College Football Playoff Rankings: All 32 Teams From 2014-2021

Photo credits USA TODAY Sports

College Football Playoff Rankings: All 32 Teams From 2014-2021

College Football Playoff

College Football Playoff Rankings: All 32 Teams From 2014-2021

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32 teams made the four-team tournament in the College Football Playoff era. How would the committee have likely ranked them all?


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Now that we know how the College Football Playoff committee has gone through its process through the first eight years of this grand experiment, what if we took all the precedents and thoughts and applied them to all 32 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 32 teams from 2014 to 2021. How would it rank them?

One key note: pretend we don’t know what actually happens in any of the playoffs – we don’t know that Alabama rolled Ohio State 52-24 in last season’s national championship.

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.

The all-time College Football Playoff top 32 rankings would (probably) be …

32. 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 until 2021, 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.

Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (1) Alabama 31, (4) Notre Dame 14 (semifinal)


31. 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 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.

Okay, What Happened? College Football Playoff Results: (3) Ohio State 49, (2) Clemson 28 (semifinal); (1) Alabama 52, (3) Ohio State 24 (National Championship)


30. 2021 Cincinnati (13-0)

The Case For: The Bearcats finished as the only FBS team to go undefeated. They were questioned and challenged at every turn, but in the end, they turned out to be the first Group of Five program with the right resumé to break through the glass ceiling.

Notre Dame went 11-1, and its only loss was at home to Cincinnati 24-13. The Bearcats were complete, with key special teams plays making a massive difference in tight spots.

The Case Against: Yeah, it was a one-win schedule. Beating Houston in the American Athletic Conference Championship game was big, but that was about it outside of the victory over Notre Dame. Getting through the AAC just wasn’t like fighting through a Power Five slate.

Final Decision: The strength of schedule wasn’t good enough. Cincinnati gets bumped for just about every other Power Five champion that finished with one loss or could go undefeated, but again, if it was so easy to finish a regular season unbeaten, then someone else in 2021 would’ve done it.


29. 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, destroyed 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)

Photo Credits: (Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Deshaun Watson) John David Mercer, (Tua Tagovailoa) Randy Sartin, (Ian Book) Matt Cashore, (Baker Mayfield) Tim Heitman, (Trevor Lawrence) Kyle Terada, (Urban Meyer) Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

All-Time College Football Playoff Top 32 Rankings 
1-4 | 5-8 | 9-12 | 13-16 | 17-20 | 21-24 | 25-28 | 29-32

NEXT: College Football Playoff All-Time Rankings: Top 28

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