Next year, all this College Football Playoff arguing will be moot with the CFP expanding to 12 teams. Arguing over Nos. 3, 4 and 5 is very different than 10, 11, 12 and 13. You lose your benefit of the doubt when you lose games. Even in the SEC.
But this year is still a four-team field, and with so many variables factoring into the decision, there is a lot to dissect. And to state it plainly: the College Football Playoff committee got it wrong. College football has, or at least it used to have — up until right now — the best regular season in sports because the games mattered most. We have a smaller sample size in this sport than in any other.
To leave out an undefeated 13-0 Florida State team in a Power 5 conference was the wrong decision.
Michigan and Washington, both undefeated with top-10 wins, were the easy ones. The problem for the College Football Playoff committee was that there were three teams with legitimate arguments for the final two slots.
Sorry, Georgia. You didn’t win your conference title, and in this format, that has to count for something.
Booger McFarland is not happy that Alabama got into the CFP over an undefeated Florida State team.
“To me, this is a travesty to the sport…One team has a loss, and that’s Alabama. One doesn’t in Florida State.” pic.twitter.com/3rhBvvpT1D
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) December 3, 2023
Alabama and the SEC are the proverbial elephant in this room. Nick Saban is the greatest coach of all time, and to me, this year was the greatest coaching job he’s ever done in-season. His team got whipped at home by Texas in Week 2 and didn’t look any better struggling with a middling USF team the following week. But Jalen Milroe kept making big strides and when it mattered most, he and the Tide made enough plays to knock off a Bulldogs team that wasn’t anywhere near as dominant as it was in its previous two title seasons.
The problem for Alabama — and the SEC — is the partner they’re about to bring in: Texas did beat Alabama convincingly in Tuscaloosa. That happened, and there was nothing fluky about it.
The Longhorns, 12-1, were the class of the Big 12. There wasn’t a second-best team in the Big 12 this year, but Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma, the team Texas stumbled against and, as expected, Texas hammered the Cowboys Saturday. Remember, this was an Oklahoma State team that went 9-3 and had lost by a combined score of 78-10 against South Alabama and UCF. That wasn’t going to help Texas’ cause, but do we just forget that a week ago Alabama barely escaped against an Auburn team that got blown out at home the week before by New Mexico State, 31-10?
The bigger issue was with Florida State, the 13-0 Seminoles from the ACC. As we all know, FSU lost star quarterback Jordan Travis two weeks ago. The Seminoles’ backup Tate Rodemaker, who had led them to a comeback win over Louisville a year ago when Travis had gotten hurt, didn’t look great in the regular-season finale at arch-rival Florida. He also sustained a concussion.
ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips calls it “unfathomable” that Florida State was left out. “Florida State deserved better. College football deserved better.”
Statement from him: pic.twitter.com/3BYozQOSog
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) December 3, 2023
FSU’s third-stringer, Brock Glenn, had a shaky outing in the ACC Championship Game, but the defense was dominant. Led by Braden Fiske and Jared Verse, the Seminoles had 14 TFLs and seven sacks and became the first team in five years to hold a Jeff Brohm offense under 200 total yards. Not so coincidentally, that same FSU defense began the year by dominating LSU and the SEC’s biggest star, Jayden Daniels, 45-24, and held the SEC and the nation’s No. 1 offense to its worst performance of the season.
FSU was the only team that held Daniels under 60 percent passing in a game. Daniels ran for almost 100 yards less (99) against the Noles than when he played the Crimson Tide.
The CFP rankings often devolve into an argument over “best” versus “most deserving.” Best is usually the get-out-of-jail free card whenever your team loses or has a bad loss that it can’t explain. Similar to the nonsense of, “Well, Vegas would make so-and-so more than a touchdown favorite against them.” Great. But tell that to Washington. The Huskies were almost a double-digit underdog against Oregon last week, a team they’d already beaten this year. … Well, the Huskies beat the Ducks again.
I get it. The SEC has been the most dominant conference in college football for the past two decades. But this year hasn’t been like those other years if you’ve been paying attention. It’s simply been a down year for the SEC. The ACC actually went 6-4 against the SEC this year. If this was a one-loss FSU team, I’d say the Seminoles didn’t earn their way in, but they did. Texas should not have been left out either for a team it beat in its own place.
As colleague David Ubben wrote Saturday night, the games have to matter. What’s the point of playing them if we’re going to try and rationalize them away?
(Top photo Florida State: John Byrum / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)