Alabama over Florida State: Analyzing the Decision

College Football Playoff Trophy Inglewood, California. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
College Football Playoff Trophy Inglewood, California. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

The 2014 national champion Ohio State Buckeyes and third-string quarterback Cardale Jones may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the 2023 college football playoff snubbing of Florida State, but it should be.

13-0 Florida State had been ranked fourth or fifth in the country since the first week of the college football playoff rankings in week 10 of this season five weeks ago. This week was the final rankings, and they were passed up by 12-1 Big 12 champion Texas, who received the three seed, and 12-1 SEC champion Alabama, who received the four seed. This leaves the Seminoles on the outside looking in for the 2023 college football playoff.

The snubbing of an undefeated ACC champion has been all the talk since the announcement was made Sunday. Media personalities have taken sides and trending debates around the topic on social media have been all the buzz.

While on the outside looking in, it may seem most logical that a 13-0 power five team should get in over two teams with one loss, which is why the debate is polarizing, and that many think Florida State being left out was justified.

Here are my reasons why the college football playoff committee made the right decision putting Texas and Alabama in over Florida State.

Alabama over Florida State: Analyzing the Decision

Four Best Teams and the loss of Jordan Travis – In the rules of the committee that are laid out, to vote each week on the college football playoff rankings, it states that the “four best teams” are who are voted for to make the playoffs. As part of this, the rules also state that if a team loses a player or a coach that can affect the team’s performance, this can be taken into consideration. This happened with Florida State on Saturday, November 18th when senior quarterback Jordan Travis left the game with a broken leg. Travis was inarguably one of the leaders and best players on Florida State’s team. And losing a quarterback that is at the controls of the offense is a big deal, no matter how you slice it. The committee saw this, and made their decisions partly based upon this.

Florida State’s subpar performances after the loss of Jordan Travis – Florida State having been ranked no higher than fourth after the first rankings from the CFP were released in week 10, which was two weeks before Travis’ leg injury, shows that although teams ahead of them weren’t losing either, they weren’t doing anything to wow the committee. If they had, they may have moved up even just one spot, which could have made all the difference.

On top of that, at the time of Travis’ injury, the Seminoles were losing at home to the University of North Alabama 13-0, which is an FCS school. Backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker entered the game and the Noles ended up winning 58-13, but the committee most likely noticed the early struggles. Additionally, in the following two weeks without Travis, the Noles struggles continued to show. They defeated the rival Florida Gators 24-15 in Gainesville. The Gators finished the season at 5-7. This past Saturday, the Noles defeated the Louisville Cardinal in the ACC Championship 16-6.

It got worse for the Noles before the Louisville game even began as Rodemaker sustained a concussion against the Gators, so that left them with starting freshman quarterback, Brock Glenn, who struggled, only throwing for 55 passing yards against the Cardinal. Not only this, but the fact that the Cardinal themselves just lost to the ninth best team in the SEC in the Kentucky Wildcats at home had to leave the committee questioning and having to take this into consideration. Rewinding a bit more, the committee also had to take into consideration that the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated that Kentucky team 49-21 in Lexington earlier this year.

Considering what happened in the Louisville game being down to their third-string quarterback, Lockedon Bama’s Jimmy Stein pointed out that if Tate Rodemaker had played better against Florida, it’d be different.

Ohio State and third-string quarterback Cardale Jones example in 2014 – The 2014 Buckeyes were in a similar situation. And theirs was arguably even more challenging. While Florida State did not lose their starting quarterback in Jordan Travis until week 12 of the regular season, the Buckeyes lost their starting quarterback for 2014 in August of that year with a torn ACL before the season began. That quarterback was Braxton Miller, who was poised to return to the team for his fourth season as starting quarterback.

This forced the Buckeyes to go with second-string freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett for what they hoped was a successful and entire 2014 season. Barrett led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record that year as starting quarterback before getting hurt against the rival Michigan Wolverines in the last regular season game in the third quarter.

This injury forced the Buckeyes to rely on third-string sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones going into the Big 10 championship game against the Wisconsin Badgers, so a remarkably similar situation depth chart-wise to the Seminoles. The Buckeyes took care of business destroying the Badgers 59-0. The Badgers, like the 2023 Cardinal were 10-2 going into that matchup. This performance helped the Buckeyes to “hold serve” in the final college football playoff rankings moving up one spot and overtaking the TCU Horned Frogs for one of those spots.

This was much of Stein’s point mentioned previously that if the Seminoles had done something similar to the Gators, or one could even argue against the Cardinal with their third-string quarterback Glenn, it would’ve left the committee more comfortable with potentially leaving them in as the four, or maybe even three seed.

Strength of Schedule – Although the Crimson Tide had a loss and the Seminoles did not, the Tide’s strength of schedule is at 5th in the country. The Seminoles are at 55th. LockedOn Bama’s Luke Robinson goes into detail explaining that Florida State’s best win against LSU was Alabama’s third best win, as Alabama also defeated Georgia and Ole Miss who each currently sit in the top 15 in the country. Robinson went on to point as well that the Seminoles beat LSU with Jordan Travis at the controls, and doubted that they would have done the same with backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker. This is a valid argument, and yet another reason why “the four best teams” can easily come into play for the committee and Alabama.

It should also be noted that the Texas Longhorns, who received the three-seed, was the Tide’s only loss. That Longhorns team is 12-1 and third in the college football playoff rankings, which attests to that fifth in the country strength of schedule of the Tide. The Longhorns only loss came to the rival Oklahoma Sooners who finished the regular season 10-2 and 12th in the country.

