It's talkin' season, and debating the merits of college football teams across the country is one of the most enjoyable exercises to take part in every summer. At its core, college football is a regionalized sport that brings out the passion of fans across the country. Sure, its popularity now makes it one of the top sports on a nationwide scale, but bragging rights among various communities is what the sport is all about with unique rivalries like the Egg Bowl, Iron Bowl or Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
That passion can be felt between neighbors, families, friends and fans across the country. The pride of their favorite team transcends everything for the true college football fan.
But which team holds the power in each state entering the 2023 college football season?
That debate -- like every debate across this great sport -- is subjective. It can be based on numerous factors like recent success, traditional power and outlook for the future. The results of 2022 are certainly important, but college football is undoubtedly cyclical. Especially now with the introduction of not just the transfer portal but the one-time transfer exemption and the proliferation of name, image and likeness rights.
Let's take a look the best team in each state -- based on all those metrics -- and start some heated discussions as we sit just a few weeks away from the start of the 2023 college football season.
Best college football team in each state
Alabama -- Alabama: This might come as a huge shock, but the Crimson Tide are still really good. Last season's 11-2 effort didn't live up to the Alabama standard, a strong indication of the health of the program. Coach Nick Saban and the fanbase expect nothing less than championships after posting double-digit wins in 15 straight seasons.
Alaska -- n/a
Arizona -- Arizona: The Wildcats finished 5-7 last season but won 38-35 over rival Arizona State (which finished 3-9). The only other Division I program in the state, Northern Arizona, finished 3-8.
Arkansas -- Arkansas: With apologies to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Central Arkansas, this debate comes down to Arkansas and Arkansas State, so it's not really a contest at all. Arkansas coach Sam Pittman has established one of the most physical programs in the SEC and taken the Razorbacks to three straight bowl games In a remarkable turnaround from the ill-fated Chad Morris era.
California -- USC: California is loaded with Division I teams, but none of them have as much juice as the Trojans. Coach Lincoln Riley led the Trojans to the Pac-12 Championship Game in Year 1 and a berth in a New Year's Six bowl, while quarterback Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy. The Trojans are a trendy pick to make the College Football Playoff this year and should at least be squarely in the mix for another New Year's Six appearance.
Colorado -- Air Force: The Falcons have made a habit of taking the state of Colorado in our annual examination, and this year is no different. Two of the Falcons' 10 wins a year ago came over Colorado and Colorado State by double digits. Could Deion Sanders revive a once-proud Colorado program? Maybe, but it's going to take a bit to unseat one of the most consistent Group of Five programs in the country.
Connecticut -- UConn: The Huskies used to be the punchline to a sad college football joke, but that changed in 2022 when they won five of their last seven regular-season games and made an appearance in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. That's too much for FCS programs Sacred Heart, Yale and Central Connecticut to overcome.
Delaware -- Delaware: The Blue Hens went 8-5 last year and made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs. They also topped Delaware State – the only other Division I program in the state – 35-9 last season.
Florida -- Florida State: Coach Mike Norvell has built the Seminoles back to a place where the CFP is within sight. After hitting 10 wins last season, two of which came over Florida and Miami, the stability of the program has been furthered by the return of several stars who could have jumped to the NFL. The Gators and Hurricanes (and even UCF) enter 2023 with some ground to make up as the 'Noles likely secure their first preseason top 10 spot since 2017 -- Jimbo Fisher's final year before taking the Texas A&M job.
Georgia -- Georgia: The Bulldogs have won back-to-back national championships and are looking to become the first team to three-peat since Minnesota from 1934-36. No one else in the state comes close.
Hawaii -- Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors win by being the only Division I team in the state. Last year's debut for Timmy Chang was a tough 3-10 as the program began its rebuild from the Todd Graham exit.
Idaho -- Boise State: The Broncos have a high floor that many programs around college football would enjoy, and last year's 10-win campaign was capped by a win over North Texas in the Frisco Bowl. Reaching those peak Chris Petersen years has been a bit elusive lately, but as far as D-I programs in Idaho are concerned, Boise State is in a different stratosphere than Idaho and Idaho State.
Illinois -- Illinois: Coach Bret Bielema continues to bring the Fighting Illini out of Big Ten anonymity. A breakout 8-5 season, which included a dominating 34-10 win at Wisconsin, is enough for the distinction. Northwestern, which is 4-20 in its past two seasons, moves forward without coach Pat Fitzgerald in the wake of a hazing scandal.
Indiana -- Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have consistently dominated in the state of Indiana, and that momentum keeps going. They won six of their last seven games last year under coach Marcus Freeman and finished with the 13th-ranked recruiting class in the country, which included superstar quarterback Sam Hartman from Wake Forest.
Iowa -- Iowa: This discussion usually comes down to the winner of the Cy-Hawk Trophy, but not this year. Iowa State's 10-7 win over the Hawkeyes was nice, but Iowa State's 4-8 record is too much to ignore. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes posted an 8-5 record, won five of their last six games and dominated Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.
