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25 Winningest Programs To Not Make The College Football Playoff

·17 min read

What are the 25 winningest programs to not make the College Football Playoff? Here are the top schools in the CFP era to miss out on the fun.

Cincinnati and Michigan were able to make the College Football Playoff last season. Their doors might have been blown off by Alabama and Georgia, respectively, but they at least brought some new energy to the mini-tournament.

The College Football Playoff has only been around for eight seasons and just 13 schools – Alabama, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington – have played in it and just five won it all.

That means 90% of the FBS college football programs haven’t been in the post-season – at least the version that matters – since this grand experiment started.

That’s the equivalent of only 36 college basketball programs making the NCAA Tournament over the last eight years – which is a good idea, by the way, but I digress.

What college football programs were able to win a lot of games over the last eight years without the playoff payoff? 25 have won 60 or more games in eight seasons – averaging 7.5 a year, but it’s better than that considering some played a short schedule in 2020 – without getting the call.

If you didn’t get to 60 victories – no Texas, or Tennessee, or Nebraska, Michigan State, or North Carolina – you don’t get on the list. So with that, here are the 25 winningest teams to not make the College Football Playoff.

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25. USC

Wins Since 2014: 60
Best Season in CFP Era: 2017, 11-3, Pac-12 champion, Rose Bowl win
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Strong

Bottom Line: USC might be last on this list, but it’s got the best shot of going to the College Football Playoff this year with Lincoln Riley and a loaded all-star team ready to roll. The 2020 team would’ve had a case for the CFP if it won the Pac-12 title to finish 6-0 – it lost to Oregon, but no unbeaten Power Five champ has ever been left out. It’s been a disappointing run since going 12-1 in 2008. That’s all about to change.
USC Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

T22. NC State

Wins Since 2014: 61
Best Season in CFP Era: 2017, 9-4, Sun Bowl win
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Possible

Bottom Line: The Wolfpack have been strongly consistent since Dave Doeren took over, but they haven’t been able to get a turn in the ACC Championship mix – being in the same division with Clemson has something to do with that. This should be his best team yet, and if it can somehow get by the Tigers on the road, there’s a real shot at going 12-1 with an ACC Championship and a CFP shot. That’s a massive if, though.
NC State Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

T22. Miami

Wins Since 2014: 61
Best Season in CFP Era: 2017, 10-3, ACC Championship loss, Orange Bowl loss
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Slim

Bottom Line: Miami flirted with something fun in 2017 with a 10-0 start before losing the last three games. However, had it beaten Clemson in the ACC Championship – it lost 38-3 – it would’ve been in the CFP. This year’s schedule is too tough for a reloading team – with road games at Clemson and Texas A&M – but new head coach Mario Cristobal might just restore the glory in a hurry.
Miami Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

T22. Western Michigan

Wins Since 2014: 61
Best Season in CFP Era: 2016, 13-1, MAC champion, Cotton Bowl loss
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: None

Bottom Line: Now-Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck led the way to a phenomenal 13-0 regular season with a MAC title in 2016, and it still wasn’t enough to get near the College Football Playoff. The Broncos have been good ever since, but they haven’t been able to come close to repeating the glory. They’ll be strong this season, but even if they can win at Michigan State and against Pitt – and can run through the MAC unbeaten – it still shouldn’t be enough for a CFP shot.
WMU Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

NEXT: College Football Playoff: Top 21 Programs To Not Make the CFP

College Football Playoff: Top 21 Programs To Not Make the CFP

T20. Auburn

Wins Since 2014: 62
Best Season in CFP Era: 2017, 10-4, lost SEC Championship
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Slim

Bottom Line: In the brief history of the CFP, no two-loss team has ever made it in. 2017 Auburn almost certainly would’ve been the exception if it had beaten Georgia for the SEC Championship, and that’s as close as it has come ever since losing to Florida State in the last BCS Championship Game in early 2014.
Auburn Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

T20. Air Force

Wins Since 2014: 62
Best Season in CFP Era: 2019, 11-2, Cheez-It Bowl win
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Almost none

Bottom Line: Air Force hasn’t been anywhere near the College Football Playoff, but it won the 2015 Mountain West Championship, has four double-digit win seasons in the CFP era, and quietly keeps on cranking up good season after good season. Colorado is the only Power Five team on the 2022 schedule – that’s not enough to make the playoff even if it goes 13-0.
Air Force Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

T17. WKU

Wins Since 2014: 63
Best Season in CFP Era: 2016, 11-3, Conference USA champion, Boca Raton Bowl win
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: None

Bottom Line: The bounceback/breakthrough 2021 season pushed the program up, winning nine games thanks to the high-powered offense. No, it’s not going to be close to the CFP this season, but it’ll once again be one of the Conference USA stars.
WKU Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

T17. Toledo

Wins Since 2014: 63
Best Season in CFP Era: 2017, 11-3, MAC champion
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: None

Bottom Line: It would take a total college football meltdown for a MAC team to make the College Football Playoff. The 2022 Rockets are going to be strong, and if they shock the world with a win at Ohio State early and go undefeated … nah. It still might not be enough, but the program will keep on winning lots of games.
Toledo Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

