The Winningest College Football States in America: The Top 20
The 2015 NCAA Football season is just one month away and it can’t get here soon enough. And with the new season on the horizon, every state with an FBS team is hoping they can bring home a championship, a bowl win, a conference title, or something to be proud of. And with that said, I have made a list ranking the most winningest college football states in America.
I made this list using a few guidelines. First, I only ranked the states with an FBS school, which is 41 out of 50. That means Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Delaware are not included. Next, I listed every school in the remaining states. Some states have only 1 or 2 schools, while some had plenty more. I tried not to use that fact in ranking them, but by using my grading scale, the less schools in a state usually meant the lower my grading. As for my grading scale, the Blog 4 Dat scale, I assigned points as follows:
– Winning %: Whatever the winning percentage was for all schools in the state is the base number I began with. For instance, if a state with three schools had a combined winning percentage of 2.19, I began their grading with a 2.0.
– Bowl Appearance: 1/2 point
– Bowl Win: 1 point
– National Championship: 2 points
– Conference Championship: 1 point
Share of Conference Championship: Each school received 1/2 point
I used all of this information for every school from the past 3 seasons. It was a lot of information to gather and figure out so I hope I got it all correct. For each state listed, I will list each school and their three-year record and then a summary of the state’s college football status. But with all of that said, let’s get into the countdown of the top 20 college football states in America.
For the bottom half of the countdown, click here.
State Record, Winning %: 28-13, .683
B4D Grade: 9.5
Wisconsin Badgers: 28-13
The Badgers are the lone FBS school in Wisconsin, but the team from Madison has had a great three-year stretch and then some. Two bowl appearances, one bowl win, and a conference championship has helped the Badgers get Wisconsin into the top 20 of this countdown. They could rise even higher if they wouldn’t disappear when big games arrive like they did in the 2014 Big Ten Conference championship game.
State Record, Winning %: 77-72, .517
B4D Grade: 10.0
Memphis Tigers: 17-20
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders: 22-15
Tennessee Volunteers: 17-20
Vanderbilt Commodores: 21-17
Tennessee squeaked into the top 20 with four teams all putting together an average record. In the SEC, the Commodores and Volunteers were only one game above .500 and are two of the weaker teams in one of the nation’s toughest conferences. The Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State put out the best record in the state after a good three years in Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference. And then there are the Tigers who matched the Volunteers three-year record but did so in lesser conferences.
State Record, Winning %: 64-49, .566
B4D Grade: 10.0
Kentucky Wildcats: 9-27
Louisville Cardinals: 32-7
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers: 23-15
The SEC’s Wildcats put together a horrible 9-win stretch in three years, not helping the state of Kentucky at all. However, Louisville averaged over 10 wins each of those three seasons and two bowl wins. And the Hilltoppers, who have appeared as members of the Conference USA and Sun Belt, have had a very good stretch. They made it to two bowl games and won their last one in 2014.
State Record, Winning %: 39-37, .513
B4D Grade: 10.0
Arkansas Razorbacks: 14-23
Arkansas State Red Wolves: 25-14
The Razorback fans have suffered through some hard times in recent years. In the past three seasons, Arkansas has only won SEC games and have made it to one bowl game. But those fans are hopeful that Bret Bielema can continue to turn the team around in the right direction. The school that boosted Arkansas into the top of this list was Arkansas State. The Red Wolves have 11 more wins than the Razorbacks, made it to a bowl game in each of the past three seasons, and won two of those bowl games. The Red Wolves have also won or shared the Sun Belt Conference title in two of those three seasons. If they continue to play good and the Razorbacks could improve, Arkansas can move up the list really quickly.
State Record, Winning %: 28-12, .700
B4D Grade: 10.0
Missouri Tigers: 28-12
The Tigers finished my list with the same grade as Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas. But what got them ahead of the rest is the fact that they did it with one team in the state. I was skeptical of Missouri having success when they joined the SEC, but the Tigers have held their own and proven that they are a great team. Mizzou has won the SEC East two years in a row and earned trips to bowl games in those two seasons, winning both of those games.
