Florida State athletic director Michael Alford believes the College Football Playoff committee failed college football by excluding the undefeated Seminoles from the playoff.
FSU ended the season 13-0 and ACC champions after a 16-6 win over Louisville on Saturday night with third-string true freshman Brock Glenn as the team’s starting quarterback. However, the Seminoles dropped from No. 4 to No. 5 in the playoff rankings on Sunday as Texas (12-1) and Alabama (12-1) leapfrogged them to get into the four-team field.
“The consequences of giving in to a narrative of the moment are destructive, far reaching, and permanent,” Alford said in a statement released just minutes after the playoff field was revealed. “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 unforgivable.”
Florida State is the first undefeated Power Five team to be left out of the College Football Playoff field in the 10 years of the four-team postseason’s existence. And its absence from the playoff field this season came down to one factor: Star QB Jordan Travis’ injury.
Travis suffered a season-ending left leg injury in Week 12 against North Alabama in a game that FSU scheduled as a bye week of sorts to tune up for rival Florida in Week 13 and the ACC title game. Selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan said on multiple occasions that FSU was a “different team” without Travis and said Sunday that his absence from the field changed the way the committee viewed the Seminoles.
Travis responded to FSU's exclusion by wondering if he should have gotten injured earlier in the season so his teammates had more games to show they were deserving of a playoff spot.
devastated. heartbroken. In so much disbelief rn, I wish my leg broke earlier in the season so y’all could see this team is much more than the quarterback. I thought results matter. 13-0 and this roster matches up across any team in those top 4 rankings. I am so sorry. Go Noles!
— Jordan Travis (@jordantrav13) December 3, 2023
The playoff committee is allowed to take injuries into account when figuring out the playoff field. And the idea of the four “best” or “most deserving” teams has always been a nebulous concept. To some, the criteria have significant overlap. To others, the most deserving teams aren’t the best.
Florida State head coach Mike Norvell also agreed with Alford about the committee's decision.
“I am disgusted and infuriated with the committee’s decision today to have what was earned on the field taken away because a small group of people decided they knew better than the results of the games,” Norvell said. “What is the point of playing games? Do you tell players it is okay to quit if someone goes down? Do you not play a senior on Senior Day for fear of injury? Where is the motivation to schedule challenging non-conference games? We are not only an undefeated Power Five conference champion, but we also played two Power Five non-conference games away from home and won both of them. I don’t understand how we are supposed to think this is an acceptable way to evaluate a team.”
Despite the performance of a defense that is absolutely worthy of a playoff spot, Florida State’s offensive performance without Travis put the Seminoles in an unprecedented spot. Neither backup QB Tate Rodemaker or Glenn completed 50% of his passes in their singular starts after Travis’ injury. Rodemaker started against Florida but missed the ACC title game because of a head injury he sustained late in the game against the Gators.
Had Florida State’s offense looked like Ohio State’s in 2014 when the Buckeyes blitzed Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game with third-string QB Cardale Jones, the committee would likely have kept Florida State in the playoff field. But FSU scored 19 fewer points over its last two games than Ohio State did against Wisconsin that night nine years ago.
That apparently went a long way for the committee’s determination that both Texas and Alabama were better teams than Florida State. And it's likely no consolation to Alford or anyone who supports Florida State that the 2023 season is the final one with a four-team playoff before the postseason expands to 12 teams next season. If the expanded postseason was in effect this year, Florida State would be hosting a first-round game against a Group of Five opponent.
“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,” Alford continued in his statement. “Instead, the committed decided to elevate themselves and ‘make history’ today by departing from what makes this sport great by excluding an undefeated Power Five 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.”