For what seems like forever, the college football landscape resembled a wide-open terrain, one where all the best teams in the country were spread all over in hopes of being considered the best of the best.
The Bowl Championship Series gave us 16 years of trying to sort through the clutter to give us a national champion.
Through a designated title game or just a post-bowl game vote, the national champion in college football has often been a source of controversy and rarely one of consensus. But now we have the College Football Playoff, the first-of-its-kind format that aims to erase all debate by having the champ determined through a bona fide elimination process.
Four teams will be slotted into a winner-takes-all tournament, using the Rose and Sugar bowls as semifinal games on New Year's Day and then an official national championship on Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Additionally, four more games—known as "host bowls"—will feature champions from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC that don't qualify for the playoffs, as well as at-large selections that will include the top-rated team from outside the five power conferences.
A 13-person selection committee will rank teams, beginning in late October and then every week until determining the 12 CFP entrants.
With a true process to knock teams out of the running and determine a champion, a mountain has been established. There will be many programs striving to climb that hill in 2014, including plenty of the traditional powers, but they won't be alone.
Here's a look at the teams heading into this season who are ready to climb the CFB mountain.