College football is defined by the haves and the have-nots. It's why a team like Marshall celebrate one-loss seasons like they're the greatest thing to happen to the program, and still not end up in a major bowl, and why teams like Oklahoma can go 8-5 and still be favored against Marshall. The old powers still rule, and they know it's always just a matter of time before they grasp that incredibly ugly CFP trophy. Regardless, both of these fanbases are very lucky, because they always fall into the "have" pile. National television representation, analysts actually talking about your team, easily being able to find stats online: these are all things we FBS fans take for granted. What about those without any FBS representation. Where are they to go? Let's find out what college football looks like in the nine states without an FBS team.
Best Team: Bryant University Bulldogs (8-3 in FCS)
For Rhode Island, the most the state has to worry about is crippling debt and making sure the vacation homes are maintained throughout winter. Trust me, honey, you do not want some old money rich Bostonian blue blood getting angry. They are not afraid to cut a maid. Crazy rich people aside, Rhode Island does have quite a bit of college football representation, despite its tiny landmass. The Bryant Bears are still a young team, playing their first game in 1999, but they've separated themselves from the pack, including the more well-known but very bad Rhode Island Rams, who went 1-11 last year. Bryant head coach Marty Fine is in his twelfth season, and has a record of 70-49, leading the team to two conference championships and two FCS playoff appearances. Last year was a bounce-back season for the Bulldogs, matching a school-best 8-3 record after back-to-back 4-7 seasons.
Best Team: University of Delaware Blue Hens (6-6 in FCS)
Regardless of the record, I was going to pick Delaware's eponymous school for two reasons: a) the team's nickname is the "Blue Hens", and b) they're the college that blessed us with elite/not elite quarterback Joe Flacco. If there's anything disappointing about the team, it's the fact that they refer to their fan section as "Blue Hen Country". How lame is that? Call it "The Roost" or the "Cockfight Cage". Ooh, maybe not that one. Delaware is another tiny state that nobody knows about, other than those lame history teachers that really love talking about the Revolutionary War. How boring can you be? The Revolutionary War is the washing machine of wars: yes, it's basically necessary to know about, but damn, if I have to hear one more story about George Washington sipping tea through his wooden teeth while chopping down a cherry tree, I'm gonna lose my cool and burn down PBS.
Best Team: Husson University Eagles (8-2 in D-III)
Forget about the FCS. We're going to D-III, baby! Husson had the best season of any college football team in Maine, going on an eight-game winning streak to finish their regular season, before falling to MIT in overtime in the first round of the D-III playoffs. That's more than anything the University of Maine and their horrifying bear logo could claim to achieve. Do not click on that logo unless you want to see a cartoon bear that's been starved to the point of madness lunging at you with pointed teeth. Husson is located in Bangor, just like UMaine, so I think both of these teams are ripe to face one-another. Do D-III teams ever beat FCS teams? Are JUCO teams better than D-III teams? Man, I still have so much to learn.
Best Team: North Dakota State University Bisons (15-1, FCS National Champions)
What, were you expecting a team other than the freakin' FCS champs? Perhaps the Mayville State Comets, or the Jamestown Jimmies? Maybe the Valley City State Vikings, or the Dickinson State Blue Hawks? Huh, North Dakota actually has nine college football teams in the state. Pretty impressive for such a small population spread out over a large landmass. It's not likely that the eight other teams in the state will ever surpass the achievements or the notoriety of NDSU. They got a visit from ESPN College GameDay for crying out loud! You think Kirk Herbstreit likes dragging his $800 Ferragamo leather shoes through the streets of Fargo, without a single place to get a good Cosmopolitan? He does not, so don't expect him to take any trips to Grand Forks or Minot, and especially not West Fargo.
Best Team: South Dakota State University Jackrabbits (9-5 in FCS) & University of Sioux Falls Cougars (11-1 in Division-II)
Extra big ups to the Sioux Falls Cougars for winning the Mineral Water Bowl against Central Oklahoma, but in truth, I'm not going to talk about the J'Rabs or the Cougs here. I've gotta give some major dap to South Dakota's schools for their logo work, and three schools in particular deserve recognition. First up, the Northern State Wolves:
That's straight up professional right there. Look at how the red and gold integrate around the left eye. Our left, not the wolf's left. The wolf's mane just flows so freely with the breeze, but its eyes stare right into your soul. Our next logo comes from the Dakota State Trojans:
Such a commanding-yet-friendly logo. My favorite part of this is how the Trojan rises over the team name, sword in hand, like it's standing over a wounded enemy, about to finish them off. Our final logo is that of Augustana College Vikings:
Okay, this guy just means business. I love the color work around the face of the viking, but you gotta admit, the sword draws your eyes. Imagine a viking holding a sword to your throat being the last thing you see before you get your head cut off. That gives a lot of power to a football team.
Best Team: University of Vermont Catamounts (7-2 in Club Play)
You're damn right I'm showing love to a club team. That's because Vermont has a very good club team. During the first five games of their 7-2 campaign, they only gave up 14 points, including three shutouts in a row. It should also be noted that their only two losses both came against the Southwestern Connecticut Grizzlies, a prep football program. Okay, so maybe Vermont will never be a football hotbed, but they give us Ben & Jerry's, delicious maple syrup, and our nation's only independent Senator, Bernie Sanders. It's a very beautiful state, one that's too beautiful for such a brutal sport like football.
Best Team: Carroll College Fighting Saints (10-2 in NAIA)
Holy cow, talk about a diamond in the rough! The Fighting Saints have won six NAIA National Football Championships, and have one of the most prestigious coaches in history, Mike Van Diest. Van Diest had gone 144–20 in 12 seasons at Carroll, and his winning percentage of .878 is the third highest of any head coach with at least ten seasons of experience in college football history, behind only those of Mount Union's Larry Kehres and Notre Dame's Knute Rockne. I don't care what league you play in, or hell, what sport you play in, to have that kind of winning ability over such a long period of time is incredible. Van Diest has led Carroll to the second-most national titles in NAIA history, second only to Texas A&I and tied with Westminster College.
Best Team: New Hampshire (12-2 in FCS)
For any person from New Hampshire, much less a whole team of people, to accomplish anything deserving of attention outside of New Hampshire is kind of big deal. I'd say finishing the season ranked number one and being a part of the FCS Final Four is a pretty good way to get people's attention. I always wonder how players decide to go to some of these schools, though. What makes a player want to go to New Hampshire in the first place? Usually it's because some rich jerk donated to the program to upgrade all the equipment and whatnot, but I thought all the rich kids in New Hampshire went to Dartmouth. They have a football team too, y'know! They're called the Big Green, and it's adorable.
Best Team: None
Really? No college football anywhere in Alaska? It's just cruel to deprive these fine folks up north of the magic of college football. You telling me the University of Alaska-Anchorage can't build a sick dome to host indoor football? They have an indoor arena for track and field, but not football? Track and field is just running, jumping and throwing things! Get a life!