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College Football

Florida State Got Hosed

3:41 PM EST on December 3, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Jordan Travis #13 of the Florida State Seminoles is carted off the field after an ankle jury during the game against the North Alabama Lions on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 18, 2023 in Tallahassee, Florida. The 4th ranked Seminoles defeated the Lions 58 to 13. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jordan Travis
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Only in the context of something as inscrutable and cynical as the College Football Playoff does a sentence like "In so much disbelief rn, I wish my leg broke earlier in the season" make any sense. For the first time in the short history of the CFP, an undefeated Power 5 conference champion has been snubbed, with the committee leaving 13-0 Florida State out in favor one-loss Big 12 champion Texas and one-loss SEC champion Alabama—because of a star quarterback's broken leg (or, more accurately and more cruelly, the timing of a star quarterback's broken leg). Faced with the choice between setting up a CFP without an SEC team for the first time or making an uncomfortable revelation about how it values entertainment and competitive integrity relative to one another, the selection committee chose better TV and, in the process, screwed Florida State.

The Leg of Damocles here is star FSU QB Jordan Travis's left leg, which he broke in the first quarter of his team's 58-13 Senior Night win against North Alabama on Nov. 18. The injury ended Travis's college career, though it didn't end FSU's season. The Seminoles, then 11-0 and ranked fourth in the country, went on to beat Florida by nine, then beat Louisville by 10 in the ACC championship game to wrap up an undefeated season. FSU's defense led the way in both wins; FSU started a different QB in each, after Travis's backup Tate Rodemaker suffered a concussion against Florida, forcing third-string freshman Brock Glenn to step in and beat Louisville (he completed eight of 21 attempts). The ACC is not the SEC, though ACC teams outplayed their SEC counterparts this year, and FSU started their season out by smoking LSU.

Meanwhile, Michigan and Washington secured no-brainer spots by winning their conference title games, while one of the shakiest Alabama teams of the Saban era and a resurgent Texas both won their conferences, forcing the committee into the agonizing position of having to snub two teams with credible arguments for inclusion. Georgia, the defending champ, had spent all year as the nation's top-ranked team before losing to Alabama by three, and though it'd be the weakest of the four, you could make a rational case for including the Bulldogs. Picking any two of Texas, Alabama, and Georgia necessarily required the committee to devalue the winning of football games on the field—per leading theorists, this is nominally the point of a football season, though this axiom is disputed—in favor of less determinate factors, like style, potential future performance, and TV ratings. The committee chose Texas and Alabama, in that order, ultimately ruling that Travis's broken leg nullified the achievement of going 13-0. Sorry guys, they more-or-less said, you should have gotten luckier!

Committee chair Boo Corrigan confirmed that FSU was fifth in the final vote, on the logic that Travis's injury disqualified them. "Florida State is a different team than they were through the first 11 weeks," Corrigan said on ESPN shortly after the decision. "But as you look at who they are as a team without Jordan Travis, they are a different team."

FSU is as loathable a college football program as exists in the country, though there's no joy to be found in their exclusion resulting in Alabama trudging into the CFP as though ordained by divine right. Think of how gross it would feel if Bama—who squeaked by a middling Auburn team, needed Jimbo Fisher's questionable grasp on linear time to facilitate an escape against Texas A&M, and nearly blew a 24-0 lead to an Arkansas team that went 1-7 in SEC play—beats Michigan and then wins the national championship. It would be the grossest outcome possible, and it's only in play because FSU's corps of backups only had two emergency-term games to keep the season together, and did it successfully.

Everyone's pissed off, most of all athletic director Michael Alford, who released a long statement with multiple all-caps words and the following extremely ominous lede. "The consequences of giving in to a narrative of the moment are destructive, far reaching, and permanent," he wrote. "Not just for Florida State, but college football as a whole." Annoying as this all is, he's right. I'd react like this too if my team won every game and got hosed.

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