The four-team playoff era has come to an end. It was a heck of a decade.
In all, 86 different teams spent at least one week ranked by the playoff committee, 25 were ranked in the top four, eight were ranked No. 1 and six won national titles.
But that math only takes us so far. What we really need is a full accounting of the four-team playoff era, a ranking slathered in math but ultimately as arbitrary as anything the committee has given us in the past decade.
Of course, as the committee has taught us, there's no easy calculus for this type of exercise. For example, consider the following comparison.
Team A: 95-33, 49 weeks ranked in the committee poll, seven 10-win seasons
Team B: 94-32, 43 weeks ranked in the committee poll, six 10-win seasons
Who was better?
If you leaned toward Team A, we're sorry. That's Notre Dame, a two-time playoff participant that's never really sniffed a national title.
Team B, on the other hand, is the defending champ. Michigan had an uneven decade, but it ended on a high note.
For this ranking, we looked at all the hard numbers -- wins, playoff appearances, SP+ (colleague Bill Connelly's tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of efficiency), top-25 finishes and plenty of others -- but ultimately had to compare the results with reasonable expectations and weigh the teams with dizzying highs and troubling lows against the ones with consistent-but-inconsequential success.
The result is the definitive ranking of all 86 teams that have spent at least one week in the committee's top 25 (plus the other Power 5 schools that never caught the committee's eye). We're happy to take questions during our post-release results show, but we're just going to talk in circles and mention "game control" at least 12 times.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Average SP+: 31.4 (1st)
It's impossible to overstate how much the rest of the college football world has existed in Alabama's orbit during Nick Saban's tenure in Tuscaloosa. Since he arrived in 2007, every national champion but two -- and just one during the playoff era -- has either been Alabama or beaten Alabama on its path to a title. (And the two holdouts -- 2013 FSU and 2022 Georgia -- beat teams that beat Alabama.) The Tide have the most wins, most playoff wins, best SP+, most weeks ranked in the committee's top four and most wins over ranked opponents in the past 10 years -- all by a fairly substantial margin. They're one of two programs ranked in every committee poll of the four-team era, and they've been ranked in every AP poll dating back to 2008. That college football is entering a new era of expanded conferences and a 12-team playoff signifies great change ahead -- but perhaps nothing will shake up the sport's status quo more than Saban's retirement.