With the Clemson game now behind us and four games left in the 2016 regular season, the 22nd-ranked Florida State Seminoles travel to Raleigh on Saturday to face NC State Wolfpack. With 3 losses on their record, the ‘Noles preseason expectations are long gone. In fact, the only viable team goals left are to finish the season ranked in the Top 15, get to 10 wins with a bowl game victory, and beat the Gators. Still, 10-3 with a bowl win and victories over Miami and Florida would provide a reasonably satisfactory finish to an otherwise disappointing season if the ‘Noles can reach those goals. Dalvin’s chase for the program’s all-time rushing record is also providing entertainment and excitement for FSU fans.
The final four games of the regular season start Saturday against the Pack in an underrated venue to visit. This is a road trip that gives the Seminole faithful the heebie-jeebies. FSU is 4-5 overall in the house of horrors known as Carter-Finley Stadium since 1998, and all five FSU losses in Raleigh have come when FSU was ranked. Don’t be fooled by their Boston College loss, NC State will be loud and well-lubricated for the FSU game and its 7 p.m. kickoff. Luckily, there will be a slight change of fortune for the visiting ‘Noles, as the Marching Chiefs will be traveling to Raleigh in place of their missed trip to Miami due to Hurricane Matthew.
Before our nightcap, there’s plenty of other intriguing matchups for Florida State fans to watch with interest on Saturday. Let’s get into those, shall we? Game times are EST, rankings are CFP.
No. 7 Louisville at Boston College, 12:00, ESPN2: Louisville. FSU’s best bowl options moving forward involve Clemson and Louisville BOTH making the CFP. The better they both do, the better FSU’s stout strength of schedule continues to look. There’s no upside in rooting for an unlikely BC upset of Louisville a week before Florida State plays BC anyway, so FSU fans should root for the Cardinals on Saturday.
Georgia Tech at No. 21 North Carolina, 12:30, ACCN: Georgia Tech. UNC is both ranked ahead of FSU in the CFP rankings, and they’re direct competition for bowl bids. They also could still win the Coastal, but Virginia Tech has the head-to-head advantage over them. Florida State fans should root for the Yellow Jackets on Saturday.
Pittsburgh at Miami, 12:30, ACCN: Pittsburgh. Well, would you look at that...the Chicago Cubs have won a World Series before the Miami Hurricanes even made an ACCCG appearance.
No. 19 Virginia Tech at Duke, 3:30, ESPNU: Duke. Virginia Tech is ranked ahead of Florida State in the CFP rankings, and given a choice of Coastal Division winners, FSU fans should prefer UNC for strength of schedule purposes. It’s also an advantage for FSU’s bowl hopes to have the ultimate Coastal Division winner sporting a worse record and a lower ranking than Florida State. This makes this choice relatively easy. FSU fans should root for Duke on Saturday.
Navy vs. Notre Dame (Jacksonville), 11:30, CBS: Notre Dame. I’ll reluctantly take Notre Dame because the better they finish, the better NC State and Miami look, which both in turn would help Florida State’s strength of schedule. I will note here, however, that a poor finish could lead to Brian Kelly’s departure from South Bend, which could help FSU on the recruiting trail. Both are gasping at straws at this point, but the prior argument should be concrete enough to entice FSU fans to root for Notre Dame on Saturday.
The Big 12 is mostly irrelevant at this point in the season, so I’ll save you the time and creativity.
TCU at No. 17 Baylor, 3:30, FOX: TCU. Baylor is ranked five spots ahead of Florida State in the CFP rankings, and they only have one loss. That’s enough of a reason for FSU fans to root for a TCU upset in Waco on Saturday.
No. 18 Oklahoma State at Kansas State, 3:30, ABC/ESPN2: Kansas State. Okie State is ranked four spots ahead of Florida State in the CFP rankings, and they only have one loss. That’s enough of a reason for FSU fans to root for a Bill Snyder upset in Manhattan on Saturday.
Kansas at No. 20 West Virginia, 7:00, ESPN2: Kansas. West Virginia is ranked two spots ahead of Florida State in the CFP rankings, and they only have one loss. That’s enough of a reason for FSU fans to root for a Kansas upset in Morgantown on Saturday.
No. 8 Wisconsin at Northwestern, 12:00, ABC: Northwestern. Is there any leftover Cubbies magic for the Wildcats to use? Northwestern is unranked and Wisconsin is a top ten team, so Florida State fans should root for the Northwestern upset on Saturday.
Iowa at No. 12 Penn State, 7:30, BTN: Iowa. Despite the fact that I love the playoff system in college football, I can admit that I’m firmly in the minority position on one certain aspect of it: I miss the objectivity of the BCS computers. People have inherit biases and interests; computers have algorithms and formulas.
With that backdrop, I really try not to get worked up over the College Football Playoff committee or its rankings. Particularly the early rankings. I know the game the committee is playing: drive up dead Tuesday evening TV ratings with the rankings show, pique interest for the upcoming Saturday matchups, and continue conversations, themes, and debates from week to week. But hey, if they can try to manipulate the public perception of the season or drive home a advantageous narrative (say, to sell a product...can anyone think why ESPN might have an economic incentive to put SEC member Texas A&M at No. 4?), you bet they will. The only CFP ranking that really matters is the last one.
That being said, someone explain to me how 6-2 Penn State, with a loss to Pitt and a 39-point loss to Michigan, is No. 12. Ten spots better than Florida State, a team with one of the toughest schedules in the country? A team who has lost to three Top 20 teams? I don’t think so, pal.
