgia

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    FBS teams: Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Georgia Tech

    2013 combined record: 22-27

     

    Georgia's FBS membership has doubled in the last two years, with Georgia State moving up from FCS last season and Georgia Southern set to do so this fall. Because of these additions, the state's collective record (and, to a degree, its overall reputation) has taken a hit.

    Even without Georgia State's 0-12 mark (or the 7-4 record that Georgia Southern put up in its last year of FCS play, which was down from previous seasons), it wasn't a spectacular year for the state. Injuries and suspect defense led to an 8-5 mark for Georgia, including a loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, while Georgia Tech went 7-6 and lost to Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl.

21. Pennsylvania

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    FBS teams: Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple

    2013 combined record: 16-21

     

    With teams representing the eastern (Temple), central (Penn State) and western (Pittsburgh) part of the state, Pennsylvania has got all its residents covered. Giving them something extraordinary to cheer about would make it even better.

    Though the state had two winning teams last year, none finished with more than seven victories. And while Penn State had the best mark at 7-5, the Nittany Lions are in the middle of a bowl ban that puts a cap on the level at which their seasons can be considered successful. Pitt went 7-6, which is only slightly better than the 6-7 marks of the previous two years, while Temple was a disaster at 2-10 and has only four winning seasons since 1990.

20. Maryland

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    FBS teams: Maryland, Navy

    2013 combined record: 16-10

     

    The U.S. Naval Academy is located in Annapolis, a fact that the average college football fan probably wouldn't know. It's almost like Maryland wasn't aware of this, either, as the schools have only played twice since the mid-1960s and not since 2010.

    Ironically, though, Maryland's 2013 season ended with a loss on Navy's home field, albeit to Marshall in the Military Bowl. The Terrapins went 7-6 and are headed to the Big Ten after decades in the ACC.

    Navy, a longtime independent that has had to prearrange bowl invitations but will move into the American in 2015, went 9-4 and downed Middle Tennessee in the Armed Forces Bowl for its 10th winning record in the last 11 years.

19. North Carolina

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    FBS teams: Appalachian State, Duke, East Carolina, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest

    2013 combined record: 38-38

     

    North Carolina's FBS entrants fit all the team stereotypes in 2013: surprise winner, late bloomer, underrated power and underachiever. And, in this era of constant realignment, a transitioner as well, with Appalachian State moving up from FCS this fall.

    Duke was the best of the bunch, winning the ACC's Coastal Division and reaching 10 wins after notching 12 victories in the previous three years. Next up was North Carolina, which went 7-6 but started the season 1-5 and blew out Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl.

    East Carolina, which went 10-3 in its final season of Conference USA play before joining the American, had victories over both UNC and North Carolina State but was one of the more under-the-radar teams in the country.

    NC State and Wake Forest, at 4-8 and 3-9, respectively, went a combined 2-14 in the ACC, yet each managed to beat a team that reached a bowl game. And Appalachian State, a former FCS national champion, was 4-8 at the lower level.

18. Minnesota

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    FBS teams: Minnesota

    2013 record: 8-5

     

    An eight-win season isn't the most spectacular of results, but in the college football success-starved Land of 10,000 Lakes, it marked the best record for Minnesota since 2003.

    The Golden Gophers actually started 8-2, including big wins over Nebraska and Penn State, but then ended the season by losing to Wisconsin and Michigan State in Big Ten play as well as to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl.

17. Mississippi

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    FBS teams: Mississippi, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi

    2013 combined record: 16-22

     

    SEC rivals Ole Miss and Mississippi State had another pair of middle-of-the-road seasons in 2013, both winning just enough games in league play (with MSU knocking off the Rebels in overtime) to be bowl-eligible. They both then pulled out wins in those bowls to finish on high notes and provide an opportunity for momentum heading into 2014.

    Southern Mississippi had its own momentum-building victory at the end of last year, but it was in a completely different realm. The Golden Eagles had lost 23 in a row before walloping UAB in their finale, and they will now look to return to their winning ways that resulted in 18 straight plus-.500 seasons from 1994-2012.

16. Utah

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    FBS teams: BYU, Utah, Utah State

    2013 combined record: 22-17

     

    One of the states where all of the FBS programs tend to play each other on a regular basis, Utah is where you can find an underrated mid-major, an identity-seeking independent and a new-to-the-power-conference school that hasn't yet found its footing on that higher perch.

    Utah State survived a coaching change and the midseason loss of its exciting quarterback to go 9-5, reaching the Mountain West title game and then knocking off Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Aggies are among the top contenders from outside the Group of Five to grab the at-large College Football Playoff spot that's up for grabs after the 2014 season.

