4. Alabama (Alabama Crimson Tide/FBS)
Alabama has been the gold standard in college football during Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa, and nobody within their own state issued a serious challenge to that sustained dominance this season. Bama held off all challengers and wrested back the SEC crown from rival Auburn, sent Amari Cooper to New York as a Heisman finalist, and claimed a spot in the first College Football Playoff. They even managed to eliminate another football program in their own university system.
Yeah, by Crimson Tide standards, 2014 ended in disappointment. After all, Nick Saban’s team expects to win national titles every year. Despite their loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, though, it was a solid season for Bama. The addition of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin vaulted a team that has long won and lost on the strength of its defense into the stratosphere of spread attacks. The defense still ranked among the half-dozen best in college football. While the ultimate goal didn’t come to fruition in the first year of a multi-game playoff, the Tide was still definitively the best team in the Yellowhammer State.