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The timeline to travesty: Narrative leading to FSU’s exclusion more than just a day in the making

On the College Football Playoff’s darkest day, the Seminoles took a kick a season in the making

Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

At 12:28 on Sunday afternoon, the bottom fell out.

The Florida State Seminoles met every metric designed by the CFP committee but were denied the right to compete for a national championship. The first feelings were shock, followed by anger, and later on in the day, sadness ensued. This is the strip-down version of the stages of grief ‘Nole Nation finds itself in on a gloomy, rainy day in Tallahassee.

Truthfully, however, we all should have seen this coming.

The campaign against the Seminoles began before the season started. Pundits everywhere anointed LSU a ticket to the playoff and that FSU would start the year with a losing record. Instead, Orlando became Tallahassee South, and a 20-point victory gave Mike Norvell’s team the best win of the early season.

Florida State defeated LSU 45-24 in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando, Florida.
Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

Three months later, this win somehow became lost in translation. The FSU defense virtually shut out the Tigers in the second half and limited the most likely Heisman trophy winner to his offense's lowest yards per play of the season.

Follow along with the rest of the nonsense.

Four weeks later, FSU entered Death Valley with a tilt with Clemson, a place they had not won in over ten years. The story is the same. The Seminoles overcame adversity on the road to become the only team to win at Memorial Stadium this season. Of course, like the LSU win, this one ended up overlooked. Clemson finished the year ranked in the top 25 and winners of their last four games, but only Alabama can improve from the beginning of the year to the end.

The Florida State Seminoles defeated the Clemson Tigers 31-24 in Clemson, South Carolina
Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

During the middle of the season, the goalposts moved once again. Washington and Oregon battled it out in a Pac-12 classic in Seattle. The Huskies came out alive, but the committee and the media somehow felt that the Ducks were better than Kalen DeBoar’s team. Last Friday, we found out the answer for real. Even though Dan Lanning’s squad was the highest-ranked one-loss team coming into the weekend and 10-point favorites, they were clearly second-best and knocked out of playoff contention.

Mike Norvell may not have explicitly mentioned the Ducks during his postgame press conference following Florida State’s win over Louisville to win the ACC Championship, but this quote summed it up the best.

“Like I said, each week it changes what’s the hot team or the most talented team, but then when they lose a game, there’s a reason. This team has all the ability, and they just get it done.”

As the rankings were announced for the second straight week at the beginning of November, Alabama graduate and national champion Greg McElroy started to plant a seed. He proposed the question that a one-loss Alabama, even with a loss against a playoff contender, already deserved to be in the playoffs. The Crimson Tide machine continued to chug along even after a close win at home against a woeful Arkansas team, and soon, they would meet their moment.

But hold that thought.

Throughout the year, the media and the committee attacked Florida State’s resume. Even after producing quality wins, defeating opponents on the road, and winning rivalry matchups, they still found themselves behind teams with a resume that did match their own. After the devastating injury that happened to Jordan Travis, the cries only got louder. Looking back, I’m not sure that FSU gets into the playoff even if Georgia wins yesterday. Once No. 13 went down, everyone shut off the Seminoles.

No one seemed to realize that the defense gave up one touchdown in 38 straight possessions (one that arguably shouldn’t have happened, given it came after a penalty so questionable the NCAA used it as an example of what not to do) or that Tate Rodemaker would be healthy for the CFP.

Instead, they were written off.

Everyone in America, outside those who worked in Tallahassee, mumbled on, saying FSU did not deserve a seat at the table. The propaganda and infomercial station for the SEC, known as ESPN, turned the heat up after Travis went down. Florida State began to lose control of the narrative. After a close win in Gainesville, the media did not say “wow, what a resilient effort on the road!” like they did with Alabama. The talking heads rambled on, using confirmation bias to pile on why the ‘Noles did not deserve to get in rather than discuss why they did.

The story may have already been written with this as a backdrop to yesterday. The Florida State defense wiped the floor with the committee’s No. 14 team in the country. Louisville, winners of 10 games and scoring 30 points or more on a four-game streak, did not score a touchdown. FSU won on a neutral site against a top-15 team by double-digit points with a third-string quarterback.

Norvell, with his most succinct line of the press conference Saturday night, delivered this bomb.

“We scored 16 points tonight. If somebody said you score 16 points, what’s it going to look like? Tonight, it looked like a win. Something that will be remembered. It’s something that obviously our football team did what was necessary, right, to be able to achieve success.”

Florida State, winners of 13 straight this season and an undefeated Power Five champion, did all the committee asked them to do. Unfortunately, five hours before, their fate was written. Alabama had knocked off the defending two-time champs in an ugly game, where the Crimson Tide recovered a fumble inside the Georgia 20 after a muffed handoff, an unforced error. At this moment, the committee, instead of doing what it has always done, took a different turn. They threw out the precedent that they abided by the entire year, placing undefeated teams ahead of one-loss teams even after JT went down. They tossed away the 25-year established understanding of an undefeated Power Five champion earning their right to fight for a national title. They changed their tune from “win and in,” to one player deciding the sport's fate.

The committee decided to leave out Florida State on a day that was meant to be a coronation for their rise back to prominence — and looking at how the seeds were planted from the start, the writing was on the wall.

The Pac-12 officially died on Friday night, and Sunday proved it is a matter of time before the ACC does, too. The Atlantic Coast Conference can no longer compete with the big boys. The SEC owns the power players in the sport, and with the money being generated from the region next year, their spot became too powerful. With conference realignment beginning next year, the SEC could never be left out, once more deciding FSU’s fate off the field and discounting their performance.

With this in mind, it is time for Florida State to go. The fan base impressively rallied around its program during this dark moment, and maybe Alford can use the disappointment to strike. But the committee read it aloud for the country to hear: a team in the ACC will not be able to win a national championship based on the current configurations.

So, after all that, Florida State received the short end of the stick. Seniors who forwent status in the NFL and risked injury for a chance to compete for a national championship were thrown under the bus in the name of politics and greed. Florida State may not be one of the four best teams in the country. But they earned that right to shock the world or get walloped. Instead, the committee voted for T.V. ratings and public opinion while disregarding the values of the sport. Looking back at it all, FSU never stood a fair chance.

Welcome to college football in 2023.