T17. TCU

Wins Since 2014: 63
Best Season in CFP Era: 2014, co-Big 12 champion, won Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Slim

Bottom Line: The 2014 team was third in the penultimate CFP rankings, blew out Iowa State 55-3, and finished sixth in the final version. Gary Patterson put together a consistent Big 12 powerhouse, but the production dropped over the last few years and now Sonny Dykes has to keep the wins coming.
TCU Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

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College Football Playoff: Top 20 Ranking Of Teams With A CFP Path

16. Houston

Wins Since 2014: 64
Best Season in CFP Era: 2015, 13-1, AAC Champion, won Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Medium

Bottom Line: UConn 20, Houston 17. Had the Cougars not gagged away the late November road date in 2015, they might have been the first Group of Five program to get into the College Football Playoff. This year’s team can make it close by beating Texas Tech and winning the AAC title to go 13-0, if it can get there. Next year it’s off to the Big 12 to make things even more interesting.
Houston Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

NEXT: College Football Playoff: Top 15 Programs To Not Make the CFP

College Football Playoff: Top 15 Programs To Not Make the CFP

T10. UCF

Wins Since 2014: 65
Best Season in CFP Era: 2017, 13-0, AAC champion, won Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Medium-low

Bottom Line: 2017 and 2018 UCF helped pave the way for 2022 Cincinnati to be a more palatable option. The Knights stirred the pot with two unbeaten regular seasons without a College Football Playoff appearance. Do that in the Big 12 in 2023, and it’ll get in – and it would probably get the call if it goes unbeaten this season, too. How good has UCF been in the CFP era? It’s this high up in the win rankings with an 0-12 2015 season.
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T10. Texas A&M

Wins Since 2014: 65
Best Season in CFP Era: 2020, 9-1, won Orange Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Medium

Bottom Line: It’s coming soon. The 2020 team probably deserved to be in the College Football Playoff over Notre Dame – its only crime was losing on the road to an Alabama team that rolled to the national championship – but overall it’s been underwhelming in the CFP era. The talent is there from a few epic recruiting classes to be deep in the playoff chase over the next few seasons.
Texas A&M Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

T10. Marshall

Wins Since 2014: 65
Best Season in CFP Era: 2014, 13-1, Conference USA champion, won Boca Raton Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: None

Bottom Line: The program hasn’t slipped that much, but it hasn’t been as strong as it was in the mid-2010s. The wins have come in, and there are plenty of bowl appearances, but no one from Conference USA was going to have any chance at the CFP. Now the Thundering Herd get a shot to make some noise in the Sun Belt – and they have a big date at Notre Dame early on.
Marshall Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

T10. Louisiana

Wins Since 2014: 65
Best Season in CFP Era: 2021, 13-1, Sun Belt champion, won New Orleans Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: None

Bottom Line: There’s a reason Billy Napier is off to Florida. He turned Louisiana into a ranked program with 45 wins over the last two seasons. As good as it was in 2021, even if it beat Texas on the way to a 13-0 regular season with a Sun Belt title, it wouldn’t have made it into the CFP.
Louisiana Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

T10. Florida

Wins Since 2014: 65
Best Season in CFP Era: 2019, 11-2, won Orange Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Medium

Bottom Line: It’s up to new head coach Billy Napier to pivot the power-program back into the elite, but it’s probably not going to happen right away. Dan Mullen got the Gators to the 2020 SEC Championship, and now-Central Michigan head man Jim McElwain coached them up to appearances in the conference title game in both 2015 and 2016. Even so, there haven’t been any shots at the CFP in the last eight years even with all the wins.
Florida Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

T10. BYU

Wins Since 2014: 65
Best Season in CFP Era: 2020, 11-1, Boca Raton Bowl win
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Possible with three big wins

Bottom Line: There would’ve been an interesting debate if BYU had pulled off the win over Coastal Carolina on the way to an unbeaten 2020 regular season. There weren’t any wins over Power Five teams, but the Cougars would’ve been in the discussion.

Next year they’ll be in the Big 12, where they’ll have a real shot at getting into the CFP. This year it’s possible if they can win at Oregon, in Las Vegas against Notre Dame, take out Arkansas, and beat everyone else – no big deal. It won’t happen, but hey’ll be in if they go 12-0.
BYU Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

NEXT: College Football Playoff: Top 9 Programs To Not Make the CFP

College Football Playoff: Top 9 Programs To Not Make the CFP

9. Penn State

Wins Since 2014: 67
Best Season in CFP Era: 2016, 11-3, Big Ten champion, Rose Bowl appearance
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Medium-low

Bottom Line: For a long time Penn State was near the top of the charts of top Power Five programs that didn’t get into the College Football Playoff. It had an argument in 2016 – it beat Ohio State and won the Big Ten Championship, but the one-loss Buckeyes went to the CFP – and that’s been about it. Even so, Penn State still gets talent, and it can still beat anyone on the right day, but 2008 was the last time it got to November unbeaten.
Penn St Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

8. Utah

Wins Since 2014: 68
Best Season in CFP Era: 2019, 11-3, lost Pac-12 Championship
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Medium-high

Bottom Line: The actual best Utah season in the CFP era was 2021 with a Pac-12 championship and trip to the Rose Bowl, but the 2019 version might have made the playoff had it beaten Oregon in the conference title game.

