Little Schools, Big Football Teams: 14 Small Colleges Who Will Have Competitive Football Teams in the 2017-2018 Season
Just because a college is small doesn’t mean their football team is mediocre. In fact, just the opposite is true in many cases. Want to know which small town colleges have excellent football programs with top-notch teams ready to compete in 2017/2018? The following list of legit small schools with highly-ranked football teams will help steer you in the right direction.
UNIVERSITY OF MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR
A Division III school, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor has one of the top-rated football programs for small colleges. The 2016 team was ranked #1, with 15 wins and no losses. This team also won the 2016 National Championship Game for Division III football. Many of the team’s opponents didn’t come close to matching Mary Harden-Baylor’s high scores. Because they dominated in 2016, they will give any team they play against in 2017/2018 a run for their money. Total enrollment at the University of Mary-Harden Baylor is just under 4,000 students, and this school offers Christ-centered learning.
UNIVERSITY OF OSHKOSH
Coming in a close second place after Mary Hardin-Baylor, the University of Oshkosh is another Division III school will be a force to be reckoned with in 2017/2018. In 2016, they won 12 games and only lost two, making UW-Oshkosh ranked #2 in the country among Division III college football programs. The beautiful outdoor scenery in Oshkosh Wisconsin is another reason this school is a top pick if you’re a football fan (or aspiring player). Enrollment at UW-Oshkosh is about 14,000 students -- and if small-town appeal is what you’re looking for, this university has got you covered.
Coming in close behind the University of Oshkosh is UW Whitewater, another small-town college in Wisconsin. In 2016, the UW Whitewater football team was ranked third among Division III schools with 12 wins and only one loss under their belt. In years 2013 and 2014, they won the Division III football National Championship Games. In 2017/2018, this team will be a force to be reckoned with. If you’re considering going to school there, you’ll enjoy all the beauty Wisconsin has to offer in a small-town atmosphere. Enrollment is just over 12,000 students, and UW Whitewater offers wheelchair athletics for some women’s and men’s intercollegiate teams. Be on the lookout for a top-notch Whitewater football team this upcoming season.
NORTHWEST MISSOURI STATE UNIVERSITY
In Division II football (in 2016), Northwest Missouri State was ranked number 1. This undefeated team was undefeated, winning 15 games straight that same year. In fact, Northwest Missouri State won three out of the last four Division II NCAA College Football Championship games (2013, 2015 and 2016). With about 120 academic programs to choose from, you can’t go wrong when picking Northwest Missouri State University as your small town college home. As good as the football program is, the academic education you’ll receive is equally exemplary.
EMPORIA STATE UNIVERSITY
Another top small town college pick for the upcoming 2017/2018 football season is Emporia State University in rural Emporia Kansas. This Division II team was ranked second after Northwest Missouri State in the year 2016. The 2017-2018 team will put up a good fight for the #1 spot, as the 2016 team only lost two games, and at one point went on an 11-game winning streak. The U.S. News and World Report says total enrollment at Emporia State University is about 6,000 students, making this rural atmosphere the perfect match for die-hard football fans who don’t like the day-to-day hustle and bustle of urban living.
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Ranked #3 for Division II football colleges, Grand Valley State University only lost one game during the 2016 season with 12 wins under their belt. This small-town Allendale Michigan school is a liberal arts university with enrollment of about 25,000 students, and offers a wide variety of top-notch academic programs. Grand Valley State University is a top-rated pick for the upcoming 2017/2018 football season. The team is a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC).
GARDEN CITY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
When it comes to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) top-rated football teams for 2017/2018, Garden City Community College is predicted to be one of the best. In 2016, this small-town college football team was undefeated, with a conference record of 7-0 and an overall record of 11-0. Whether you start out a community college or spend your entire college career getting an Associate’s degree there, consider Garden City Community College if football is important to you. With a reasonably low cost of tuition and a 13-1 teacher-to-student ratio, this small-town school atmosphere can’t be beat.
EAST MISSISSIPPI COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Looking for another highly-ranked community college football team that’s a member of the NJCAA? Consider putting East Mississippi Community College in Scooba Mississippi at the top of your list, especially if you’re a Mississippi resident. The school is located in a scenic rural area, with an enrollment of about 4,300 students. And, East Mississippi Community College’s small-town football team was undefeated in conference play in 2016 (with an overall record of 11-1). The team will be fierce competition this upcoming 2017/2018 season.
UNIVERSITY OF MOUNT UNION
A small-town Division III school located in Alliance Ohio, Mount Union will be a force to be reckoned with in 2017. In 2016, this top-notch team lost just two games, while winning 12. In 2015, Mount Union won the NCAA Division III Football National Championship game. The U.S. News and World Report ranks Mount Union as #10 in regional colleges Midwest based on performance and indicators of excellence, and #9 in best value schools.