State Record, Winning %: 67-49, .578
B4D Grade: 10.5
Illinois Fighting Illini: 12-25
Northern Illinois Huskies: 35-7
Northwestern Wildcats: 20-17
Illinois is a great example of a state that wasn’t ranked as highly as it is because of a big, powerhouse school. The Fighting Illini have more than twice as many losses as wins, haven’t won a conference championship since 2001, and went to one bowl game in the last three years and lost to Louisiana Tech. The Wildcats of Northwestern only have three more wins than losses, haven’t won the Big Ten championship since 2000, and have one bowl win in the past three seasons. The state of Illinois has been carried by the MAC’s Northern Illinois. The Huskies have more wins than Northwestern and Illinois combined, won the MAC championship twice, and been to three bowl games in three years. They did lose all three bowl games, but have been the best team in Illinois for a while now.
State Record, Winning %: 90-99, .476
B4D Grade: 11.5
Michigan Wolverines: 20-18
Michigan State Spartans: 31-9
Central Michigan Chippewas: 20-18
Eastern Michigan Eagles: 6-30
Western Michigan Broncos: 13-24
Michigan, at one time, probably would have been higher on this list. But in recent years, Michigan State is the only team doing good. In the past three seasons, the Spartans have 31 wins, a conference championship and three bowl wins. The fans in Kalamazoo, Ypsilanti, Mount Pleasant, and Ann Arbor haven’t been as lucky. The Broncos struggled with 13 wins and a loss in their lone bowl appearance. The Eagles produced an average of two wins a year in that time span and haven’t won a conference championship or appeared in a bowl game since 1987. The Central Michigan Chippewas appeared in two bowl games, winning one and losing in last year’s amazing Bahama’s Bowl by one point. And the once proud fans of Ann Arbor have watched their Wolverines struggle recently with hopes that Jim Harbaugh can turn things around for one of college footballs most historic teams.
State Record, Winning %: 65-52, .556
B4D Grade: 11.5
Georgia Bulldogs: 30-10
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: 25-16
Georgia State Panthers: 1-23
Georgia Southern Eagles: 9-3
The big “dawgs” of the state of Georgia are the Bulldogs. The SEC team finished the three-year span with a very good record and helped boost their state. The Yellow Jackets have also faired well in those three seasons but have never been able to get over the hump in the ACC. Georgia State began play in the Sun Belt Conference in 2013 and have struggled mightily, FBS just last season and went 9-3, winning the Sun Belt championship outright. If the Panthers could pull together a few decent seasons, Georgia could get a lot closer to the top of this list.
12. North Carolina
State Record, Winning %: 109-94, .537
B4D Grade: 11.5
Appalachian State Mountaineers: 7-5
Duke Blue Devils: 25-15
North Carolina Tar Heels: 21-17
East Carolina Pirates: 26-13
North Carolina State Wolfpack: 18-20
Wake Forest Demon Deacons: 12-24
UNC-Charlotte 49ers: 0-0
The teams throughout North Carolina have done what I pretty much thought they would do. Appalachian State joined the FBS in 2014 and 7-5. Duke and North Carolina are the two dominant teams in the state and have competed for a shot at the ACC championship recently. Whether in the AAC or Conference USA, the Pirates have put together a good three-year record. NC State and Wake Forest have struggled through those three years with a combined 30 wins. And UNC-Charlotte, whose football program began in 2013, will begin play this season in Conference USA. They did not hurt or help this ranking, but I just wanted to list them anyways.
State Record, Winning %: 54-26, .675
B4D Grade: 11.5
Arizona Wildcats: 26-14
Arizona State Sun Devils: 28-12
The two FBS schools in the state of Arizona have both had a great three years. The Sun Devils and Wildcats both have had two wins in three bowl games while the Wildcats also won the PAC-12 South Division title before falling to Oregon in the PAC-12 championship. And the future seems just as bright as the recent past with Rich Rodriguez getting the job done at Arizona and Todd Graham leading a consistently good Sun Devils team in Tempe.