Teams fall in the rankings after winning – This may seem like a first because it came in a critical moment, but teams have fallen before that are coming off of a win. Year-after-year in college football throughout the top 25, teams rise and fall in college football based on their performance. And that is even without significant injuries at positions like quarterback. So, while this came in the spotlight, it is worth understanding that it is not a first, and is actually quite normal week-over-week historically in the college football rankings.

Value for beating the number one team – The leap from number eight in the country to number four is large – yes. However, what also needs to be considered is that the Crimson Tide just beat the team that was ranked number one in the country at the time in the Georgia Bulldogs. So, for a team that sat at eight, they are automatically going to move ahead of Ohio State at seven who was idle and Oregon who lost to Washington at six. Beyond those two spots that you can say came with ease just by the Tide winning, the value of beating the number one team in the country can and should catapult a team up at least one more spot to number five. For the Tide, it happened to launch them up two more spots to four. And this is where the controversy understandably lies. But on the flip side, it needs to be pointed out that with merit on the Tide’s side. And that merit is again, beating the number one team in the country.

The Big 10 Alliance – The alliance between the Big 10, Pac-12 and ACC that formed as a “gentleman’s agreement” a few years ago without any formal contract was one that sought to level the playing field for schools from those power five conferences against the perennial power SEC who has won 13 of the 17 national championships since 2006 with the Big 10 winning just one in 2014 with Ohio State, and the ACC winning three total between Clemson and Florida State. An interview on the alliance can be seen in which each commissioner gives their stance. A shorter version was shared recently on “X” by Andy Staples.

LockedOn Ole Miss’s Steven Willis explains INSTANT OVERREACTION to Ole Miss Rebels getting the Peach Bowl vs Penn State in detail how this alliance came to be and all broke down. Part of this alliance Willis explains involved ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips who has outwardly stated his disappointment in the exclusion of Florida State from this year’s playoff.

Willis points out that at the end of the day, this is Phillips’ and the Big 10 alliances’ own fault as they are the ones that pushed back against a 12-team playoff beginning in 2023. That 12-team playoff would have easily saw the Seminoles as a part currently sitting at the five seed. And it would have them facing off against the 11th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions.

With all of those things being said, those that side with the Seminoles may that even if these arguments are valid, is why didn’t Florida State fall before this week if they were going to be dropped? The answer is that the committee wanted to give them time to see if things would change. The same thing happened in 2014 when J.T. Barrett got hurt for Ohio State. OSU was not dropped going into conference championship week, and held serve as the committee wanted to see how they would look with Cardale Jones. And they looked the part. The performance actually moved them up one spot after conference championship week. But it was also far from a 16-6 performance in a conference championship game like Florida State had, but 59-0 as mentioned previously.

Who knows; if the Seminoles had been voted into the playoffs and played either Michigan or Washington in the first round, maybe they would have surprised people and won. Maybe they would’ve won the whole thing. But the committee’s job must be to select who they feel are the best four teams. And those four teams provide the best matchups.

The odds makers so far didn’t lie either as according to On3, the Seminoles are initial 13 point underdogs against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl. The Crimson Tide who ranked ahead of the Seminoles is still an underdog even then for the Rose Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines. According to On3, the Wolverines are favorite at 2.5 points going in.

So, while it may not hold true, one can only go by the numbers, strength of schedule, current circumstances, how each team currently looks as being compared for the “best four teams,” and several more factors outlined. With all that being said, it appears the committee made the right decision. And it was the one they had to make.

Computerized BCS Rankings – While Alabama has been made the example at the four seed being the closest team to who the Seminoles’ presumably should’ve been ranked ahead of by many, example computer generated BCS computer rankings per the old system were generated that had Alabama a number three, Florida State at number four and Texas on the outside looking in at number five.

So should Florida State supporters be mad at Texas then? Arguably, that’s also incorrect, but rather they should be mad at the system that college football put into place per a system demanded by almost everyone over computer rankings- and that is a committee.

Michigan isn’t to blame, the committee is – Michigan has been found to have cheated per an NCAA investigation that happened earlier this year under head coach Jim Harbaugh with former assistance, Connor Stallions attending games in the stands and secretly recording signals of other teams to the benefit of Michigan for whenever they should play, or potentially play those certain teams later in the season. With these findings, the NCAA suspended Harbaugh for the final three regular season games, with Harbaugh returning to the sidelines this past weekend for the conference championship game against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Harbaugh is also allowed in the playoffs, as well as the Wolverines are eligible to play in them.

The debate of the top teams arguably could’ve been solved this way as well by the NCAA mandating that Michigan be removed from playoff consideration for cheating. However, they were not, which makes Harbaugh’s suspension seem more like a slap on the wrist. And in turn, this has punished Florida State more than Michigan. And this is at the hands of the NCAA.

Supplemental add-ins at the end 

Robinson commented on people calling this a tragedy that there are 100 ways to spin this, which there is. And “if there’s 100 ways to spin it, it’s not a tragedy. It’d be a tragedy if there was just one way to do this, and there’s not one way to do this.” Robinson’s co-host Stein went on to add, “This is the system that everybody agreed to. It’s not a perfect system, but this is the system that everyone agreed to. When I say everyone, this is the system that Florida State agreed to. This is the system that the ACC agreed to. We all signed up for this. Some of the irony is that spearheaded by the SEC, they tried to go to the 12-team playoff this year, and it was blocked by the ACC and their friends…So that’s on them.”

Stein and Robinson mention the NFL’s system as another playoff system example in football and that there are occasional injustices. For instance, the NFC south this season may very well have a worse record than a team trying to get in as a wildcard…This is the system that the NFL itself and all of the teams voted for and designed. This was it. So when you have a four-team playoff, there was always the threat that more than four teams would earn inclusion,” Stein went on to add.

Next. Alabama on top in final SEC power rankings. dark