28 teams made the four-team tournament in the College Football Playoff era. How would the committee probably rank them all?
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Now that we know how the College Football Playoff committee has gone through its process through the first seven years of this grand experiment, what if we took all the precedents and thoughts and applied them to all 28 teams that made it into the tournament?
There’s obviously a reason why some teams are ranked where they were in a given season, but the criteria has changed a wee bit here and there – the CFP really likes the four best teams belief – so there’s some adjusting to do.
So let’s say the committee had to seed all 28 teams from 2014 to 2020. How would it rank them?
One key note: pretend we don’t know what actually happens in any of the playoffs. Forget about the results, as amazing or ugly as they might have been. This is strictly going on the merits of each team at the end of each regular season.
One other rule – this goes by what the committee did in each year. So 2020 Ohio State – ranked third in the final CFP ranking – has to be ranked ahead of 2020 Notre Dame, who was ranked fourth.
We don’t know that Alabama rolled Ohio State 52-24 in the latest national championship.
Again, this is our projection of what this would be. This isn’t from the College Football Playoff.
The all-time College Football Playoff top 28 would be …
The (#) after each team is the final College Football Playoff ranking in a given year.
28. 2020 Notre Dame (10-1)
The Case For: The Fighting Irish got to the ACC Championship at 10-0 with a win over then-unbeaten (2) Clemson as – technically – the strongest regular season win by anyone e in the 2020 regular season.
That was good, but the 31-17 win on the road over a tough (13) North Carolina team helped to just enough to overcome several issues. There weren’t too many other amazing wins, there were a whole bunch of victories over soft teams, and …
The Case Against: Clemson 34, Notre Dame 10. Clemson was without star QB Trevor Lawrence – although, his fill-in, DJ Uiagalelei, was fantastic – and were beaten up on the defensive front in the loss to the Irish, but everything worked just fine in the ACC Championship. The Irish looked totally outclassed in, arguably, the worst loss by any team to make it into the College Football Playoff.
Final Decision: There are teams that didn’t win their own divisions that still make this list, but no team had lost its conference championship and got the call. The overall body of work is fine, but there were just four wins over teams that finished with winning records, and that ACC Championship was ugly.
27. 2020 Ohio State (6-0)
The Case For: In a tough year with nothing normal and everything trying just to keep the car on the road, Ohio State turned out to be one of just two Power Five teams to go unbeaten and win a conference championship.
Even with a slew of missing players at various times, and despite being without key parts late in the season, the Buckeyes still won’t the Big Ten title, handed (11) Indiana its only loss, and …
The Case Against: The six-win schedule is way light, and it took a special ruling by the Big Ten just to get the team into the Big Ten Championship. Yes, the team had a whole lot of issues with health, but it still didn’t look all that great against a totally mediocre slate. The wins over IU and (14) Northwestern were the only two against teams that finished with a winning record.
Final Decision: 2020 was such a rough year, this is about giving a super-talented team a break, even with only six wins and none of them all that great. In the end, the Buckeyes were an unbeaten Power Five champion no matter how rocky things looked. The precedent when it comes to the 0 in the loss column holds.
26. 2016 Washington (12-1)
The Case For: The Pac-12 Championship meant just about everything to the Huskies’ case. They didn’t just beat Colorado (10), they brought a 41-10 stomping.
The Huskies looked like the real deal on both sides of the ball for most of the year, destroying Christian McCaffrey and Stanford (18) 44-6, and rolling through Utah (19) on the road.
The Case Against: The resumé stinks. The Pac-12 was awful in 2016, and the UW non-conference schedule was worse, facing Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State. The hottest team going was USC (9), and Washington didn’t just lose, it lost at home 26-13.
Final Decision: The speed and talent are there, but the resumé wins aren’t. There wasn’t anything in non-conference play to get excited about.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (1) Alabama 24, (4) Washington 7 (semifinal)
25. 2017 Alabama (11-1)
The Case For: There’s a whole lot of talent on both sides of the ball. When it was focused and rose up from time to time – like against Ole Miss in a 66-3 win – it was fantastic.
The Crimson Tide ended up beating six bowl teams including LSU (17) and Mississippi State (23). Crushing Fresno State 41-10 turned out to be a far better than it looked at the time.
The Case Against: Where were the big wins? The Crimson Tide struggled against a mediocre Texas A&M, it was just okay against LSU and Mississippi State, and while beating Florida State was good, that turned out to be a way overrated Seminole squad. Throw in the double-digit loss to Auburn – the one good team on the slate – and there’s nothing here.
And, of course, there’s the huge problem of not winning a division or a conference championship in a down year for the SEC – Auburn won the West and Georgia won the conference.
Final Decision: On talent and reputation, the Crimson Tide could hang with anyone, and they could certainly get hot and win two games against anyone on this list. But based on eye test and resumé, this team is just okay compared to some of Nick Saban’s juggernauts.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (4) Alabama 24, (1) Clemson 6 (semifinal); (4) Alabama 26, (3) Georgia 23 (OT) (National Championship)