State Record, Winning %: 57-22, .722
B4D Grade: 12.5
Oregon Ducks: 36-5
Oregon State Beavers: 21-17
The second state to appear with two PAC-12 teams is Oregon. It is no secret that the Ducks have been a dominant team in college football for many years now. In the three years span I gathered data from, Oregon won the PAC-12 North all three years and the PAC-12 championship once. They have also played in bowl games all three years and won all of them except the College Football Playoff National Championship last season. Oregon State however has been to two bowl games, winning one and losing the other and has not one the PAC-12 since 2000. Losing their long-time head coach Mike Riley also probably will not help the Beavers to improve much this season.
State Record, Winning %: 73-44, .624
B4D Grade: 13.0
Utah Utes: 19-18
Utah State Aggies: 30-11
BYU Cougars: 24-15
The Utah Utes have finished 5th in the PAC-12 South the past three seasons and won one bowl game. But the Aggies of Utah State have been dominant in the Mountain West conference and the WAC. In that three year span, they also appeared in and won three bowl games. BYU is an independent team so they can not win a conference championship, but they have put together a good three-year record and won one of the three bowl games they appeared in.
State Record, Winning %: 70-46, .603
B4D Grade: 13.0
Oklahoma Sooners: 29-10
Oklahoma State Cowboys: 25-14
Tulsa Golden Hurricane: 16-22
The Sooners and Cowboys are always in the discussion to come out of the Big XII as the champions. Together, the teams from Norman and Stillwater have one Big XII championship and six bowl appearances, winning three of those. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane on the other hand have one bowl win in one appearance, but have struggled with a below .500 record in the AAC and Conference USA.
State Record, Winning %: 98-92, .516
B4D Grade: 13.5
Alabama Crimson Tide: 36-5
Auburn Tigers: 23-16
South Alabama Jaguars: 14-24
Troy Trojans: 14-22
UAB Blazers: 11-25
The Crimson Tide have been one of college football’s greatest programs for years now. Nick Saban has led Alabama to a 36-5 record with a National Championship win in 2012. The Tigers have been another dominant force in the SEC and appeared in two bowl games in the last two seasons, including a loss to Florida State in the 2013 BCS National Championship game. The 2012 season really hurt Auburn as they finished a measly 3-9. The Jaguars joined the FBS in 2012 and have improved each year in the Sun Belt conference, reaching their first bowl game last year. Troy was once a top team in the Sun Belt but struggled the past three seasons. And UAB struggled mightily in Conference USA and even shut down their football program after the 2014 season. I wasn’t going to include them in this list because they wouldn’t have football going forward, but the school announced that Blazers football would return in 2017. So, sorry Alabama, but UAB does count for you here at Blog 4 Dat.
State Record, Winning %: 107-70, .605
B4D Grade: 13.5
LSU Tigers: 28-11
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs: 22-16
Tulane Green Wave: 12-25
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns: 27-12
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks: 18-19
The state of Louisiana is loaded with good football programs. LSU is always a contender in the SEC West and a team that can cause havoc in the Top 25. The Bulldogs of LA Tech have spent the last three seasons as members of the WAC and then Conference USA and have made it to one bowl game which they won. But the most consistently good team has been the ULL Ragin’ Cajuns. They went 9-4 in each of the past three seasons and won the New Orleans Bowl to finish those seasons off. Actually, they have done that for four straight years, but this list was only made using three seasons. But for as good as those three teams have been, the Green Wave and Warhawks have only won a combined 30 games and made it to two bowl games, which were both losses.
5. South Carolina
State Record, Winning %: 61-17, .782
B4D Grade: 13.5
Clemson Tigers: 32-7
South Carolina Gamecocks: 29-10
The highest-ranked state with only two teams, South Carolina does perfectly good with just the Tigers and the Gamecocks. The Tigers have been a contender in the ACC for the past few seasons and won all three bowl games they appeared in. The Gamecocks are also one of the top teams in the SEC East and also won three bowl games in the past three seasons. With two teams that performed like that, it is no wonder that South Carolina made it into the top five of the list.
