By Ron Johnson
After yesterday’s unveiling, it is safe to say that everyone in Tallahassee is highly offended by The Committee’s decision to choose Texas and Alabama over their beloved Florida State Seminoles. Everyone had a gripe about it…even me. But unlike everyone who says that they got it wrong, I am going to explain to them why the Committee got it right this time around.
Yes, I get to play the role of Devil’s Advocate in this scenario.
I am a Gators fan who understands fully what it is like to suffer through disappointment at the end. And while I empathize with Florida State’s plight, I’d be lying if I say that I wasn’t smiling a little bit. Sort of a little Sports Karma one could say.
Let’s break it down.
Florida State’s Final Three Games
Looking back at the final three games of the Seminoles, one could make the argument that they are to blame for what happened on Sunday. Yes, all three games ended with wins for the program, but in the Committee’s defense, they didn’t really impress the way the other two teams impressed.
We go back to their game against North Alabama in which they were down 13-0 before Jordan Travis’s injury introduced the country to Tate Rodemaker. The Seminoles ended up winning that game 58-13. Then came their annual rivalry game against Florida, which from my perspective they should’ve blown Florida out the water the way Georgia did. Rodemaker goes down with an injury temporarily but returns shortly thereafter to finish the comeback for the Seminoles who trailed 50% of the game (five at halftime, one at the end of the third) before scoring 10 unanswered points in the fourth to take and keep the lead. They won that one by nine, 24-15.
But then came the ACC Championship Game and the introduction of the third string quarterback, a true freshman no less. Granted, that third stringer only produced 55 yards the entire game, but it was the defense that shined and allowed the Seminoles to walk out of there with a 10-point win (16-6), a perfect season and the ACC Championship.
So what was the reasoning behind the snub?
One can say it’s about the health of the program (losing two quarterbacks in seven days). It could be the fact that they did not impress in the conference championship (scoring only 16 points vs. a Louisville squad that had a rough shootout with Kentucky the week before). It could also be about the result of the other games (Alabama snapping Georgia’s 29-game winning streak, Michigan shutting out Iowa, Texas decimating Oklahoma State). Or it could be just Sports Karma coming around to cash in the receipt that Florida State owed everybody.
That receipt comes in the form of what Bobby Bowden said a while back when he was still coaching the Noles: “They did want us, they did invite us to join the SEC. Everybody thought we would join. In fact, I thought we would but our administration – the president and others – wanted the ACC, which really was better for us. It would have been hard wading through the SEC. Too many good teams in there, boy. Oh, gosh. Oh, that would have been some great ball.”
In the eyes of Florida State’s upper administration, the Seminoles joining the SEC would have made them both dangerous and tough while making it harder for them to compete for the National Championship. Bowden went on to win two National Championships as a member of the ACC, and the school has won three total (one more with Jimbo Fisher in 2013). But there is the other wild card in this mix: The Buyout.
Florida State has been waving the threat of leaving the ACC all season long, and the Committee could have looked at this as a more controversial scenario than the one they did on Sunday. In the time since the Seminoles had joined the ACC, they have produced two major powerhouses in FSU and Clemson. But this year, Clemson has not really been a big threat to many, and Florida State has been the soul survivor to this point.
When it comes to the tale of the buyout, Florida State has been floating this idea since August demanding that radical change to the revenue stream needs to happen in order to stay with the conference. Currently there’s a $10.4 million gap (49.9 to 39.5) with the SEC and a $12 million gap (47.9 to 39.5) with the Big Ten, and this gap is expected to grow $30 million once Oklahoma and Texas are added to the SEC, and UCLA and USC join the Big Ten. While ESPN and ACC have had a great TV deal so far, Florida State is wanting as much of that free money as possible, but it also knows that it may require them to entertain the idea of joining another conference.
The Committee may have believed that Florida State is the only powerhouse in the ACC, and because of this, they chose to go a completely different route when they selected Texas and Alabama over them. When one looks at the Final Four, they are looking at a representative from the Big Ten (Michigan instead of Ohio State), one from the Pac-12 (Washington instead of Oregon), one from the Big XII (Texas instead of Oklahoma) and one from the SEC (Alabama instead of Georgia), but the reality is that they are getting two of the Power Five Conferences (Big Ten and SEC) versus four of the Power Five Conferences.
This is due to Washington joining the Big Ten, and Texas joining the SEC next season.
So does Florida State have a gripe? Of course they do. But can they really blame the Committee that their own Power Five Conference does not look very powerful at all???
If one looks at the ACC, Florida State practically ran the table. Louisville suffered its first loss in the ACC Championship Game, Clemson finished 4-4 in conference play and their worst team (Wake Forest) finished with a 4-8 overall record with a 1-7 in conference play. The SEC had five teams with winning conference records (Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Ole Miss, LSU) and nine overall that are bowl eligible (the previous five plus Texas A&M, Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky); On the other hand, the ACC has 11 that are bowl eligible (four of those with 6-6 overall records but two with losing records in the conference). On paper, the ACC looks like the more superior conference, but in reality, the ACC is full of more pushover programs than the SEC.
Bobby Bowden Called It
What Bobby Bowden said three years ago still rings true considering the SEC had a hand in almost every single National Championship Game for over a decade. Would it have been a travesty to have a CFP Semifinal without the SEC? Possibly. But the Committee dropped the ball and missed an opportunity with this one.
A simple solution would have been to have a Wild Card-style Playoff Game between Texas and Alabama with the winner getting the fourth spot and the Rose Bowl against Michigan. Even with the rumor mills swirling that Michigan was slated to face Alabama as a way to show that the Wolverines would still be getting punished for the barrage of scandals that plagued the program this season, it is all about being competitive.
And honestly, there is no question that Florida State would not have been as competitive with Rodemaker as they would be with Travis. As they made clear on Sunday, the Committee stated that there is no rule that says you are automatically in IF you win your conference. However, it is safe to say that Florida State and Central Florida will have a distinction not acknowledged by the NCAA right now: National Champions.
That is, if everything goes the way they are hoping that is.
For Florida State to lay claim as champions, they would need Washington and Michigan to lose, while beating Georgia. With all that has happened so far, it is not too far fetch to see this happening.
But on the other hand, maybe this is just the Seminoles’ string of bad luck coming full circle.
It is fitting that almost a decade ago to the day (December 7, 2014), the first College Football Playoff expansion occurred. Next season, there shouldn’t be as much warfare as it expands to 12 teams. This time next season, we’ll have 12 worthy competitors battling it out for a chance to win the ultimate prize. This time next season, if Florida State is good enough to make the cut this time, they won’t have any reason to feel the stench of being the first undefeated to be left out of the Semifinals.
But this isn’t next season yet, and the Seminoles will just have to prove the Committee wrong again.