If we were to ask the average follower where the best college football in America is played, chances are they'd say Alabama. And, technically, they'd be correct. When one state rips off four straight national titles at the highest level, it's hard to argue otherwise.
But that's not really what we're asking.
We want to know where the best college football is played. Not the best FBS football, or the best BCS football, but the best college football. If you look at the game on a universal level, across all five four-year divisions, which states have the deepest pool of solid programs?
Among the thousands and thousands of programs, we took the pound-for-pound 125 best programs among all five divisions as judged by their respective experts (also known as the coaches polls from FBS, FCS, Division II and NAIA as well as the D3Football.com poll) and charted which state each program hails from.
Before we get to the numbers, first we have to acknowledge a few caveats. This isn't a scientific poll that, say, a presedential polling expert would sign off on. For example, NAIA membership hovers mainly around the Heartland - 10 of that division's top 25 schools are from Iowa and Kansas. Second, Texas has a heck of a lot more college football programs than Maine, thus a greater shot of showing up on this list. Now with that out of the way...
Seven Top 25 Programs
Six Top 25 Programs
Five Top 25 Programs
Four Top 25 Programs
In all, 40 states made the list with at least one top 25 program. Only scarcely-populated (in college football terms) Western states Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Northeastern states Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont lacked representation. Eleven more states were represented just once.
In studying the data, we noticed a few trends.
First, Big Ten country proved to be the strongest region in producing quality programs at all levels of the game. No state was able to land a representative on each top 25 list, but Illinois, Indiana and Ohio (along with Texas) were the only states able to land at least one team on four of the five top 25's. California, Iowa, Kentucky, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee appear on three lists each.
And while they may dominate at the highest levels, Deep South states Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina were near non-factors at the lower levels of college football. In fact, the seven states, which accounted for seven teams on the FBS list top 25, combined to produce just five of the top 75 programs at the Division II, Division III and NAIA levels. Thanks to NAIA Belhaven (Miss.), and Division II Henderson State (Ark.), Tuskegee (Ala.), Valdosta State (Ga.) and West Alabama for keeping the heart of SEC country from being shut out entirely.