Kansas -- Kansas State: The Wildcats just won the Big 12 championship and hit 10 wins for the first time since 2012. Kansas is on the upswing thanks to the outstanding efforts of coach Lance Leipold, but this one still isn't a debate. And Kansas State has owned the in-state rivalry, winning the last 14.
Kentucky -- Kentucky: The Wildcats have won four straight over Louisville in the Governor's Cup – the most recent of which was a 26-13 decision last season at home. Coach Mark Stoops has turned Kentucky into an SEC East menace though physicality, and that doesn't look like it's going to change in the near future. Western Kentucky is the other FBS team in the state, and the FCS schools can't hold a candle to the Wildcats.
Louisiana -- LSU: The Tigers stunned the college football world when they topped Alabama in overtime last season and won the SEC West for the first time since 2019. Coach Brian Kelly's squad was picked second in the SEC West when votes were cast during media days earlier this month. The program trajectory is pointed up for the first time since former quarterback Joe Burrow came to town prior to the 2018 season.
Maine -- Maine: The Black Bears are the only Division I team in the state, so they win this title by default. Maine went just 2-9 during the 2022 season in Jordan Stevens' head coaching debut at his alma mater.
Maryland -- Maryland: Navy used to make a case for this title, but its decline has coincided with the Terrapins' rise to competitiveness in the Big Ten. Coach Mike Locksley's squad finished 8-5 last season and topped NC State in the Duke's Mayo Bowl for the program's second straight bowl win.
Massachusetts -- Holy Cross: The Crusaders went undefeated through the 2022 regular season and lost to eventual champions South Dakota State in the FCS quarterfinals. That not only earns the nod over the other FCS teams in the state, but over three-win Boston College and one-win UMass from the FBS.
Michigan -- Michigan: Michigan State has seen some peaks and valleys lately, and Michigan's achievements make this a decisive pick. In each of the past two years, the Wolverines beat Ohio State, won the Big Ten title and made the CFP. Coach Jim Harbaugh built the program into a Big Ten power, but now the question is whether he can win the whole thing there.
Minnesota -- Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have back-to-back nine-win seasons and won four bowls under coach P.J. Fleck. It is the only FBS program in the state, and only St. Thomas out of the Pioneer League has a shot to get into the discussion in the future.
Mississippi -- Mississippi State: The Bulldogs topped rival Ole Miss in the battle for the Golden Egg last season after it spent two years with the Rebels, and they capped off a nine-win season with a 19-10 win over Illinois in the Reliaquest Bowl. Southern Miss can't make a case, and the FCS programs within the state shouldn't be in the conversation. It'll be interesting to see the development of the program in the post-Mike Leach era with first-year coach Zach Arnett at the helm.
Missouri -- Missouri: The Tigers finished last season with a 6-7 record but won their rivalry game vs. Arkansas and took eventual national champion Georgia to the brink. That's good enough to place them above FCS programs Missouri State and Southeast Missouri State.
Montana -- Montana State: The Bobcats are the obvious choice here. They finished last season 12-2, topping rival Montana 55-21 on Nov. 19, and made it all the way to the FCS semifinals. The two rivals are the only two Division I programs in the state, so choosing between them was relatively easy.
Nebraska -- Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are the only Division I team in the state, so they win this one by default. Positive results have been few and far between over the better part of the last decade, but things should change now under coach Matt Rhule.
Nevada -- UNLV: The Rebels took back the Fremont Cannon last year when they topped the Nevada 27-22 in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. That put a halt to a six-game losing streak that ended a once-promising season at 5-7. It wasn't as disappointing as the Wolf Pack's 10-game losing streak, though.
New Hampshire -- New Hampshire: The Wildcats finished last season 9-4 -- that included a 14-0 win over Dartmouth, the only other Division I team in the state -- and lost to Holy Cross in the second round of the FCS playoffs. The Wildcats have made the FCS playoffs 15 times since the 2004 season.
New Jersey -- Rutgers: Though the Scarlet Knights serve as a Big Ten punching bag, a 4-8 record -- including a conference win over Indiana -- has earned them the nod over Princeton and Monmouth. With that said, coach Greg Schiano is far from achieving the success that he enjoyed during his first stint in Piscataway.
New Mexico -- New Mexico State: The Aggies looked like they were headed for disaster last season until they topped rival New Mexico 21-9 on October 15. That kicked off a stretch in which the Aggies won six of their last seven games, including the Quick Lane Bowl over Bowling Green. That momentum has carried them into their new world as members of Conference USA. New Mexico, on the other hand, finished 2-10 and lost its last nine games.
New York -- Syracuse: This is a close call between Syracuse and Army. In the end, Dino Babers' squad gets the nod. The 6-0 start to last season announced their ACC presence with authority, though the 1-6 close to the season is admittedly a head-scratcher. But it's clear that the ceiling for this team is much higher than it has been in a very long time.
North Carolina -- North Carolina: This is one of the most hotly contested battles in this exercise. Legitimate cases can be made for North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest and NC State. In the end, the Tar Heels' ability to annually contend under coach Mack Brown and recruit/develop quarterbacks earns them the nod. Sam Howell was great under center, and Drake Maye has picked up right where he left off.
