For the second straight season, the College Football Playoff has introduced some new blood. With its invitation, TCU becomes the 14th program to reach the CFP in its nine-year history, finally getting in after coming achingly close in 2014. And of this year's four participants, only two (Ohio State and Georgia) has been there more than twice before.
How does this newish blood stack up against the CFP's stalwarts to date? And with the four-team CFP era coming to an end in 2024 thanks to expansion, which are the best college football programs of the playoff era that haven't yet made the final four?
Here is our ranking of all 36 teams that have been part of the mix. (This is the third year of doing this list, adding the four new playoff teams each of the last two seasons.) I derived this list, as I usually do, through a combination of numbers (primarily, my SP+ ratings) and my personal opinions. Start with the stats, then adjust for actual CFP performance and any other criteria that feel relevant. To the list!
Top 10 CFP teams | 10 best programs to not make CFP
No. 36 to No. 19
36. 2015 Michigan State (12-2)
CFP result: Lost to Alabama 38-0
Mark Dantonio's 2015 Spartans are definitive proof that no matter what the committee says, it is picking the four "most deserving" teams rather than the "best" -- MSU was definitively the former and in no way the latter. And that's fine! The Spartans finished 18th in FPI and 20th in SP+ but beat a dynamite Ohio State team and outlasted unbeaten Iowa to win the Big Ten. Then they did exactly what was expected of them against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl: They lost big.