8. 2015 Alabama (12-1)
The Case For: The defense was at an all-time amazing level. It’s not just the eye test – it was in the results, allowing 17 points of fewer against everyone by Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
The resumé wins are good enough, winning away from Tuscaloosa against Wisconsin and Georgia teams that should’ve been in the final rankings, and with victories over Tennessee (23), LSU (20), and in the SEC Championship over Florida (19).
The Case Against: The 42-37 loss to Ole Miss (12) was at home. The offense was a bit hit-or-miss, and the home win over Tennessee was a wee bit of a grind.
Final Decision: 11 of the 12 wins were by double digits. It wasn’t always pretty, but the defense made up for most flaws. The Ole Miss loss passed the lose-a-game eye test. That was a weird, funky game where everything that could go right for the Rebels, did.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (2) Alabama 38, (3) Michigan State 0 (semifinal); (2) Alabama 45, (1) Clemson 40 (National Championship)
7. 2018 Clemson (13-0)
The Case For: The main knock against 2018 regular season Clemson is that it wasn’t 2018 regular season Alabama. There were several nice wins, but there weren’t any killers.
Beating Texas A&M (19) on the road was terrific, and surviving Syracuse (20) when QB Trevor Lawrence went down was big, but that was about it. Even so, the Tigers ripped up everyone in their path over the second half of the season and dominated Pitt 42-10 in the ACC Championship. No one came closer than 20 than Texas A&M and Syracuse.
The Case Against: There weren’t any amazing wins. There weren’t any victories over CFP final ranked top 15 teams. Florida State was down, South Carolina was just okay, and there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about in the ACC.
Final Decision: Two wins over teams that finished ranked in the final CFP Top 25 are good enough to give something to get interested in, and the young talent on offense to go along with an epic defensive line is enough to assume that it was a great team that just so happened to play an okay slate. The team did what it was supposed to do as the season went on by looking and playing the part.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (2) Clemson 30, (3) Notre Dame 3 (semifinal); (2) Clemson 44, (1) Alabama 16 (National Championship)
6. 2015 Clemson (13-0)
The Case For: The only unbeaten team left in 2015, the Tigers fought through the adversity of some close calls to roll to 13-0 with an ACC Championship.
Surviving the two-point play against Notre Dame (8) was a key moment, but taking down Florida State (9) was when it all came together. The ACC Championship win over North Carolina (10) overcame a whole bunch of mediocre schedule issues.
The Case Against: There are way too many wins over average teams. In all, the Tigers beat five teams – all with four wins or fewer – that finished with losing records, along with a win over Wofford from the FCS world. The Notre Dame win was great, but there were plenty of layups to get to 13-0.
Final Decision: 13-0 is 13-0. Beating three top ten teams is enough to overcome the padding across the rest of the schedule. Take that, along with the undeniable talent, and the overall body of work is there.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (1) Clemson 37, (4) Oklahoma 17 (semifinal); (2) Alabama 45, (1) Clemson 40 (National Championship)
5. 2020 Alabama (11-0)
The Case For: In a brutal year with everyone fighting to stay healthy – much less focused – the Crimson Tide got through the absence of head coach Nick Saban for the Auburn game after he tested positive for COVID, as well as the early loss of star WR Jaylen Waddle to an injury.
There wasn’t so much as a blip over the first ten games, with no one coming reasonably close to hanging around with this team – outside of a fun 63-48 fight with Ole Miss that wasn’t really in doubt – and then came the SEC Championship. Florida (7) and its amazing offense kept on coming, but Bama had more pop in a 52-46 win.
The Case Against: The only possible knock might be a suspect defense that got hit hard by Florida and struggled on the road against Ole Miss.
Final Decision: The Tide not only went unbeaten with an SEC Championship – 6-0 Ohio State was the only other unbeaten Power Five champion – but they handed (5) Texas A&M its only loss, throttled a strong (9) Georgia team, and boasted three Heisman finalists. Oh yeah, and it played an all-SEC schedule – there’s no fluff on the resumé.