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Bad Idea Time: The State Champs System

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Can’t travel? Time to play all the nearby schools you’ve been ducking!

Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images. Banner Society Illustration.

LSU played football in six different states on their way to the 2019 national title. UMass played in seven and finished 1-11. Modern college football depends upon travel to function, but what do you do in a world where that travel is impossible, or at least ill-advised?

Search the pettiest places in your heart, and you’ll find the same answer I did: turn the season into a bunch of state championship competitions.

To do this, we will need to erase our existing college football class distinctions. SEC, Mountain West, Northern Sun, Lone Star - these labels don’t mean anything now. Didn’t want to play the tough Group of 5 or FCS team down the road before this? Too bad! To earn the distinction of unquestioned state champ, you’re gonna have to embrace them as your peers in the State Champs System.

What that competition looks like will vary a bit. (Did you know that Massachusetts has twice as many scholarship football teams as Washington state? I didn’t!) Let’s start with this map:

Using this, we can break each state into one of three categories:

  1. Football Heavy (more than 14 programs) states have more than enough programs to run multiple intrastate leagues.
  2. Football Moderate (between eight and 14 programs) states have enough programs to run a single league, and absorb the programs from a neighboring state if necessary.
  3. Football Light (no more than seven programs) states cannot run a league on their own but could compete in other, nearby states.

The State Champs System operates differently for each subset.

FOOTBALL HEAVY - North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio

You’ll be splitting your abundance of football programs into two leagues, each of which will contain a mix of FBS, FCS, and Division II teams. Let’s take Texas as an example.

We’ve got two relatively balanced conferences of thirteen teams each. The members of the seven-team divisions all play one another; those in the six-team divisions play one cross-conference game. Everyone plays at least six total games and three home games. Each division winner advances to a playoff, and three games later we have the Texas State Champion of College Football.

Are we just gonna get a Texas/Texas Tech/TCU/A&M-or-Baylor playoff? Maybe. But the point of this setup is that outcome isn’t guaranteed.

FOOTBALL MODERATE - Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia

On the smaller side of this group, like Indiana and its eight teams, everyone’s playing in one conference without divisions, with the top four teams advancing to the state playoffs. If you’re more football blessed, like the fourteen teams of South Carolina, you do a division split like our Texas conferences above, and put the top two teams from each division into playoffs.

This now means we’re getting a lot of games that are otherwise fairly hard to come by. Arkansas State and Arkansas will play each other for the first time in history. Southern Miss gets Ole Miss for the first time since 1984. UCF? Oh my goodness, this is your absolute dream. Unless you lose to Miami and FSU and Florida, I guess.

Of note: not every state that has at least eight teams is in this category. That’s because we need them for our next group.


To reach football quorums, we need to handcuff some states together. In some cases, we’ll be asking a state that could run a league on its own to welcome the schools of a neighbor. In others, we’ll take two sparser football states and combine them.

That’s not a state championship, you’re arguing. No! It’s multiple state championships, which is inarguably better. Here’s how they break down:

  • Arizona + New Mexico + Utah = The Canyons Conference (13 teams)
  • Connecticut + Rhode Island = The Commuter Conference (9 teams)
  • Iowa + Nebraska = The Cornference (9 teams)
  • North Dakota + South Dakota = The Badlands Conference (11 teams)
  • Washington + Oregon + Idaho + Montana = The Fly-Fishing Conference (13 teams)
  • Maryland + D.C. + Delaware + New Jersey = The Acela Conference (13 teams)
  • California + Nevada = The Death Valley Conference (14 teams)
  • Colorado + Wyoming = The Bighorn Conference (11 teams)
  • Massachusetts + New Hampshire = The Drunken Montreal Weekend Conference (12 teams)
  • Wisconsin + Illinois = The NFC North Teams With Super Bowl Victories Conference (10 teams)

We’re also forming one gigantic group by combining Missouri and Kansas into a 19 team megaconference. Could we have put Kansas with someone smaller to avoid this? Yes, but that wouldn’t be as much fun.

Functionally, these multistate conferences work the same way as their single state counterparts, except Oregon State has a shot to become the champion of four states, not just one. Think of the celebratory graphic tees!

It’s just tacky enough to work!

In total, you’re looking at 31 teams that will get to celebrate an unquestioned state championship. How will we decide which one is the national champion? Easy - we’ll go back to the old ways and argue about it with no clear consensus.

Regrettably, there are two states we cannot accommodate under this otherwise flawless system: Maine and Hawaii. But we do have a consolation prize for you.

Once we no longer need the State Champs System, your two flagship teams will play one another in AT&T Stadium (this is a spectacle, so Jerry Jones will agree to it). GameDay will be there, and this will be the first game of that college football season. In fact, no other game will be played that entire week! BEARS VERSUS THE BEACH! LEIS VERSUS LOBSTERS! It’ll be amazing, and we will thank you for just staying put even though you really, really wanted to travel.