JOHN CARROLL UNIVERSITY
Another D3 school that will give UW Oshkosh, UW Whitewater, and the University of Mount Union a run for their money in 2017/2018 is John Carroll University located in University Heights, Ohio. This highly-ranked group of athletes had the same overall record as Mount Union during the 2016 football season, and was ranked by the U.S. News and World Report as #7 in regional colleges Midwest. Total enrollment at this university is about 3,700 students. If you’re seeking a phenomenal football program with a small-town feel, John Carroll University will be right up your ally.
The Division II football program at Harding University had an outstanding record in 2016 of 13-1. This team is anticipated to continue their success during the 2017/2018 season. Harding University is a Christian-based liberal art school located in Searcy, Arkansas, in the beautiful foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Total enrollment is about 6,000 students. You can’t go wrong when choosing Harding University as your next home, especially if beautiful scenery and competitive football are what you’re seeking.
ARIZONA WESTERN COLLEGE
Another top pick with an excellent football program (if you’re thinking about community colleges in the fall of 2017) is Arizona Western College. This small-town school located in Yuma Arizona allows you to earn a degree in 31 different fields, has a faculty/student ratio of 22-1, and has an enrollment of about 8,000 students. This highly ranked football team was undefeated in conference play, holding an 11-1 overall record in the year 2016. Arizona Western College football team will give others in the NCJAA a run for their money in 2017/2018.
JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY
A member of the football championship subdivision (FCS), also known as Division I-AA, James Madison University is ranked #1. In 2016, this football team held a 14-1 record and in 2017 the football program will be fiercely competitive. Located in Harrisburg Virginia, this university is ranked as #8 in regional universities south by the U.S. News and World Report. Enrollment is just over 21,000 students. James Madison University is an excellent pick if you’re a football fan or an aspiring college football player seeking an excellent education.
NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY
Another member of FCS Division I-AA college football, North Dakota State University was virtually unstoppable in 2016. With 12 wins and only 2 losses, North Dakota State offers a legit program with winning potential in the 2017/2018 season. The scenic campus of North Dakota State University is located in Fargo, North Dakota, with an enrollment of about 14,500 students. It offers more than 100 academic degrees, and you’ll receive top-notch academic instruction in addition to a phenomenal football program when choosing North Dakota State University as your hometown school.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SCHOOL
When choosing a small-town college that’s the right fit for you, take into consideration a variety of factors -- not just athletics. Make sure the school’s location has the feel you want (rural, lots of shopping, close to family or friends, etc.). Does the college or university have the academic programs you’d like to pursue? Is the tuition affordable? Do you want a smaller teacher-student ratio, or is a larger academic setting more your style? Check out each college website, and visit the campuses before making a final decision.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR ATHLETES
If you’re an athlete seeking colleges with excellent football programs, visiting any of the schools listed above is a step in the right direction. Whether you receive a scholarship or walk on to your favorite team, being involved in the right football program will get you the skills and exposure you need to be successful at college football and beyond. Choosing a smaller school can give you a better opportunity for playing time, compared with trying to earn a spot on a Division I college team.
WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CHANCE FOR AN ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIP
When you want to play college football, getting a scholarship is ideal. Contact coaches or scouts directly, and make a highlight video of yourself playing high school football to share. Doing so will boost your chance at getting recruited for a scholarship. But just because you don’t receive a paid college football scholarship doesn’t mean you can’t play ball at smaller schools. Perseverance pays off, and you can still make a team as a walk-on player with potential for a future scholarship.
Injury prevention is crucial when you’re playing (or trying to get recruited for) college football. Consider a 5-pad girdle for continuous protection of your knees, thighs, hips and tailbone. Try a 5-pad shirt to reap the benefits of extra impact protection during grueling training sessions, practices or games. Wear support sleeves if you have a history or muscle or joint problems (always get permission from a doctor before you play if you’re in pain), and consider compression garments post-workout to aid in muscle recovery and improve blood flow. Hot and cold therapy is another excellent option for minor injuries, aches and pains.
STAYING IN SHAPE
Staying in shape (even during the off season) is crucial when you want to excel at college football. This holds true even when your goal is playing at a smaller college. Finding the right speed and conditioning drills with a coach, trainer, training camp, or online is one key to staying a step ahead of the competition. Weight training is also a must. To find the right summer college football speed training program, check out this site for ideas.
When trying to figure out which 2017-2018 football program is going to be the best, look at the team’s recent win/loss history. Has the team won any championship games in the last five years? What was the team’s ranking and win/loss record last year and the year before? Chances are if a small-town college football team has had recent success, they’ll be one of the top-rated teams to beat in the 2017-2018 Season.