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Alabama, FSU fall out of college football’s top 20 – in credit scores

Brady Porche

At least one college football poll doesn’t have the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide ranked No. 1, or even in the top 20.

No, it’s not some rogue sports news network trying to drive clicks to its website by courting controversy. It’s the credit bureau Experian, which has released a ranking of college football’s top 25 teams in the order of the average FICO scores in their respective hometowns.

As an LSU alum, it delights me to see our rival Alabama ranked all the way near the bottom at No. 24. Even better, the Fighting Tigers are three spots ahead of the Tide thanks to an 8-point credit score gap between the people of Baton Rouge (678) and consumers in Tuscaloosa (670).

Don’t worry, Bama fans, I know you’ve beaten us six times in a row and won four national championships with our former head coach. But he has to retire eventually.

Meanwhile, college football’s AP No. 3, the Florida State Seminoles, are ranked right behind Alabama in this poll, too, at No. 25. Way to flip the script, Experian.

So, who’s No. 1 in Experian’s poll? It’s the Stanford Cardinal (753), who reside in that mecca of Mensa-worthy minds, Palo Alto, California. Rounding out the top four are the No. 2 Penn State Nittany Lions (746), the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (743) and the No. 4 Washington Huskies (733).

At the end of each college football season, the top four teams compete in a single-elimination playoff for the national title. And Experian’s poll is not completely implausible as a football-based top four ranking. Penn State won the Big 10 last year, though it got passed over for the playoff in favor of conference rival Ohio State. Washington actually did wind up in the top four after last season, only to be pummeled in the playoff by Alabama.

Stanford in recent years has joined the likes of Notre Dame in the pantheon of schools known for elite academics and standout athletes. (But the Fighting Irish aren’t in this year’s football top 25 after a rough 2016 season.)

However, I don’t think we’ll see a playoff with only two of the Power 5 conferences represented, or one without any SEC teams, anytime soon.

Experian’s ranking offers interesting insight into geographic credit score distribution. According to its 2016 State of Credit report, the cities with the highest average VantageScores were all in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Those states only have one team – the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers – in the top 25.

But the poll generally gets more southern and moves away from teams in the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest as you move down the rankings, with a few exceptions. That gels with the makeup of the State of Credit report’s bottom 10, which is full of cities in southern states.

If you think about it, maintaining your credit score is a bit like pursuing a championship in college football. Missing a payment is like losing a game – it hurts, but the damage recedes with time. FICO’s credit scoring model gives less weight to mistakes that happened in the distant past, and a delinquency falls off your credit report after seven years.

Losing a football game stays in the record books forever, but college football fans and playoff committee members tend to have short memories.’s hometown Texas Longhorns (No. 10 in credit scores) sure would like to forget one they lost seven years ago – the 2010 BCS championship game against Alabama.

If first-year head coach Tom Herman can help Texas erase that memory, there will be a party in downtown Austin. You’re all invited – with the possible exception of Oklahoma Sooners fans.

Credit score rank School, city Average FICO credit score
1 Stanford University, Palo Alto, California 753
2 Penn State, State College, Pennsylvania 746
3 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 743
4 University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 733
5 Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 732
6 University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 730
7 Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina 728
8 Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 720
9 University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 712
10 University of Texas, Austin, Texas 705
11 University of West Virginia, Morgantown, West Virginia 705
12 Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 703
13 University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 701
14 University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 700
U.S. national average credit score 700
15 University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky 696
16 University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 694
17 Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma 694
18 University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 685
19 University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 683
20 Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 678
21 Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 678
22 University of Miami, Miami, Florida 676
23 University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 675
24 University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 670
25 Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 653
Source: Experian

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