State Record, Winning %: 143-22, .540
B4D Grade: 18.0
Central Florida Knights: 31-9
South Florida Bulls: 9-27
Florida International Panthers: 8-28
Florida Atlantic Owls: 12-24
Florida State Seminoles: 39-3
Miami Hurricanes: 22-16
Florida Gators: 22-15
Florida State has been the top Florida school in this three-year span, winning a National Championship in 2013 and losing in the College Football Playoff semifinals in 2014. But the Gators and Hurricanes have suffered through mediocre years in the SEC and ACC respectively. Whether in the Sun Belt or Conference USA, the Owls and Panthers are still building their programs but are headed in the right direction. And in the AAC, the Bulls have struggled mightily while the Golden Knights are at the top of the conference consistently. It is the Golden Knights that helped boost Florida this high in the list.
State Record, Winning %: 173-133, .565
B4D Grade: 20.0
Toledo Rockets: 25-13
Kent State Golden Flashes: 17-20
Miami (OH) RedHawks: 6-30
Ohio Bobcats: 22-16
Bowling Green State Falcons: 26-15
Cincinnati Bearcats: 28-11
Ohio State Buckeyes: 38-3
Six of the eight Ohio teams are in the MAC, Akron, Toledo, Kent State, Miami (OH), Ohio, and Bowling Green State. The teams have combined for one MAC championship and two bow wins in seven bowl appearances. These six teams account for 107 wins, while the two other Ohio schools, Cincinnati and Ohio State, account for 66, more than half of those six teams combined. Cincinnati has 28 wins as members of the AAC and Big East and has a bow win in three appearances. Ohio State has 38 wins, won all their bowl games, and are the reigning National Champions. That’s enough to put Ohio close to the top of this list.
State Record, Winning %: 165-108, .604
B4D Grade: 22.0
California Golden Bears: 9-27
UCLA Bruins: 29-11
USC Trojans: 26-14
Stanford Cardinal: 31-10
Fresno State Bulldogs: 26-14
San Diego State Aztecs: 24-15
San Jose State Spartans: 20-17
In California, the Spartans, Aztecs, and Bulldogs all have respectable records for the teams that they had been in the past. These Mountain West conference teams have improved significantly in the past three seasons and this helped carry the load for the slumping USC Trojans and the downright horrible Golden Bears. Stanford has been a top team in the PAC-12 for a few years now and seems to be one of the best teams in college football every year. But the biggest surprise may be UCLA, who was always known as a basketball school. They have put together a good three year record and are becoming the better team in Los Angeles. Bruins fans are hoping that Jim Mora Jr. can continue this pattern and lift UCLA out of the shadows of USC in college football.
State Record, Winning %: 248-206, .546
B4D Grade: 25.0
Baylor Bears: 30-9
Texas Longhorns: 23-16
TCU Horned Frogs: 23-15
Texas Tech Red Raiders: 20-18
Texas A&M Aggies: 28-11
UTEP Miners: 12-25
UTSA Roadrunners: 19-17
Texas State Bobcats: 17-19
SMU Mustangs: 13-24
Rice Owls: 25-15
North Texas Mean Green: 17-20
Houston Cougars: 21-17
Twelve FBS teams. Thirteen bowl wins in 21 appearances in three years. One outright conference title and two schools shared another. Texas is loaded in every corner of the state with college football. The Longhorns have been the number one team in Texas for many years, but recent struggles have plagued the Texas faithful. But the state was bolstered by Baylor, TCU, and Texas A&M for the past three seasons. The Bears and Horned Frogs have been atop the Big XII recently and even shared last year’s championship. The Aggies moved to the SEC and have had a good run in the new conference. The Rice Owls even put together a good three year stretch and won a conference title in that time frame. The Cougars, Red Raiders, and Mean Green have had an average record through this time period. Even relatively newcomers UTSA and Texas State have faired well. Only the UTEP Miners and SMU Mustangs have really struggled. But that didn’t hurt Texas from topping this list of the most winningest college football states in America.
Daryl Karpinski Jr.