The College Football Playoff is the pinnacle of the sport. For the last ten years, only four teams each year have earned the right to play for a national championship. No two-loss team has ever made the four-team playoff, and they never will. You have to achieve near perfection in the regular season. And because of that, fans expect three close, hard-fought, exciting semifinal and championship games.
And most of the time, the games deliver. From Clemson and Alabama's legendary four-part battle to Ohio State winning it all with their third-string quarterback to 2nd and 36, there have been some legendary moments in this playoff era. However, there have also been some… less than impressive showings from teams that maybe should've been passed over by the CFP committee. Here are the five worst teams that still made the College Football Playoff.
Is it cruel to put the first (and only) non-Power 5 team to make the College Football Playoff on this list? Maybe. Is it indicative of my cold, dead heart and a deep hatred for romance and everything that makes this sport great? Also maybe. But those things are for me to work out, and as magical as the 2021-22 season was for Cincinnati, their showing in the playoffs was not good. They were blown out in the Cotton Bowl by #1 Alabama, 27-6, in a game that was never close and less close than the score even indicated.
Alabama held Cincinnati to just over 200 yards of total offense, a paltry 74 rushing yards, and an even worse 144 yards through the air. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide bowled over the Bearcats, rushing for 301 yards and dominating the line of scrimmage. And it's not like Alabama was an unstoppable juggernaut. They'd lose the championship game to Georgia 33-18, which was not a particularly close game either.
2018-19 Notre Dame
It would've taken an absolutely Herculean effort to take down Clemson in the 2018-19 college football season. Maybe Notre Dame shouldn't be on this list due to just being outclassed. But I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a top-four team in the country to score a touchdown in the biggest game of the year. And they did not do that.
A 30-3 loss to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl marked Notre Dame's only appearance in the Playoff so far.
Yes, they won all of their games leading up to the postseason. However, when looking at their schedule, their resume was full of good performances but no truly great ones. They beat a Michigan team that disappointed expectations in Week 1, beat a Stanford team that would fall off a cliff after playing Notre Dame, and beat a Syracuse team who (ironically) played Clemson tight but also didn't really have that high-end talent.
2016-17 Ohio State
This 2016-17 squad actually had one of the best college football players of all time rostered, who would go on to lead his team to one of the best college football seasons ever. It's a real shame that Joe Burrow was buried on the depth chart and would actually go on to do all of that for LSU.
This Ohio State team was good, though. They beat a Michigan team while losing three of its last four to solidify a playoff spot. However, they already lost to unranked Penn State earlier in the year. Then, they were shut out by Clemson in the national semifinal. It is definitely not Ohio State's most impressive playoff team or performance for sure.
Washington has made the College Football Playoff once before. It was a much less impressive team and resume than this year's group. This year's version of the Huskies ran the PAC-12 gauntlet and rolled into the playoffs, having beaten their best competition twice and going undefeated.
In 2016, Washington finished with one regular season loss to a then-unranked USC team. Ironically, that USC team was probably the best PAC-12 team at the end of the year. They just had a slow start. Like most teams on this list, in 2016, Washington beat several good teams but no great ones and didn't finish the regular season undefeated. Then, they were blown out by Alabama.
Would a different team have fared better? Maybe not, but Washington did not live up to the hype.
2015-16 Michigan State
Michigan State squeaked into the 2015 College Football Playoff by beating an undefeated Iowa squad in the Big Ten championship. And in another Cotton Bowl blowout, the Spartans were shutout 38-0 by, you guessed it, Alabama.
To be fair, there weren't many good options for the playoff. Notre Dame lost two games, one loss Ohio State didn't win the Big Ten, the PAC-12 champ lost too many games, and the next highest ranked SEC team was 9-3 Ole Miss. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Michigan State's offense that year didn't feature the high-end talent to take on a team as deep as Alabama and was blown out handily.