Why Florida State shouldn’t be in College Football Playoff


It isn’t fair.

Florida State couldn’t have possibly done anything differently.

It challenged itself with a high-profile non-conference game. It won all 13 contests it played. It won its last three games, even after star quarterback Jordan Travis was lost for the season with a severe leg injury early in a rout of North Alabama on Nov. 18.

But when the College Football Playoff pairings are announced on Sunday, they shouldn’t include the Seminoles. The ACC champion isn’t one of the best four teams, despite its undefeated record. Not without Travis, the one-time Heisman Trophy candidate who produced 27 touchdowns this year and threw just two interceptions.

Two undefeated conference champions, Michigan of the Big Ten and Washington of the Pac-12, almost certainly will receive the top two seeds, in that order. They were ranked second and third in the latest poll by the committee. They should be followed by one-loss teams Texas and Alabama.

The Crimson Tide snapped top-ranked Georgia’s 29-game winning streak in Saturday’s SEC championship game, closing out a season that started in ominous fashion and has them looking capable of winning what would be a stunning title. Texas, ranked seventh by the committee, won at No. 8 Alabama by double figures in September and claimed its first Big 12 crown since 2009 with an impressive beatdown of Oklahoma State.

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, who is out for the season with a leg injury, talks to ESPN as coach Mike Norvell looks on after the Seminoles' 16-6 ACC Championship-clinching win over Louisville.
Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, who is out for the season with a leg injury, talks to ESPN as coach Mike Norvell looks on after the Seminoles’ 16-6 ACC Championship-clinching win over Louisville. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Make no mistake, though, this is more about what we haven’t seen from No. 4 Florida State since Travis’ injury. An offense incapable of competing with the four best teams in the country. A team that would be a massive underdog to any of the aforementioned four listed above.

The Seminoles struggled with 5-7 Florida last week and had similar problems with No. 14 Louisville on Saturday in the ACC championship game, a Louisville team that was coming off a loss to in-state rival Kentucky. Kentucky, remember, finished fourth in the SEC East and had lost five of its previous six games before getting past the Cardinals. Backup Florida State quarterback Tate Rodemaker was shaky in the win over Florida, suffered a concussion and his backup, freshman Brock Glenn, was even worse on Saturday. Coach Mike Norvell had to resort to The Wildcat to finally go ahead.

It is funny how it works, that in the final year of the four-team playoff we get all of this chaos. Drama that has been lacking in recent years. A conference championship weekend highlighted by two major upsets and major uncertainty leading up to the big reveal. Next year, there won’t be that problem, as the playoff increases to 12 teams. The committee is in a tough spot. It either punishes an undefeated power five conference champion because of an injury, leaves out a one-loss SEC champion that dethroned the two-time defending national champions or ignores Texas’ head-to-head road win over Alabama.

It is unprecedented in the playoff era for an undefeated power five conference champion to be left out of the playoff. But Florida State’s situation is brand new as well, a title contender losing its best player so late in the season. The only comparison would be Ohio State in 2014, which lost starting quarterback J.T. Barrett in the regular season finale. Those Buckeyes had a capable star ready to take over, and Cardale Jones showed his potential by leading a blowout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Ohio State went on to win the national championship. Florida State is not capable of repeating that feat.

There already have been arguments made that Florida State has to be selected, because of its entire body of work. Because it didn’t shy away from a high-level non-conference game — it toppled LSU back in early September — and because an undefeated team of its ilk has never been left out. All are accurate points. But so is this: This version of Florida State wouldn’t have gone undefeated. It wouldn’t have beaten LSU, or even ACC opponents Clemson and Duke for that matter.

It is an incomplete team that will get shellacked in the playoff by whomever it plays. The job of the College Football Playoff committee is to select the four best teams. It is pretty clear that doesn’t include Florida State.

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