Florida State is going to California to face Oregon in Pasadena in the semifinal of the first ever College Football Playoff. The move comes as a bit of a surprise to Florida State fans and some insiders, who expected the committee to place Florida State in New Orleans against Alabama to avoid sending FSU to Pasadena for the second year in a row.
For fans, this is not a good move, because travel to California is much more expensive than it is to New Orleans. The Rose Bowl, however, is not concerned with that, as according to sources, each team is responsible for filling roughly 10,000 seats. Many go on the open market or are given to corporate sponsors.
On the field, though, this is a good thing for the Florida State Seminoles, and that's regardless of whether you think Alabama or Oregon is the tougher opponent.
The reason? The order in which FSU has to play the teams if it is to win a national title.
Alabama's Nick Saban has an incredible record when preparing for National Championship Games with a big layoff, upsetting Oklahoma in 2003, dominating Texas in 2009, smoking LSU in 2011 and crushing Notre Dame in 2012. If you want to play Alabama, you want Nick Saban to have as little prep time as possible. There are 25 days to prep for the semifinal, and just 9 to prepare for the final.
That is not to say that Oregon's Mark Helfrich won't have his team prepared -- he almost assuredly will, but he does not have the track record that Nick Saban does.
And there's another aspect of the sequence being preferable: repping Oregon's tempo. Oregon, behind Marcus Mariota, runs its offense at a blistering pace. Having to beat Oregon and Alabama (or Ohio State) to win a national title is daunting and improbable irrespective of sequence, but having 25 days to rep Oregon's tempo in practice is preferable to having only 9.
The situation is similar to the 2013 National Championship, in which Florida State had a month to prepare for Auburn's up-tempo spread option offense. The more reps a team takes to prepare against a tempo offense, the less tempo becomes a factor.
Assuming FSU gets healthy, that is. Florida State is dealing with injuries to multiple defensive starters who are surefire future NFL players, including defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle), linebacker Terrance Smith (knee), cornerback Ronald Darby (arm), and linebacker Matthew Thomas (knee and shoulder). FSU is also without starting nose guard Nile-Lawrence Stample, who tore his pec against Clemson and is out for the season.
To its credit, FSU has overcome injuries all year. But Oregon's offense is a different animal. If the Seminoles get the majority of those defenders back, it will have a strong chance against the Ducks. If FSU does not, Oregon will clearly have a big advantage.