    BYU, which went 8-5 in its third year of independence, had some nice wins against big names like Georgia Tech and Texas and fell short to Notre Dame, Virginia and Wisconsin. But with the news that the ACC and SEC won't consider the Cougars as part of its "must play a power nonconference opponent" plan, the chance to continue to make waves without a league affiliation will decrease.

    And with Utah, which went 5-7, it marked the second time in three years the Utes haven't been bowl-eligible since riding their dominance in the Mountain West into an invite to the Pac-12.

15. Washington

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    FBS teams: Washington, Washington State

    2013 combined record: 15-11

     

    Both of Washington's FBS schools are coming off their best seasons in recent memory, though only one of them saw that success prompt their coach to leave for greener pastures.

    Washington went 9-4, the most wins by the Huskies since 2000, though the last of the victories (over BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl) was credited to a patchwork coaching staff that was still around after Steve Sarkisian left for USC.

    With Washington State, though it finished below .500 for a seventh straight year, the 6-7 mark did result in the school's first bowl invite in more than a decade in just the second season of Mike Leach's rebuilding project with the Cougars.

14. Arizona

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    FBS teams: Arizona, Arizona State

    2013 combined record: 18-9

     

    When Arizona and Arizona State met in late November in Tempe, the teams looked headed in opposite directions. ASU whooped the Wildcats en route to the Pac-12 title game, while Arizona was headed to a lower-tier bowl game at best.

    But after Arizona pounded Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, and ASU not only lost at home to Stanford in the conference final, but also to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl, an argument could be made (and probably was somewhere in the Grand Canyon State) that Arizona had the better year.

    So it goes in one of just five states with two or more FBS programs in which all of them had winning records and reached bowl games.

13. Nebraska

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    FBS programs: Nebraska

    2013 record: 9-4

     

    In Nebraska, there is only Nebraska. The red and white of the Cornhuskers dominates the color palette of the entire state, and as such, every tiny detail is obsessed over and picked apart. It makes success that much harder to appreciate and struggles that much more difficult to brush off.

    But somehow, despite a rocky start both for the team and the reputation of coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska put together a solid-if-not-spectacular season that culminated in an impressive win over Georgia in the Gator Bowl. However, nine wins has been the low point for the program the past six seasons, which shows how fleeting success and praise can be.

12. Michigan

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    FBS teams: Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan

    2013 combined record: 29-34

     

    The hierarchy in the Great Lakes State goes like this: There are the Big Ten's Michigan and Michigan State, and then there are the directional schools who often serve as early-season fodder for the big boys.

    And while some years one of those Mid-American schools jumps up and finishes with a better record than the powers, that wasn't the case in 2013. It could have happened had Central Michigan not lost to Michigan to open the season, as CMU went 6-6 and Michigan 7-6.

    Far and away, the state's best team right now is Michigan State, which not only won its first outright Big Ten title since 1987, but also reached the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988. The Spartans beat Stanford to finish 13-1.

    Rounding out the list, way down at the bottom, are Eastern Michigan (2-10) and Western Michigan (1-11), which combined to have one victory against an FBS team not among the two of them.

11. Ohio

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    FBS programs: Akron, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Ohio State, Toledo

    2013 combined record: 54-48

     

    With the second-most FBS programs in any one state and six in the same conference (the Mid-American), there are annually a lot of games played between Ohio's eight teams. Yet Cincinnati and Ohio State also do their best to be neighborly, playing (and usually beating) the MAC teams on a regular basis.

    Head-to-head comparisons aside, as a whole, Ohio's teams are mostly good. Mostly. Miami (Ohio) went 0-12 and wasn't close to winning a game last season, while Akron and Kent State also finished below .500.

    Ohio's other three MAC teams had varying degrees of success, led by Bowling Green. The Falcons won 10 games and claimed the MAC title but lost their coach to Wake Forest and their bowl game to Pittsburgh. Ohio and Toledo both won seven games, but only Ohio got a bowl bid, losing to East Carolina in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl.

    The big guns both had good seasons that would have been greater if not for late losses. Ohio State began 12-0 only to lose to Michigan State for the Big Ten title and then to Clemson in the Orange Bowl, while Cincinnati started 9-2 and then dropped its final two.

10. Oregon

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    FBS programs: Oregon, Oregon State

    2013 combined record: 18-8

     

    If this ranking had been done back in mid-October, the state of Oregon would have been far higher up the list and would have made a serious push for the top spot. Oregon and Oregon State were a combined 13-1, the only loss surprisingly coming in the form of OSU dropping its season opener to FCS Eastern Washington.

