24. 2015 Oklahoma (11-1)
The Case For: As far as non-conference wins go, the comeback against Tennessee (23) on the road is the important tone-setter for everything else. The offense picked up steam from there, scoring 41 points or more nine times, including a 44-34 win at Baylor (17).
In the key final two games of the season, OU came through, taking down TCU (11) 30-29, and beating Oklahoma State (16) on the road in a 58-23 blowout.
The Case Against: The loss was in a rivalry fight with Texas, but it was still unacceptable – the Longhorns suffered a losing season. The defense didn’t always pass the eye test, and overall, the Big 12 was okay, not amazing. Not having a conference championship game isn’t that big a drag, but 11-1 is obviously different than 12-1.
Final Decision: The offense was terrific, and there some nice wins, but beating Tennessee didn’t turn out to be quite like it was supposed to be, and the 11 wins come across as a bit light in the no-big-deal Big 12 of 2015.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (1) Clemson 37, (4) Oklahoma 17 (semifinal)
23. 2019 Oklahoma (12-1)
The Case For: The offense was spectacular. It was the best in the nation in total yards throughout the season, the defense led the Big 12 in total D and there was a whole lot of pop and explosion finishing second behind LSU.
Beating Baylor (7) twice was impressive, and the win over Oklahoma State (25) adds on another top 25 victory. Unlike a few others on this list. the Sooners won a Power Five conference title.
The Case Against: It took way too much work to get by mediocre Iowa State and TCU teams, and the loss to Kansas State is glaring. It wasn’t a miserable defeat, but considering the overall resumé isn’t all that strong – there was nothing in non-conference play to get excited about – the 12-1 record knocks down the Sooners.
Final Decision: The committee would like the offense, but would be worried about the close calls and the big wins over Baylor weren’t that great, even if it came against the CFP’s seventh-ranked team. There’s a whole lot not to like according to the overall eye test.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (1) Alabama 45, (4) Oklahoma 34 (semifinal); (2) Clemson 44, (1) Alabama 16 (National Championship)
22. 2014 Ohio State (12-1)
The Case For: Purely on the eye test, it’s hard to close a season stronger. With everyone paying attention, the Buckeyes overcame the scrutiny with a brilliant 59-0 Big Ten Championship win over a fantastic Wisconsin (18) team. There were three wins over final top 25 teams, led by the shootout victory over a Michigan State (8).
The Case Against: Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21. It might have come early in the season, but it was still a blowout loss at home to a mediocre team. Also, the loss of starting quarterback J.T. Barrett against Michigan is a factor. The Big Ten Championship win was great, but the Buckeyes losing the starting quarterback matters to the committee.
Final Decision: This is a tough one, mainly because it absolutely looked the part as the season went on, but the Virginia Tech game was the one chance to come up with something decent against a real non-conference team, and at home, they blew it.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (4) Ohio State 42, (1) Alabama 35 (semifinal); (4) Ohio State 42, (2) Oregon (National Championship)
21. 2018 Oklahoma (12-1)
The Case For: Kyler Murray and the offense were tremendous. An unstoppable machine throughout the season, the O ripped through team after team, including Texas (15) in the lone loss.
The loss to the Longhorns was hardly unacceptable, and the Sooners made up for it with a dominant 39-27 Big 12 Championship win in the rematch. OU also rolled Iowa State (24) and got by West Virginia (16) in a 59-56 classic. Throw in a win over a strong Army team, and there’s a lot to like.
The Case Against: The defense was miserable. Oklahoma finished dead last in the nation in pass defense, was 114th in the country in total D, gave up more first downs than anyone, and was horrible on third downs. Other than that, things were great. Considering Army wasn’t in the final CFP top 25, there weren’t any impressive non-conference wins.
Final Decision: The revenge win over Texas for the Big 12 title is a big deal. The offense and Murray would be enough to get well inside the top 20, but the one loss on the schedule and lack of defense makes it close.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (1) Alabama 45, (4) Oklahoma 34 (semifinal)