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College Football Playoff Snubs – Best Teams to Miss Out

By Dan Vasta in College Football
| December 11, 2021 7:12 am PDT

The College Football Playoff era began when the BCS era was over after Florida State captured the 2013-14 national title.

The Seminoles knocked off the Auburn Tigers at the Rose Bowl, and it was the beginning of a new era. The CFP could expand in the coming future, but the four-team playoff has been intense over the years.

There is usually at least one team that has a gripe with the committee. The College Football Playoff committee ranks their teams in November and then makes their final selections on the first Sunday in December.

Here are the best College Football Playoff snubs we have seen before the 2021-22 postseason.

10. 2015-16 Stanford Cardinals

  • Record: 11-2 Pre-Bowl

Christian McCaffrey nearly won the Heisman and was dominant for most of the season. The Cardinals had a disappointing start to their season due to a loss to Northwestern.

The early kickoff derailed them, and they were lackluster on offense in their 16-6 loss. Stanford rattled off eight victories in a row and reached seventh in the polls with a looming home date against Oregon.

They lost 38-36 and a second loss for a Pac-12 team was all she wrote. They ended up winning their next four games, which included a dominant Rose Bowl performance over Iowa.

McCaffrey was unstoppable, but the overall resume fell short versus three Power Five champions with one loss.

9. 2017-18 UCF Golden Knights

  • Record: 12-0

The Golden Knights thought they were more than worthy of reaching the 2017-18 playoff. Their ability to win closely contested games against the American Athletic Conference allowed them to stay in the Top 10.

There were four victories during the season that were by a single possession. The AAC was an improving conference, but it lacked the credibility or talent compared to the Power Five conferences.

The final two games before the postseason for UCF came down to the wire.

Both were against ranked squads, with South Florida and Memphis nearly upsetting the Golden Knights. They were the only CFP team entering November.

They moved to the Top 10. However, UCF never made a move after narrow victories. Knocking off a Top 10 from the SEC in the Peach Bowl only riled up the UCF fans more.

8. 2017-18 Wisconsin Badgers

  • Record: 12-1

The Badgers were a preseason Top 10 team coming off a Cotton Bowl victory over Western Michigan. The issue with Wisconsin finishing 12-1 was their lack of wins over ranked foes.

Their two victories over the Top 25 were against 8-5 squads in Iowa and Michigan. Both struggled after Wisconsin knocked them off.

Wisconsin had their shot at 12-0, heading into the Big Ten title game. The Badgers were a win away from getting in the playoff over a one-loss Alabama squad that failed to win its division.

Alabama knocked off Auburn in the SEC title game with Clemson and Oklahoma handling their conferences. Ohio State entered against Wisconsin with two losses, so their chances of making the playoff were unlikely.

Their 27-21 loss to Ohio State was the beginning of the end. After allowing home run connections to Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell, the Badgers failed to run the ball as much as they needed to.

Their season ended with a victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl. It was a road game playing in Miami Gardens, but the balanced attack showed they were the easy choice as the best team to miss the CFP.

7. 2020-21 Oklahoma Sooners

  • Record: 8-2

We have never seen a two-loss team reach the playoff, but the Sooners had an argument for becoming the first team to accomplish such a tall task. Oklahoma struggled mightily in September.

Oklahoma suffered consecutive losses after dismantling Missouri State in the opener. There were a bunch of uphill battles to climb after losing their first two games in the Big 12.

  • First time since 1999 to lose consecutive games
  • Bob Stoop was in his first season in 1999
  • Consecutive Big 12 loss for the first time since 1998
  • Lost to Iowa State in Ames for the first time since 1960 (24 straight prior)

The Sooners soon caught fire, winning six in a row before its Big 12 title game showdown with Iowa State. The Cyclones rallied at the end of the game, but OU won on defense.

At 8-2 and in a shortened season, too many teams were ahead of the Sooners. Notre Dame was perfect at 10-0 before losing in the ACC title game to Clemson. The Tigers finished 10-1 and were safely in the field.

Alabama was flawless on the offensive end with a perfect 11-0 season. Ohio State only played six games but looked impressive enough to grab the three seed.

Oklahoma was a great example of being the hot team that finished strong down the stretch.

They could have beat most of the teams in the playoff according to the experts in the desert, but their resume fell short. Their second loss was crucial, but it was still a worthy snub.

6. 2020-21 Texas A&M Aggies

  • Record: 8-1

The Aggies appeared in their first BCS/NY6 bowl in a few decades. However, their lone loss was costly. Their game matchup with Alabama was never close in the second half.

The SEC gets the benefit of the doubt usually. Still, the 28-point loss to the Crimson Tide was their undoing.

Had they been more competitive in the loss, we may have seen them get more love from the committee.

Instead, Jimbo Fisher was able to have the Aggies finish fourth in the AP Poll in a season that had more possibilities.

5. 2015-16 Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Record: 11-1

The Buckeyes were coming off a national championship after winning the inaugural CFP. They were the preseason number one team in the country but were 10-0 without a win over the Top 25.

The strength of schedule was abysmal, and victories over Northern Illinois and Indiana were less than stellar.

Michigan State and Michigan remained on the schedule, but they were stunned in a Top 10 tussle. Losing at the gun on a kick to MSU was disappointing, but the offensive performance was inconsistent throughout the season.

They took their frustration out over Michigan the following week and won by 16 in the Fiesta Bowl over Notre Dame.

The season was considered a disappointment since they failed to reach the CFP after winning it all the year prior. They were more talented than most contestants that made the playoff.

