Top 8 College Football Teams of the Playoff Era

I’m worried about football. COVID-19 has already taken so much from us as a society and a sports community, and it would just be cruel if Americans don’t get to have their football this fall.

Grim, I know. So to tip the cosmic scales towards having a football season, I figure the more we all write about it, the more likely it is to happen. (Anything to ease my mind.)

So, without further ado, here are my top 8 teams of the College Football Playoff era. Why 8 you ask? Because the College Football Playoff should include 8 teams. No more, no less. The easiest way to do this is to include the power 5 conference champions, one group of 5 team, and 2 at-large bids. This way every region of the country will be represented in the playoff and, inevitably, the best team will still win.

That means more TV money, more national interest in both the regular season and the playoff, and peaked interest in the conference championship games. Making them all playoff play-in games would do wonders for ratings.

The criteria for this list is simple. The best 8, in my eyes. Based on raw talent and potential, not necessarily just the results on the field. The results matter and were factored in, but it’d be boring if just the champions made the list. OK, enough chit-chat. On with the list.

8. 2016 Clemson

Postseason result: National Champions (d. Alabama 35-31)

The eighth-best team of the Playoff era actually did win a national championship. We’ve had some really great title games at this time, and some stinkers as well. This championship game will go down as one for the ages. Deshaun Watson completes the pass at the goal line to former walk-on Hunter Renfrow with one second left in the game to deny Alabama back-to-back championships after coming up just short against the Tide the year before in the championship. This team's dismantling of Big Ten Champion Ohio State 31-0 in the semifinal was very impressive as well.

6 members of this team were drafted in the 2017 draft, including 2 first-rounders in Watson and receiver Mike Williams, both of whom are having really solid NFL careers. Watson finished 2nd in the Heisman Trophy voting to Lamar Jackson, and the Clemson defense had 4 All-Americans on it. This team finally pushed the Tigers over-the-top into the conversation about the best programs in the country, and Dabo Swinney’s program’s standing in the national conversation has only gone up from this time.

7. 2019 Ohio State

Postseason result: CFP semifinalist (lost to Clemson, 29-23)

A non-champion ahead of a champion! How could I??? In any other year, the 2019 Ohio State Buckeyes would have been the runaway national champions. They ran through the difficult Big Ten gauntlet with relative ease, set all kinds of offensive records, and had 2 of the top 3 picks in the 2020 draft (and 10 total draft picks), including shutdown corner Jeff Okudah at number 3 overall to our beloved Detroit Lions. Also, you can’t forget about Chase Young, who was drafted number 2 overall to Washington. Side note: Chase Young is the most intimidating human I’ve ever seen in person. Granted, they were wearing their all-black uniforms when I saw him, so I think that added some extra fear, but damn. I did not envy the people assigned to block him that night.