FSU fans should be rooting for a third Penn State loss on Saturday.
No. 10 Nebraska at No. 6 Ohio State, 8:00, ABC: Ohio State. Florida State could still catch Nebraska in the CFP rankings, but Ohio State is unlikely to be caught. This also might be the last big test for the Huskers until the Big Ten Championship Game, as they have Minnesota, Maryland, and Iowa left on their schedule after Ohio State. Ohio State obviously still has Michigan left. For these reasons, FSU fans should root for the Buckeyes on Saturday.
No. 5 Washington at Cal, 10:30, ESPN: Cal. Washington’s schedule is soft from here on out, as they’ll only face one ranked opponent, No. 25 Washington State, the last weekend in November. That being said, if Washington wins out, they’re likely in the College Football Playoff. If they do happen to slip up and drop a game, the CFP committee will be in an interesting position with the Pac-12 and Big 12. Maybe they would take both Clemson and Louisville after all. If that plays out, the eventual Coastal Division winner drops another game, and FSU wins out, maybe the ‘Noles could still find themselves in the Orange Bowl at the end of the year.
It’s a long shot, but it’s still viable enough that Florida State fans should root for Cal on Saturday night.
No. 4 Texas A&M at Mississippi State, 12:00, SECN: Mississippi State. Clanga, a team that has lost to South Alabama, BYU, and Kentucky, and allowed Samford to hang 41 on them last weekend, is not a good football team. That being said, Texas A&M got stomped by Alabama two weeks ago but somehow has found itself in the Top Four of the first CFP poll, ahead of an undefeated Washington, for some reason that I’m sure doesn’t involve SEC bias. Will the pressure get to the Aggies in Starkville on Saturday? Or will the Bulldogs roll over? In this game of matching colors and uniforms, FSU fans should root for the Mississippi State upset on Saturday. Two SEC Schools in the Top Four this season is unacceptable.
No. 11 Florida at Arkansas, 3:30, CBS: Arkansas. Oh, the irony. Weekly readers of this rooting guide know very well how big of a Bret Bielema fan I am. So in this seemingly endless, subpar college football season, it seems only natural that I now find myself turning to the Head Hog himself, the self-proclaimed Professor of Made-Up History, to beat the Gators.
But alas, I digress. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go with the lesser of two evils. Besides, I’m sure many of you read with glee this week’s article on the motherboard discussing the weakness of the SEC East. If you missed it, here’s a quick summary: calling the SEC East hot garbage is an insult to actual hot garbage. The S&P+ says that the SEC East is once again the worst division in the Power 5. It has the SEC East ranked just slightly ahead of the mid-major MWC Mountain and AAC East. The weakness of the SEC East is why a mediocre team like Florida can go 6-1 to this point in the season, and it’s the same reason why the Gators are more likely to finish 1-3 than 3-1. Let this sink in: the SEC East is so collectively abysmal, 3-5 Notre Dame would be the third-best team in the division. Kentucky could very well win the East.
Of note, Florida has faced one Top 30 offense (and lost), they've played zero teams against a currently-ranked opponent, and their best S&P+ win is Missouri, a team that has lost ten straight conference games.
I’m not saying Arkansas will beat Florida, because Arkansas is not particularly good, either. I’m merely pointing out that the objective evidence clearly states that Florida hasn’t played anybody, their division is terrible, and they’re more likely to win 8 games than 10. Those are good enough reasons for every Seminole fan to root for Bert and the Razorbacks on Saturday...as if you needed any more persuading.
Missouri at South Carolina, 4:00, SECN: South Carolina. The Gamecocks play Florida next week in Gainesville, and we would all enjoy watching Coach Boom beat the Gators in the Swamp while exacting a little revenge and derailing his former program’s divisional title hopes. In the mean time however, they have Missouri at home. The Tigers have lost ten consecutive SEC conference games, but somehow they’re still UF’s best statistical win on the year. FSU fans should therefore be rooting for South Carolina to continue to ride that momentum from their upset of Tennessee last Saturday for another two weeks.
Georgia at Kentucky, 7:30, SECN: Kentucky. Two interests are at stake in this game: FSU fans collectively want Kentucky to win the SEC East because that would prevent Florida from winning the division and that would be an utter embarrassment for the SEC.
Second, is Georgia going to be bowl eligible? I find a lot of irony in Georgia firing Mark Richt because it was perceived that he habitually underachieved, only to hire a UGA alum and former player to come in and manage to do worse with essentially the same roster. Georgia being down is good for FSU on the recruiting trail, so Seminole fans have two reasons to root for Kentucky on Saturday.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 13 LSU, 8:00, CBS: Alabama. I know everyone’s gut will want to root for the LSU upset on Saturday, but it’s in Florida State’s best interests to have Alabama escape Baton Rouge with a win. LSU already has two losses, they’re only nine spots ahead of FSU in the rankings, and they’ll still have Arkansas, Florida, and Texas A&M left after this weekend. Florida State certainly isn’t catching Alabama. Plus, while a Bama upset might be celebrated initially, it would also seriously muddy up the CFP rankings to the detriment of FSU’s best interests. Let’s be honest: the CFP committee is taking at least one SEC team. A Bama loss on Saturday would breed absolute chaos in the rankings and could actually make it MORE likely that the committee takes two SEC teams. For selfish reasons, Florida State would prefer for the ACC to be the conference to get two teams in this season. These factors point to FSU fans rooting for Alabama on Saturday.