The creation of a four-team playoff system was supposed to put an end to endless “CFB snubs” debates when it came to determining a national champion. In 2023, however, the system generated even more controversy when undefeated Florida State received a No. 5 ranking that ended its championship hopes.

In the world of college basketball, we are used to hearing discussion about each year’s “biggest NCAA tournament snubs.” Unfortunately, this is now a thing in football, too.

With the 2023 season’s championship game between Michigan and Washington on the horizon, let’s take a moment to look back at the biggest college football playoff snubs of all time. We’re excluding the wackiness of the 202 season, when many teams played shortened schedules due to the pandemic.

How many college football teams have gone undefeated in a season?

The answer to this question depends on the size of the season. For example, Princeton went undefeated with a 1-0 record in 1870. In the College Football Playoff era (since 2014), five teams have gone undefeated. Those teams were Central Florida in 2017, Clemson in 2018, LSU in 2019, Alabama in 2020, and Georgia in 2022.

Another undefeated team will join this list soon. The winner of the upcoming Michigan-Washington national-championship game will end the season at 15-0 and take its place in college football playoff history.

The Four Greatest Teams That Missed the Playoffs, Plus One BCS Bonus

Note: All listed rankings reflect where the team was ranked on the date playoff selections were made.

Texas Christian, 2014

Final CFP Ranking: No. 6

We’ll kick off this list of the biggest CFB snubs with TCU’s exclusion in 2014. That Horned Frogs team went 11-1 and claimed a share of the Big 12 championship during the era before the conference’s title game was reinstated.

Texas Christian was at No. 3 in the CFP ranking heading into a championship-game weekend that saw then-No. 5 Ohio State wallop Wisconsin with Buckeyes third-stringer Cardale Jones at quarterback.

TCU had shared the 2014 Big 12 title with Baylor, which was also denied a CFP berth. Would winning a Big 12 championship game have enabled quarterback Trevone Boykin and his Horned Frogs teammates to get into the playoff?

Perhaps the committee deserves a pass for this one. After all, it was the first year of the four-team format.

"We all knew the significance of the decision,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said, "but no one had made that kind of decision about football ever before."

University of Central Florida, 2017

Final CFP Ranking: No. 12

The selection committee’s treatment of the 2017 UCF team would have to be considered one of the more unconventional cold shoulders in any list of the biggest College Football Playoff snubs. Playing in the lower-profile AAC, the Knights were a perfect 12-0 in the regular season before their conference championship-game victory over No. 20 Memphis. That was UCF’s only 2017 win over a team ranked in the Top 25.

Quarterback McKenzie Milton and wide receiver Gabe Davis were the team’s stars, while linebacker Shaquem Griffin was a breakout sensation. However, UCF was only able to claim the No. 12 spot in the final CFP ranking and a Peach Bowl date with No. 7 Auburn.

UCF went on to beat Auburn 34-27 and is remembered as of the most enigmatic undefeated teams in college football history.

Ohio State, 2018

Final CFP Ranking: No. 6

Yes, Ohio State CFP history is rich, and this team has certainly been on the receiving end of some fortuitous committee decisions (2014, anyone?). However, the Buckeyes had an extremely credible case for getting a spot in the 2018 playoff.

Led by quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the 2018 Buckeyes went 11-1 in the regular season with signature wins over No. 9 Penn State and No. 4 Michigan State. However, a blowout loss to Purdue was a huge scar on OSU’s resume, and a 45-24 Big Ten Championship Game win over No. 21 Northwestern was not enough to make up for it. As a result, the Buckeyes became the first one-loss Big Ten champ to miss the playoffs.when Oklahoma and Notre Dame both got into the CFP ahead of OSU.

Florida State, 2023

Final CFP Ranking: No. 5

Almost every undefeated college football 2023 team made the playoffs -- except for Florida State. The undefeated ACC champions had some marquee regular-season wins, including a victory over No. 5 LSU in their season-opener and another win over No. 16 Duke in Week 7.

The Seminoles capped off their undefeated regular season with a 16-6 victory over No. 14 Louisville in the Dec. 2 ACC Championship Game. They managed to win that game without star quarterback Jordan Travis, who had suffered a season-ending injury just two weeks earlier.

The 2023 season featured one of the most loaded fields in CFB history. Undefeated Michigan and Washington were locks for the top four, and Texas snuck in at No. 3 with the Big 12 championship and a stunning victory over Alabama to its credit. The Crimson Tide beat No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game to clinch the final spot, forcing FSU to miss the cut.

Was Florida State a vintage college football playoff snub, or just a victim of the soon-to-be-obsolete four-team playoff format? Given Travis’ injury and the beating the ‘Noles endured in a 63-3 loss to Georgia at the Orange Bowl, it appears the selection committee might have picked the better team in going with Alabama.

Oklahoma State, 2011


We’ll throw one BCS-era kerfuffle in here to conclude our list of the biggest college football postseason snubs. Under the previous playoff format, which was still in effect in 2011, only two teams were given a chance to compete for the national title.

No. 1 LSU was a lock to make it after the Tigers narrowly defeated Alabama 9-6 during the season and went on to win the SEC title. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State (11-1) was the champion of a Big 12 Conference that had no title game at the time. The Cowboys had scored signature wins over No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 10 Oklahoma, although they had lost to unranked Iowa State in late November.

Alabama’s only loss had come in its game against LSU, but the Crimson Tide’s season did not include a single victory over a top 10 team.

Even though the Cowboys had proven they could beat top 10 competition, while the Tide had not, Alabama was chosen for the final playoff spot, and all hell broke loose. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy expressed extreme disappointment with the committee’s decision. The BCS era would last just two more seasons after that before the implementation of the CFP in 2014.

When does the 12-team playoff start in college football?

The new, 12-team College Football Playoff format will commence with the 2024 season. As a result, college football’s undefeated teams will no longer have to worry about being stuck on the playoff bubble. Instead, they will be virtual locks to make the playoffs under the new system.

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