Florida State got screwed.
That doesn’t mean the College Football Playoff committee got it wrong because someone was going to get screwed on Sunday afternoon when the field was revealed. In this case, it happened to be Florida State.
Instead it’ll be No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama in the Rose Bowl followed by No. 2 Washington vs. No. 3 Texas in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. It’s going to be a brilliant playoff.
The Seminoles were the fifth wheel, the fifth choice left out.
The reason they got screwed goes far beyond and far before 13 people gathered in a Grapevine, Texas hotel and decided that despite their 13-0 record, their ACC championship, their two non-conference victories over SEC opponents … they still weren’t worthy of a College Football Playoff berth.
It’s more than the committee deciding they should be the first unbeaten Power Five champion to get left out in the 10-year history of the event.
The reason was simple — an injury late last month to star quarterback Jordan Travis. FSU went on to win without him — finishing off North Alabama and Florida with Tate Rodemaker and then Louisville on Saturday with third-string freshman Brock Glenn.
The Seminoles won, but it wasn't flashy. Glenn threw for just 55 yards against Louisville. The difference was noticeable.
“Florida State is a different team than they were through the first 11 weeks,” CFP committee chair and North Carolina State athletic director Boo Corrigan said on ESPN. “An incredible season, but if you look at who they are as a team right now, without Jordan Travis, without the offensive dynamic that he brings to it, they are a different team.”
Corrigan isn’t wrong. It’s just it shouldn’t have come to that.
“Player availability is very important,” Corrigan said. “I think someone said, ‘You can lose a running back, you can lose a wide receiver, but a quarterback as dynamic as Jordan Travis, it changes their offense entirely.’ And that was a big factor.”
The goal of the sport is to win the game though. So what if FSU relied more heavily on defense the past few weeks? Who cares if the Seminoles simplified the offense? They won. That should have been enough.
It wasn’t though, mainly because the system that was set up back when these players were in elementary school didn’t account for — or care about — what played out in 2023.
The people who designed a four-team playoff back then really didn’t want to design a four-team playoff — or any kind of playoff. So they did a terrible job.
They knew they needed to move past the two-team Bowl Championship Series. However, too many of their motivations had little to do with determining a champion on the field or setting up the most exciting postseason. Instead they were focused on protecting the bowl industry, maintaining the Rose Bowl’s late-afternoon New Year’s Day television window (and second-half sunset over the San Gabriel Mountains) and making a glacial move from two to four when a bold one was needed and inevitable.
Florida State was further impacted by the misplaced emotions of the commissioners of the Big Ten, Pac-12 and, yes, its very own ACC in the summer of 2021. Plans to expand the playoff to 12 teams before the 2023 season were nearly complete at the time. Then Texas and Oklahoma called the SEC and asked about leaving the Big 12. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey got the deal done, and his league will expand to 16 teams next season.
The other leagues began saber rattling and acting like every other league wouldn’t have done the same thing the SEC did.
They formed the so-called “Alliance,” which supposedly would create stability against SEC aggression. It was comical and ridiculous. Within a year, the Big Ten raided the Pac-12 for USC and UCLA starting in 2024. Later, it finished the league off by grabbing Oregon and Washington. The Big 12 and ACC then picked off the rest.
The ACC got played a fool. In the process, the playoff expansion was tabled until everyone calmed down. By the time the original expansion plan was finally agreed upon it was too late for this season. It'll start in 2024, with automatic bids for top conference champions. It's one year too late for Florida State.
That left the Seminoles — or anyone else — exposed to the exact situation that played out.
They won all their games and it wasn’t good enough.
They scheduled aggressively in the non-con, beat LSU and Florida, and it wasn’t good enough.
They saw the ACC go 6-4 against the SEC and it wasn’t good enough.
They survived an injury to their star player and it wasn’t good enough.
Florida State got screwed.
Not so much by a committee that had to screw someone, but by its own leadership booth in 2021, and more than a decade ago, that focused too much on politics and business and everything except assuring that something like this couldn't happen.