Just talking about the program among the best of the best is special considering the journey from the Group of Five to the Pac-12 to a Pac-12 power. This year’s team has a real shot with the talent, schedule, and style to push for a one-loss season and a conference championship.
Utah Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

7. Iowa

Wins Since 2014: 70
Best Season in CFP Era: 2015, 12-2, Big Ten Championship loss, Rose Bowl loss
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Medium

Bottom Line: The Hawkeyes were one failed goal line stop against Michigan State in the 2015 Big Ten Championship from going to the College Football Playoff. They’ve been strong ever since – going to the Big Ten title game last season – but haven’t been close to the CFP chase. This year’s team has the potential to win the West again, and getting to 11-1 before playing for the Big Ten title isn’t a crazy dream.
Iowa Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

6. Memphis

Wins Since 2014: 71
Best Season in CFP Era: 2019, 12-2 AAC Champion, Cotton Bowl loss
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Slim

Bottom Line: If Cincinnati could do it and get into the playoff, could Memphis have a shot if everything goes right? The 2019 team would’ve had a great case had it not lost to Temple to go 13-0 with an AAC Championship, but even then it would’ve been tough. The CFP might not be reasonable this year, but shooting for a second trip to a New Year’s Six bowl in four seasons is a nice reach goal.
Memphis Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

NEXT: College Football Playoff: Top 5 Programs To Not Make the CFP

College Football Playoff: Top 5 Programs To Not Make the CFP

T4. San Diego State

Wins Since 2014: 72
Best Season in CFP Era: 2021, lost Mountain West Championship, won Frisco Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Slim

Bottom Line: Could Brady Hoke keep the production going after a great run by Rocky Long? Absolutely – the Aztecs almost certainly would’ve won the Mountain West Championship had they not been hammered by COVID just before the title game. They won’t go unbeaten with a Mountain West championship this year, but they can make a push for a New Year’s Six bowl appearance.
SDSU Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

T4. Oklahoma State

Wins Since 2014: 72
Best Season in CFP Era: 2021,12-2, lost Big 12 Championship, won Fiesta Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Medium-high

Bottom Line: The 2021 Cowboys were six inches away from beating Baylor in the Big 12 Championship to go 12-1 with a great case to make the College Football Playoff over Cincinnati. Even so, it was another strong season under Mike Gundy, and there’s no reason to set the goal lower than winning the conference title game this time around to finally get in.
OSU Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

T2. Wisconsin

Wins Since 2014: 76
Best Season in CFP Era: 2017, 13-1, lost Big Ten championship, won Orange Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Medium

Bottom Line: The best Power Five program in the College Football Playoff era to not make the tournament might not have team in place to finally get that rock up the mountain – it has to go to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa – but it will keep staying in range.

It would’ve made the CFP in 2017 had it scored a touchdown on the late drive in the Big Ten Championship loss to Ohio State, and that was as close as it’s been. It made it to four conference title games in the last eight years but didn’t win any of them. 76 wins – that’s with a seven-game 2020 season – is impressive no matter what.
UW Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule Analysis

T2. Boise State

Wins Since 2014: 76
Best Season in CFP Era: 2014, 12-2, Mountain West championship, won Fiesta Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Low

Bottom Line: Win, keep winning, and win some more. Boise State has been a victory machine since 1999, and it’s not stopping now. The team is good enough to potentially win the Mountain West title, but there aren’t enough big opponents on the slate – at Oregon State is the lone Power Five game – to get any real respect from the College Football Playoff committee. Even so, the program overdue to be back in the New Year’s Six bowl spotlight again after being the first from the Group of Five to do it in the playoff era.
Boise State Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

1. Appalachian State

Wins Since 2014: 80
Best Season in CFP Era: 2019, 13-1, Sun Belt champion, won New Orleans Bowl
Realistic Chance To Make College Football Playoff This Season: Slim

Bottom Line: Could Appalachian State really make the jump from the FCS to the big-time world of the FBS in 2014? Uh, yeah.

80 wins in eight seasons, seven bowl games – and it would’ve been eight if the program was eligible in its first year in the FBS – two Sun Belt titles, and one other championship appearance. This is a power program that’s about to get a bigger profile in the improved and expanded Sun Belt.

Nah, it won’t make the College Football Playoff no matter what thanks to a mediocre schedule, but if it went unbeaten with wins over North Carolina and Texas A&M on the way to an unbeaten year, it would be the heartstrings CFP call from the media. Don’t put anything past ASU after what it’s done so far.
App State Preview | Top 10 PlayersSchedule

CFN Predictions of Every Game
ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC
AAC | C-USA | Ind | MAC | M-West | Sun Belt
CFN Preview 2021: All 131 Teams
2022 Bowl Projections | Preseason Rankings 1-131

2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams

Story originally appeared on College Football News

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