It’s been the most cliche saying in college football — wins matter.
Erasing decades of precedence, that idea was shut down when Florida State — undefeated and winner of a Power Five conference title — was left out of the College Football Playoff in favor of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The argument, propagated since Jordan Travis went down with a season-ending leg injury with two weeks left in the regular season, has been that Florida State is not one of the country’s “best” teams. Alabama, playing in the mighty SEC, did not get that same scrutiny despite needing a last-second touchdown to beat a 6-5 team and barely sliding by the 6-6 USF Bulls for the team’s best non-conference win.
There was already a narrative floating around to leave out FSU before Travis even went down — Florida State’s win to LSU had started to lose a bit of luster — which is why the committee felt empowered to do something that hadn’t happened since the inception of the BCS Championship.
Florida State did everything it needed to — and more. It is the only team in the country to beat eight bowl-eligible Power 5 teams, it is 2-0 against the mighty SEC, it won a conference title by 10 points with a third-string quarterback.
According to ESPN’s own metrics, Florida State has the No. 3 strength of record in the country — reflecting the chance that an average Top 25 team would have the team’s record or better, given the schedule.
Isn’t an indication of one of the “best” teams that one player does not define it? Does the Seminoles’ defense, which has not allowed a second-half touchdown in three straight games, not make it championship-level?
You saw the lobbying on full display all day on ESPN during College GameDay and Saturday’s games, from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey getting a chance to give a stump speech to Joe Tessitore and Jesse Palmer making the case to leave the Seminoles out during Florida State’s game over Louisville.
We heard "otherwise, why even play the games?" ~400 times this evening re: Bama, Texas, etc. FSU won all its games. No other sport (pro or college) and no other level of football would deprive the Noles a shot at the title. If they don't get into the CFP, why even play the games?— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) December 3, 2023
This is far different from 2014 Florida State getting dropped in the rankings despite being an undefeated repeating champion — FSU won’t even get the chance to prove itself, despite doing every single thing that history has shown was required to make the playoff.
It’s a damn shame, for the players, for the sport, for the fans, and for the credibility of the committee, who showed their hand throwing established criteria out the window.
“The consequences of giving in to a narrative of the moment are destructive, far-reaching, and permanent,” FSU athletic director Michael Alford said after the announcement. “Not just for Florida State, but college football as a whole.”
“The argument of whether a team is the ‘most deserving OR best’ is a false equivalence. It renders the season up to yesterday irrelevant and significantly damages the legitimacy of the College Football Playoff. The 2023 Florida State Seminoles are the epitome of a total TEAM. To eliminate them from a chance to compete for a national championship is an unwarranted injustice that shows complete disregard and disrespect for their performance and accomplishments. It is unforgivable.
“The fact that this team has continued to close out victories in dominant fashion facing our current quarterback situation should have ENHANCED our case to get a playoff berth EARNED on the field. Instead, the committee decided to elevate themselves and ‘make history’ today by departing from what makes this sport great by excluding an undefeated Power 5 conference champion for the first time since the advent of the BCS/CFP era that began 25 years ago. This ridiculous decision is a departure from the competitive expectations that have stood the test of time in college football.”
“Wins matter: Losses matter. Those that compete in the arena know this. Those on the committee who also competed in the sport and should have known this have forgotten it. Today, they changed the way success is assessed in college football, from a tangible metric - winning on the field - to an intangible, subjective one. Evidently, predicting the future matters more.”
“For many of us, today’s decision by the committee has forever damaged the credibility of the institution that is the College Football Plavoff. And, saddest of all, it was self-inflicted. They chose predictive competitiveness over proven performance; subjectivity over fact. They have become a committee of prognosticators. They have abandoned their responsibility by discarding their purpose - to evaluate performance on the field.”
“Our players, coaches, and fans - as well as all those who love this sport - deserve better. The committee failed college football today.”