North Dakota -- North Dakota State: Let's see, the Bison have won nine national championships since 2010 and solidified themselves as the unquestioned king of the FCS. Is it really a debate? The North Dakota Fighting Hawks aren't a pushover by any stretch of the imagination, but they pale in comparison to one of American sports' most impressive dynasties.
Ohio -- Ohio State: The Buckeyes came within a few seconds of making the CFP National Championship last season and have appeared in the four-team event five times since its inception. The success, innovative offenses and recruiting prowess of the staff has solidified Ohio State as one of the premier programs in college football.
Oklahoma -- Oklahoma: This one is a debate between Oklahoma and rival Oklahoma State. Neither team had stellar seasons in 2022, but Oklahoma enjoyed a ton of success prior to the departure of Lincoln Riley. The jury is still out on the ceiling of the program under coach Brent Venables, but last season's 28-13 win over the Cowboys is enough to push the Sooners over the top.
Oregon -- Oregon: The knee-jerk reaction to picking this state is to ride with Oregon and move on. After all, the Ducks have been one of the Pac-12's best teams for more than a decade. However, it is worth noting that Oregon State went 10-3 last year and beat the Ducks 38-34. Over time, the Ducks have proven to have staying power, while the Beavers are still looking for the consistency that is needed to be a nationally relevant team.
Pennsylvania -- Penn State: The battle for supremacy in the state of Pennsylvania has ping-ponged between the Nittany Lions and Pitt in recent years, and coach James Franklin's squad gets the nod this year. Penn State went 11-2 last year and topped Pac-12 champion Utah in the Rose Bowl. This year, the Nittany Lions have one of the most punishing young rushing attacks in the country. Is this the year that they make the CFP?
Rhode Island -- Rhode Island: The Rams finished 7-4 for the second straight season, which is good enough to edge Bryant and Brown. Plus, Rhode Island topped Bryant 35-21 in the second week of the 2022 season.
South Carolina -- Clemson: South Carolina broke a seven-game losing streak to Clemson last season, but that is only one factor in the decision-making process in the Palmetto State. The Tigers have asserted themselves as a national power under coach Dabo Swinney and, despite the loss to the Gamecocks, won the ACC for the seventh time in eight seasons. They look poised to make another run in 2023.
South Dakota -- South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits topped North Dakota State to win last year's FCS national championship. The only blemish on their 14-1 record came in Week 1 when they fell 7-3 at Iowa. That magical run to supremacy included a 28-3 win over rival South Dakota.
Tennessee -- Tennessee: Coach Josh Heupel led the Volunteers to the No. 1 ranking in the first edition of the 2022 CFP Rankings and finished off an 11-2 campaign with a win over ACC champion Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Their remarkable run included a 52-49, last-second win over rival Alabama. Heupel is 18-8 in his two seasons at Tennessee and restored hope to a championship-starved fanbase.
Texas -- TCU: The Horned Frogs made a magical run to the CFP last season before being bulldozed by Georgia in the national championship. That title game blowout shouldn't take away from just how far this program has come, though. The Frogs have four top-10 finishes since 2014 and, despite some down years mixed in, have shown just how high the ceiling is for a program that often gets overlooked in the Lone Star State.
Utah -- Utah: The Utes topped USC to earn the Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl berth last season, which is not a shock by any stretch of the imagination. The smash-mouth style of coach Kyle Whittingham has been the driving force behind a team that has finished with at least 10 wins wins four times since 2015.
Vermont -- n/a
Virginia -- James Madison: Quite honestly, it's shocking that the Dukes have earned this title. Virginia Tech used to be a national powerhouse and Virginia had its moments. Both have fallen on hard times, which allowed James Madison to top the state in its first year of FBS play. The Dukes, who used to be a FCS power, finished 8-3 overall, 6-2 in the Sun Belt and scored at least 40 points six times in 2022.
Washington -- Washington: The Huskies boast one of the nation's top returning passers, Michael Penix Jr., after going 11-2 with a 51-33 decision over rival Washington State in the Apple Cup. What's more, Washington is on the short list of favorites to win the Pac-12 and make the CFP.
West Virginia -- Marshall: West Virginia has never lost to Marshall (12-0), but the two last played in 2012. These programs are in two different places today. The Thundering Herd are fresh off a 9-4 season with wins over Notre Dame in the regular season and UConn in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. Rival West Virginia stumbled to a 5-7 record, and coach Neal Brown has found his way on one of the hottest seats in the country. If only the two teams would play each other in order to settle it on the field ...
Wisconsin -- Wisconsin: The Badgers are the only Division I team in the state, so they win this one by default. However, they have developed an identity that is uniquely their own and routinely find themselves in the Big Ten title race. Coach Luke Fickell will usher in a new era this season, but don't expect much to change for one of the most consistent teams in the country.
Wyoming -- Wyoming: The Cowboys are the only Division I program in Wyoming, so they also win this one by default. They finished 7-6 for the second straight season and earned a berth in the Arizona Bowl vs. Ohio.