The College Football Pyramid

Originally Published: August 27, 2014
By Erik Pitzer
with foreword by James Irwin

Introduction | Regions | Simulated Standings

Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3Tier 4
Frontier Sky Region

Let's start with the biggest: the Frontier Sky. Despite its expanse, our Pacific-Northwest-meets-upper-plains region is full of history-rich rivalries in the top tier: The Apple Cup, the Civil War, the Holy War.

The lower tiers are packed with potential with 11-time (3 FCS, 8 Division II) national champions North Dakota State and two-time Division II national champions Minnesota-Duluth.

View the simulated standings for the 2013-14 season »

Tier 1 playoff-bound: Oregon (auto-bid)
Promoted: North Dakota St. (to Tier 1), Minnesota-Duluth (to Tier 2), CSU-Pueblo (to Tier 3)
Relegated: Colorado (to Tier 2), Idaho (to Tier 3), N. Colorado (to Tier 4)

Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3
Pacific Mesa Region

The Pacific Mesa region is the one of two regions in our pyramid that only has three tiers due to lack of lower-tier colleges. (Congrats Humboldt State! Even 0-11 can't get you relegated.) And since everything is bigger in Texas—in this case, too big—the Lone Star State finds itself feeding teams into two regions.

Current Pac-12 rivalries remain intact in the top tier: Cal-Stanford, UCLA-USC, and the Duel in the Desert. Do New Mexico State and Western New Mexico have any rivalry traditions? Start brainstorming nicknames for that future Tier 3 showdown.

View the simulated standings for the 2013-14 season »

Tier 1 playoff-bound: Stanford (auto-bid), UCLA (at-large)
Promoted: San Diego St. (to Tier 1), West Texas A&M (to Tier 2)
Relegated: Hawaii (to Tier 2), New Mexico St. (to Tier 3)

Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3Tier 4
Heartland Region

Let's be frank: Fayetteville, Arkansas is hardly SEC country. And let's not even talk about Missouri. Regional sanity is restored in the Heartland—a Big 10-meets-Big 12 slice of America where fans are more likely to see a tornado than a boarding pass for an away game.

BCS crashers Northern Illinois get their fair shot in the sun, while Division II juggernaut NW Missouri State can tangle with the Jayhawks and Fighting Illini in Tier Two this upcoming simulated season.

View the simulated standings for the 2013-14 season »

Tier 1 playoff-bound: Missouri (auto-bid), Oklahoma (at-large), Oklahoma St. (at-large)
Promoted: Northern Illinois (to Tier 1), NW Missouri St. (to Tier 2), Harding (to Tier 3)
Relegated: Illinois (to Tier 2), Central Arkansas (to Tier 3), Drake (to Tier 4)

Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3
Texas Delta Region

The Texas Delta region is our other region that features both a) part of Texas and b) only three tiers. The regional knife makes another appearance here sending coastal portions of Mississippi and Louisiana (Southern Miss and Tulane) to the Dixie Coast region.

FBS upstarts UTSA almost make the leap to Tier 1 in the first simulated season, but it's DFW neighbors SMU and North Texas that will be swapping spots in 2014-2015.

View the simulated standings for the 2013-14 season »

Tier 1 playoff-bound: Baylor (auto-bid), LSU (at-large)
Promoted: North Texas (to Tier 1), Tarleton St. (to Tier 2)
Relegated: Southern Methodist (to Tier 2), Stephen F. Austin (to Tier 3)

Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3Tier 4
Dixie Coast Region

I know what you're thinking. "This region is stacked!" And while, yes, three of the six best teams of the 2013-14 season reside in the Dixie Coast, it's still not as loaded as the current 14-team SEC. Looking down the pyramid (rectangle?), this is the only region with a single division in Tier 4.

As for rivalries? Dixie Coast fans are treated to a final Saturday featuing The Iron Bowl, The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, and another eventual installment of the Wide Right Saga. Not bad.

View the simulated standings for the 2013-14 season »

Tier 1 playoff-bound: Florida St. (auto-bid), Auburn (at-large), Alabama (at-large)
Promoted: Florida Atlantic (to Tier 1), North Alabama (to Tier 2), Tuskegee (to Tier 3)
Relegated: UAB (to Tier 2), Florida International (to Tier 3), Stetson (to Tier 4)

Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3Tier 4
Piedmont Ridge Region

A pair of South Carolina teams lead the first simulated season in this ACC-heavy region that gives East Carolina fans the opportunity they've been pleading for since the David Garrard days.

Tier 2 is essentially a model of how Conference USA should look, while the bottom tiers keep intact many MEAC and CIAA rivalries—all now with the added incentive of promotion.

View the simulated standings for the 2013-14 season »

Tier 1 playoff-bound: South Carolina (auto-bid), Clemson (at-large)
Promoted: East Carolina (to Tier 1), William & Mary (to Tier 2), Lenoir-Rhyne (to Tier 3)
Relegated: North Carolina St. (to Tier 2), Charlotte (to Tier 3), Western Carolina (to Tier 4)

Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3Tier 4
Great Lakes Region

Sorry Notre Dame, even you aren't exempt from the fear of relegation. The Fighting Irish join a handful of other century-old programs in a tight-knit region where even the longest road trip in the top tier is under 400 miles.

If Tier 2 looks familar, that's because it's the Mid-American Conference. No strangers there. Tier 3 features a Grand Valley State program that has to be salivating at the thought of promotion and chances of playing the Wolverines, Spartans, and some guy named Brian Kelly.

View the simulated standings for the 2013-14 season »

Tier 1 playoff-bound: Michigan St. (auto-bid), Ohio St. (at-large)
Promoted: Bowling Green (to Tier 1), Youngstown St. (to Tier 2), Ohio Dominican (to Tier 3)
Relegated: Purdue (to Tier 2), Miami (OH) (to Tier 3), Valparaiso (to Tier 4)

Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3Tier 4
Atlantic Penn Region

Last but not least*, we have the Atlantic Penn region. 1990s Big East Football is back! Sort of. Marshall and Navy join Penn State and the other Big Ten newcomers to round out a top tier that had a forgettable 2013-2014 season. But imagine the Army-Navy Game deciding a team's relegation fate. Or the Backyard Brawl deciding a team's championship hopes (again).

In New England where college football plays second fiddle to the Patriots, could the dream of a current Northeast-10 team one day playing in Happy Valley buck the trend? It's a crowded fourth tier in the Atlantic Penn with a pyramid-high five parallel divisions all fighting for a single promotion spot.

*Very debatable.

View the simulated standings for the 2013-14 season »

Tier 1 playoff-bound: Penn St. (auto-bid)
Promoted: Towson (to Tier 1), Fordham (to Tier 2), West Chester (to Tier 3)
Relegated: Rutgers (to Tier 2), Massachusetts (to Tier 3), Albany (to Tier 4)

Next: View the Simulated Standings »

Introduction | Regions | Simulated Standings

About the Authors

Erik Pitzer resides in the Atlantic Pennregion and is the resident bracketologist at Follow him mixing business and pleasure @pitz2.