The CFP committee jumps, but Seminoles get penalized
Florida State's undefeated season wasn't enough to hold off Alabama in the final analysis.
The College Football Playoff selection committee is full of personal and professional accomplishment.
On Sunday we discovered it also possesses amazing clairvoyance.
Through ouija boards and crystal balls and deep meditation, it deduced that Florida State was incapable of competing for a national football championship because its starting quarterback is injured.
It named Michigan, Washington, Texas and Alabama to its bridge table and left out the Seminoles, who finished the season 13-0 and won its final two games, against arch-rival Florida and then Louisville in the ACC championship, with its second-team quarterback and then its third-team quarterback.
Boo Corrigan, the North Carolina State athletic director who chairs the committee, admitted that his group has joined the handcapping business and abandoned the resume-onboarding business. He said that the injury to Jordan Travis, who was on track to become a Heisman Trophy finalist before he injured his knee against North Alabama in the 11th game of the season , was key to its decision.
Fortunately Corrigan & Co. don’t run the NFL. When Trent Green was injured in the exhibition season of 1999, the St. Louis Rams had no choice but to turn to an Arena Football League veteran who was stocking grocery shelves in Iowa between jobs. No one on earth, and certainly not coach Dick Vermeil, could see that Kurt Warner would win a Super Bowl five months later.
Neither does anyone know if Tate Rodemaker, Travis’ backup, would fare in a playoff situation. Or Brock Glenn, who had to play Saturday night because Rodemaker was concussed. But we do know that Florida State won those two games against credible teams with those backup quarterbacks, and we do know how Alabama looked at South Florida when coach Nick Saban put Jalen Milroe on the bench and used two backups. Answer: Not good. Alabama struggled to win, 17-3, over a team that would finish 6-6 and lose to Florida Atlantic, 56-14.
Had FSU coach Mike Norvell known this would happen, he probably wouldn’t have played Travis against North Alabama. There’s a good case for not playing North Alabama anyway, and of course Travis could have gotten hurt walking out of the weight room, but Norvell probably thought an undefeated season would carry weight regardless of circumstance. He won’t get fooled again.
No, Glenn did not look like Warner against Louisville. Not close, and neither did Rodemaker look special against Florida. There’s no evidence that either is ready for time so prime. But, as Robert Griffin III pointed out on ESPN, Florida State was at least as dynamic against Louisville as Michigan was against Iowa Saturday night in the Big 10 game. The Seminoles turned the game over to one of the nation’s best defenses and throttled Jack Plummer, who was Louisville’s first-string QB in a 10-win season.
Besides, we’re supposed to be looking at 13 games, all 13 games. Our attention span is supposed to be longer than the last four previous quarters that we’ve seen. Alabama played beautifully against Georgia but needed to reach deep into its anatomy to win at Auburn (6-6) the previous week, on a fourth-and-31 pass. And Alabama did lose at home by 10 to Texas on Sept. 9. It’s on the permanent record. Yes, ‘Bama has gotten better since. But if we no longer believe that all the games count, why are we making these kids play them? We would save a lot of money and hassle and injury if we just used our prophetic powers in September.
(And tight end Brock Bowers, who is generally considered Georgia’s best player and could have been a Heisman finalist, was nowhere near himself physically. Since the committee is letting imagination run wild, it could have devalued Alabama’s win on that basis, too. Isn’t Bowers worth three points in a 27-24 loss?)
One can wrestle with the numbers and come up with escape hatches. Alabama’s strength of schedule was judged to be better than Florida State’s. That is probably because the SEC has more good teams than the ACC, and you can’t really control your conference schedule. Florida State did become the second team since 2016 to win at Clemson, which has slipped from CFP levels but is still a quality group.
You can control your non-conference schedule, and Florida State pounded LSU, 45-24.
Corrigan also said that the ex-coaches in the committee room had a big voice, as in, “Who would you rather play?” And, sure, Alabama seemed like a tougher out on Saturday than Florida State. But, again, that’s opinion, and we once had a system based solely on opinion. It consisted of two wire-service polls and often produced two different “national champions.” Fortunately it’s in the dustbin of history.
Travis had the most poignant reaction as the team numbly watched the results. He said he wished he’d gotten hurt earlier in the season, so everyone could watch the Seminoles win without him, and, maybe, get used to it.
FSU president Michael Alford meticulously took apart the committee’s arguments this way (forgive the CAPS, but he’s angry):
“The consequences of giving in to a narrative of the moment are destructive, far reaching, and permanent. Not just for Florida State, but college football as a whole.
"The argument of whether a team is the 'most deserving OR best' is a false equivalence. It renders the season up to yesterday irrelevant and significantly damages the legitimacy of the College Football Playoff. The 2023 Florida State Seminoles are the epitome of a total TEAM. To eliminate them from a chance to compete for a national championship is an unwarranted injustice that shows complete disregard and disrespect for their performance and accomplishments. It is unforgiveable.
"The fact that this team has continued to close out victories in dominant fashion facing our current quarterback situation should have ENHANCED our case to get a playoff berth EARNED on the field. Instead, the committee decided to elevate themselves and 'make history' today by departing from what makes this sport great by excluding an undefeated Power 5 conference champion for the first time since the advent of the BCS/CFP era that began 25 years ago. This ridiculous decision is a departure from the competitive expectations that have stood the test of time in college football.
"Wins matter. Losses matter. Those that compete in the arena know this. Those on the committee who also competed in the sport and should have known this have forgotten it. Today, they changed the way success is assessed in college football, from a tangible metric - winning on the field - to an intangible, subjective one. Evidently, predicting the future matters more."
"For many of us, today's decision by the committee has forever damaged the credibility of the institution that is the College Football Playoff. And, saddest of all, it was self-inflicted. They chose predictive competitiveness over proven performance; subjectivity over fact. They have become a committee of prognosticators. They have abandoned their responsibility by discarding their purpose – to evaluate performance on the field."
"Our players, coaches, and fans - as well as all those who love this sport - deserve better. The committee failed college football today."
Eventually this will dissipate, and the Washington-Texas and Michigan-Alabama games will be mandatory viewing. And Florida State plays Georgia in the Orange Bowl and, yes, might well get smoked.
When that happens, people will say this justifies what the committee did. That will be a classic case of looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. That also will be as wrongheaded as imagining the future before it comes, and confusing it with wisdom.