    But then the bottom fell out on the Beavers' year, going from 6-1 to 6-6 before anyone could blink, yet still ended on a high note with a bowl win over Boise State.

    Oregon made it to 7-0 and a huge showdown with Stanford only to fall behind big and come up short on the late rally. The Ducks then appeared to sleepwalk through parts of the remainder of the regular season, particularly in a blowout loss to Arizona, before turning it on again in the Alamo Bowl as an inconsiderate going-away present to Texas coach Mack Brown

9. Oklahoma

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    FBS programs: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tulsa

    2013 combined record: 24-14

     

    In recent years it hasn't been uncommon for all three of the Sooner State's FBS teams to go bowling, which is why last year was such an anomaly. Tulsa's 3-9 mark kept it from the postseason and meant it was just the second time since 2005 that two or fewer Oklahoma-based schools got a bowl bid.

    Oklahoma and OSU did their part, as is usually the case, both getting high-tier bowl games as a reward for 10-win seasons. But only the Sooners cashed in with another victory, and it was a big one: over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to get to 11 victories for the 10th time in 14 years.

    OK State fell short in its bowl, losing late to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, but at 10-3 still hit double digits for the third time in four seasons.

8. Louisiana

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    FBS programs: Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Tulane

    2013 combined record: 36-27

     

    For a state that makes sure to hit all the benchmarks for program types, look no further than Louisiana. The Bayou State has the power conference state school (LSU), the private college (Tulane), the technical institute (Louisiana Tech) and even a pair of former directionally named schools in Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.

    And save for Tech's 4-8 record—a huge drop from 9-3 in 2012—the rest of the state did pretty darn good.

    LSU went 10-3, and though it wasn't in the mix for SEC or national titles, it still played on New Year's Day and knocked off Iowa in the Outback Bowl. UL-Lafayette solidified itself as one of the top mid-major teams in the country with a third straight 9-4 season as well as the Sun Belt title, while UL-Monroe went 6-6 and would have bowled if the games added for 2014 were around last year.

    Lastly, there was Tulane, which in most years was the state's also-ran but in 2013 finished at 7-6 to get to a bowl game for the first time since 2002.

7. Wisconsin

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    FBS programs: Wisconsin

    2013 record: 9-4

     

    Much like Nebraska, Wisconsin has a captive audience of red-and-white-clad residents who hang on each and every action the Badgers make in college football. And, like the Cornhuskers, they experienced what it was like to have a good season that probably could have been a lot better.

    Wisconsin's 2013 season was full of a lot of what ifs, including a bizarre ending to its loss at Arizona State and a brain cramp of a performance at home to Penn State. Despite the shortcomings, it still marked the program's 12th straight winning season and kept this one-school state high on the list.

6. Missouri

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    FBS programs: Missouri

    2013 record: 12-2

     

    The Show Me State showed the rest of America that quality is often more important than quantity in 2013, as the state's lone FBS team had such a great season that it trumped nearly 90 percent of the country.

    Missouri's second season since moving from the Big 12 to the SEC was a massive success, paced by a 7-0 start that led to a berth in the SEC title game. The Tigers might have lost that contest to Auburn, but they kept the year's accomplishments from being soured by pulling out a rousing win over former Big 12 rival Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

5. Florida

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    FBS programs: Central Florida, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), South Florida

    2013 combined record: 48-40

     

    If you're looking at how the quality over quantity concept can affect a state's ranking, use Florida as an example. The state is home to the defending national champion and two of the five BCS bowl game winners. But there are seven schools that are in FBS in the Sunshine State, and the majority of them caused some clouds to ruin Florida's clear sailing to a higher ranking.

    First, the great ones: Florida State went 14-0 and won the national title, taking on all challengers—though some critics will still say that wasn't enough—to claim the school's first championship since the 1999 season. There was also Central Florida, probably the biggest surprise of 2013 with its 12-1 record and wins over Louisville in the regular season and Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Also making a bowl game was Miami (Fla.), but by that point, the Hurricanes were just a shell of their former selves offensively and limped to a 9-4 record after a 7-0 start.

    Then come the ranking crashers, starting with a 6-6 Florida Atlantic team that should be praised for ending on a four-game win streak but given only half credit for securing two wins against 2-10 teams and two more against 1-11 clubs.

