4. 2019 Ohio State (13-0)
The Case For: There was one mediocre first half against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, and there was a wee bit of drama against Penn State, but that was it. Ohio State pitched a perfect season with double-digit wins over everyone – including against the Badgers in two games and against the Nittany Lions – with total domination on both sides of the ball.
The Buckeyes led the nation in scoring offense, was second in total defense, and was in the top ten in most big categories. There was no weakness.
The Case Against: There were plenty of great wins, but none against the truly elite – at least according to the College Football Playoff rankings. The Buckeyes beat Cincinnati (21), Michigan (14), Penn State (10), and Wisconsin (8) twice, but again, no wins over top five teams …
Final Decision: It’s splitting hairs. The Buckeyes were nearly perfect in all phases, they always rose up to the occasion, and they were breathtaking when it was time to turn it on. The only thing missing was a truly special win to finish any higher.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (3) Clemson 29, (2) Ohio State 23 (semifinal)
3. 2016 Alabama (13-0)
The Case For: Perfect. The Crimson Tide made it look so easy at times, starting out with a dominant 52-6 win over USC (9) – Bama all but made USC flat quit.
Even with a freshman in Jalen Hurts at quarterback, the offense rolled at will. The defense didn’t allow a thing, and outside of a 48-43 firefight with Ole Miss and a 10-0 battle against a game LSU (20) team on the road, there wasn’t a whole lot of drama.
The defense allowed 16 points or fewer 11 times, including in the 30-12 win over Auburn (14) and the 54-16 SEC Championship win over Florida (17).
The Case Against: That Ole Miss game might have come early on, but the Rebels ended up finishing with a losing season. Yes, the Tide rolled through the schedule, but the SEC wasn’t all that great.
Final Decision: Along with some of the all-time great Miami teams, this Tide squad passes the eye test on several levels. Throw in the 49-10 road win at Tennessee (21), and there are more than enough resumé wins to go along with the talent.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (1) Alabama 24, (4) Washington 7 (semifinal); (2) Clemson 35, (1) Alabama 31 (National Championship)
2. 2018 Alabama (13-0)
The Case For: It was among most dominant regular seasons in the history of college football. A 24-0 win over Mississippi State was the closest anyone came to touching the Tide until the SEC Championship, and then it was Jalen Hurts to the rescue to get by a terrific Georgia (5) team that deserved to be considered among the four best teams in college football.
The Tide shut out an LSU (11) team that went on to beat UCF, and hung 45 on a Texas A&M (19) team that gave an unbeaten Clemson squad a nasty time.
The O finished sixth in the nation in yards and third in scoring, but the only reason is wasn’t No. 1 in every category was because the team took almost every second half off.
The Case Against: Alabama came this close – a missed pass by Georgia backup QB Justin Fields on a fake punt in the SEC Championship – to not being the SEC champion. The defense also wasn’t quite as nasty as normal Bama defenses, but that’s nitpicking.
Final Decision: There might not have been a terrific non-conference win, but ripping through game after game with frightening ease made up for it. In terms of talent, efficiency, and breathtaking production, as long as Tua Tagovailoa is healthy, the committee would put this team near the top.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (1) Alabama 45, (4) Oklahoma 34 (semifinal); (2) Clemson 44, (1) Alabama 16 (National Championship)
1. 2019 LSU (13-0)
The Case For: The resumé is flawless. It hung up 45 at Texas – who wasn’t in the final College Football Playoff rankings – that set the tone, and the offense never slowed down from there.
Joe Burrow and the attack led the nation in total offense, was second in passing behind Washington State, and was third in scoring. It didn’t just put up big numbers, it put up big numbers against the biggest and best teams.
The Tigers took down a then-unbeaten Alabama (13) in Tuscaloosa, rolled Georgia (5) in the SEC Championship, put up 42 on Florida (9), got past Auburn (12), and beat nine bowl teams in all.
The Case Against: There’s no knocking the schedule – especially considering what a big deal it was to beat Alabama on the road – but the defense was a bit soft at times, and the team got pushed way too hard by Texas and Ole Miss teams that put up massive numbers.
Final Decision: The high-end of the schedule is just too strong. The committee loves big wins and performances in the biggest of games, and it likes it when teams turn it on late in the year. LSU’s defense flipped the switch against Texas A&M before stuffing Georgia.
Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (1) LSU 63, (4) Oklahoma 28 (semifinal); (1) LSU 42, (3) Clemson 25 (National Championship)