  • DE, Joey Bosa, 3rd overall
  • RB, Ezekiel Elliott, 4th overall
  • CB, Eli Apple, 10th overall
  • OT, Taylor Decker, No. 16 overall
  • OLB, Darron Lee, No. 20 overall

Failing to win the Big Ten East and missing out on the Big Ten was a tough pill to swallow for Urban Meyer. They were snubbed in favor of Oklahoma, a one-loss squad from the Big 12.

The Sooners were more than worthy but got dominated by Clemson in the playoff. Ohio State had NFL talent all over the field, but their lone loss to Sparty cost them dearly.

4. 2016-17 Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Record: 11-2

If there was a two-loss team that nearly reached the playoff, this was it. The Big Ten champion likely would have been the team. The Nittany Lions had an explosive offense that failed to muster much in September.

Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, and Chris Godwin were studs that exposed most Big Ten defenses. The non-conference loss to Pitt and a blowout defeat to Michigan in September were abysmal.

The team then blew out Iowa, Indiana, Rutgers, and Michigan State in November. Sadly, all four were unranked, and it was not in the cards to see the breakthrough. The Big Ten were left out of the CFP despite their impressive victory over No. 6 Wisconsin, 38-31.

The Nittany Lions put on a clinic against USC in a classic Rose Bowl. USC knocked them off, 52-49.

In the narrow loss, the offensive display was dazzling by PSU.

  • QB Trace McSorley: 254 yards passing, 4 TD/3 INT
  • RB Saquon Barkley: 249 yards of total offense, 3 Total TD
  • WR Chris Godwin: 9 receptions for 187 yards, 2 TD

3. 2018-19 Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Record: 12-1

The Buckeyes won nine games handily during the regular season, but an ugly loss in West Lafayette was costly. The Boilermakers hung 49 on the Buckeyes, and their defense fell asleep for the entirety of the night.

The offense was humming in their final three games of the season, and credit was worthy of Dwayne Haskins and the players around him.

The numbers were staggering for the Buckeyes down the stretch.

  • At Maryland: 52 points (overtime win)
  • Vs. No. 4 Michigan: 62 points
  • Vs. No. 21 Northwestern: 45 points (Big Ten Championship)

Three undefeated teams put Ohio State in a challenging spot. They were ranked tenth before they thumped Michigan. They entered the game as four-point underdogs against the Wolverines.

Even a 23-point win would not prevail at the end of the season.

Dropping from second to eighth in the polls after losing to Purdue made it an uphill battle.

Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame were all undefeated. The overly talented Ohio State squad had one pathetic showing, and it was the difference between reaching the playoff and missing out.

2. 2014-15 Baylor Bears

  • Record: 11-1

The Big 12 entered the 2014-15 season and did not have a Big 12 conference title game. If there were ties, they had a tiebreaker to decide who ended up playing in their top bowl games.

Baylor was an impressive offensive juggernaut that had scored 38-plus in ten of their 12 regular-season games. Bryce Petty had the best group of wideouts, and the speed was relentless.

There were wide-open targets to thread the needle to on every possession. The victory over TCU was one of the better wins of the season, but it was not enough.

The stats for their top four wideouts was remarkable.

  • Corey Coleman: 64 receptions for 1,119 yards and 12 TD
  • KD Cannon: 58 receptions for 1,030 yards and 8 TD
  • Antwan Goodley: 60 receptions for 830 yards and 6 TD
  • Jay Lee: 41 receptions for 633 yards and 4 TD

The Bears decided to take one game off when they went up against West Virginia in Morgantown.

Their 41-27 loss dropped them out of the Top 10, and despite winning five straight, they were left off the final top four by the committee.

1. 2014-15 TCU Horned Frogs

  • Record: 11-1

The Baylor offense was fantastic, but the TCU offense was a bit better. Trevone Boykin was a superstar at quarterback. He finished fourth in the Heisman voting, and the three ahead of him were three spectacular performers that season.

The Horned Frogs had some stars, but none bigger than Boykin and Josh Doctson.

The dynamic duo was unstoppable throughout the season. The ground game was lethal due to the ability to extend plays with his feet. B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green faced smaller boxes in the front seven, and they all feasted.

We saw the TCU offense hit 40-plus on nine occasions throughout the entire season, but a 3-point loss in mucky weather at Baylor was their lone defeat. The preseason top 5 that season had some juggernauts. They all were able to live up to the hype in terms of winning games.

Florida State survived an opponent from the ACC seemingly every week. They ran the table and magically finished 13-0. Oregon snuck in despite a loss thanks to having the Heisman winner.

Alabama and Ohio State did the same in the SEC and Big Ten. The Big 12 lacked a conference title game, and the top four all flexed their muscles on Championship Saturday compared to TCU and Baylor watching them from their couches.

Baylor lost to Sparty in the Cotton Bowl, but TCU thumped Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. They were dominant on both sides and likely could have given Oregon and Alabama great games.

They would have fared better than the Noles, but we will never know for sure. The biggest CFP snub entering the 2021-22 postseason is TCU, and it may not be all that close.

Relive some of TCU’s 2014-15 season with these highlights.

Conclusion

There you have it, the top snubs in the history of the College Football Playoff. There will be several more that are worthy of being discussed after every season. If the committee gets the opportunity to vote six-plus teams in, there will be yearly snubs.

I would argue that if you have to sweat making it in the top six, you likely have two losses or have failed to register enough quality or eye-popping victories.

Time will tell what the future holds, but these snubs have often looked back about missing out on reaching the College Football Playoff.

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