    Though not the worst in terms of records, the most disappointing of the Florida lot were the Gators themselves. Not only did they fail to reach a bowl game for the first time since 1990, but their 4-8 record was the school's worst since 1979.

    Almost as disappointing was South Florida, which after five years of eight or more wins has now gone 10-26 the last three seasons, including 2-10 in 2013. And rounding out the list is Florida International, which wasn't even as good as its 1-11 record.

4. Texas

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    FBS programs: Baylor, Houston, North Texas, Rice, SMU, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas State, Texas Tech, UTEP, UTSA

    2013 combined record: 87-65

     

    Everything's a little bigger in Texas, including the breadth and depth of its college football. With 12 teams playing at the FBS level spread across five different conferences, the Lone Star State stands alone when it comes to its gridiron fingerprint.

    Texas is home to two different conference champions in Big 12 winner Baylor (11-2) and Conference USA winner Rice (10-4), while the American's Houston (8-5), Texas and Texas Tech of the Big 12 (both 8-5), North Texas of C-USA (9-4) and Texas A&M of the SEC (9-4) all went to bowl games. That group went a combined 3-4 in bowl games.

    C-USA's UTSA (7-5) and the Sun Belt's Texas State (6-6) were both bowl-eligible, but as transitioning FCS programs they would have only gotten a bid had they been the only available teams left. Still, that's nine teams out of 12 with winning records.

    The bottom feeders in the state last year were all from the alphabet soup, with SMU going 5-7 in the American, TCU finishing 4-8 in the Big 12 and UTEP bringing up the rear at 2-10 out of C-USA. 

3. California

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    FBS programs: California, Fresno State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Stanford, UCLA, USC

    2013 combined record: 57-34

     

    With five of its seven FBS teams playing in bowl games and six of seven finishing at or above .500, it was a golden year for California in 2013. The glow would have been far brighter if Cal wasn't included, as the Golden Bears provided 11 of the state's 34 losses.

    California's percentage of bowl invitations (71.4 percent) and non-losing records (85.7 percent) led all of America, and the state went 3-2 in bowl games (a mark tainted by USC's win over Fresno State).

    There were four teams with 10 or more wins, led by Pac-12 champ Stanford (11-2) and Mountain West winner Fresno (11-2) along with UCLA (10-3) and USC (10-4). Then came San Diego State, which at 8-5 had its fourth straight season of at least eight victories.

    And San Jose State, which went 6-6, ironically probably only missed out on a bowl game because its win over Fresno to end the regular season (and become bowl-eligible) knocked Fresno out of BCS consideration and thus reduced the number of bowl bids the Mountain West had.

2. Alabama

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    FBS teams: Alabama, Auburn, South Alabama, Troy, UAB

    2013 combined record: 37-26

     

    As far as those who follow Alabama and Auburn are concerned—which in the Heart of Dixie is pretty much everyone—those are the only college football teams that matter. But we at Bleacher Report are nothing if not comprehensive, as our frequent rankings and lists that provide info on all 128 FBS teams show, and this ranking is of every team in a state, not just the good ones.

    Otherwise, Alabama would be No. 1 with a bullet.

    Auburn's 12-2 record, SEC title and national championship berth alongside an 11-2 record for Alabama (considered by many as a down year for the Crimson Tide) included a combined 14-1 record against SEC opponents not involved in the Iron Bowl. That's really, really good.

    But Alabama has five FBS teams, and the record of the other three was 14-24. And that included two 6-6 teams from the Sun Belt (South Alabama and Troy) along with perennial doormat UAB (2-10) of Conference USA. Troy has been a bowl contender most years, and South Alabama appears to be a fast riser in just two years of FBS play, but those Blazers and their nine straight losing seasons are too much to overlook.

1. South Carolina

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    RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    FBS teams: Clemson, South Carolina

    Combined record: 22-4

     

    When searching for the best college football, from top to bottom, look no further than the Palmetto State. Though South Carolina and Clemson are the only FBS programs in the state, they're regularly among the top teams in the country.

    Both 11-2 a year ago (which includes Clemson's loss to South Carolina), both are on three-year streaks of 10 or more wins. Each won its bowl game in 2013, with Clemson taking the Orange Bowl over Ohio State and South Carolina downing Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.

    And their losses aren't too shabby, either. Clemson's other loss was to Florida State, while South Carolina fell on the road to Georgia and Tennessee…but also was the only squad to beat Central Florida and one of two to top Missouri. 

    While there are better individual teams out there, and some states have more good ones, there's one thing South Carolina has on all of them, or rather, doesn't have: no scrubs.

     

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