Undefeated Florida State left out of College Football Playoff

While four teams are celebrating the opportunity to play for a national title on the field, undefeated ACC champion Florida State is on the outside, with coach Mike Norvell saying he’s “disgusted and infuriated” with the Seminoles becoming the first unbeaten Power 5 conference winner to ever miss out on the College Football Playoff.

“I am disgusted and infuriated with the committee’s decision today to have what was earned on the field taken away because a small group of people decided they knew better than the results of the games,” Norvell said in a statement. “What is the point of playing games? Do you tell players it is OK to quit if someone goes down? Do you not play a senior on Senior Day for fear of injury? Where is the motivation to schedule challenging nonconference games?

“We are not only an undefeated P5 conference champion, but we also played two P5 non-conference games away from home and won both of them. I don’t understand how we are supposed to think this is an acceptable way to evaluate a team. … What happened today goes against everything that is true and right in college football.”

Added ACC commissioner Jim Phillips: “It’s unfathomable.”

While Michigan (13-0, Big Ten champion), Washington (13-0, Pac-12 champion), Texas (12-1, Big 12 champion) and Alabama (12-1, SEC champion) were the top four teams who made it into the playoff, the Seminoles (13-0) were judged by an untimely run of injuries at the quarterback position.

“Florida State is a different team than it was the first 11 weeks,” CFP selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan told ESPN. “As you look at who they are as a team right now, without Jordan Travis, without the offensive dynamic he brings, they are a different team and the committee voted Alabama four and Florida State five.”

Travis, the ACC Player of the Year, suffered a season-ending broken leg against North Alabama in mid-November. Backup Tate Rodemaker suffered a concussion late in the Seminoles’ regular-season finale victory at Florida, leading to true freshman Brock Glenn, the third-stringer, starting in the ACC title game — a victory against Louisville.

“I wish my leg broke earlier in the season so y’all could see this team is much more than the quarterback,” Travis posted to X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday.

Florida State, as the No. 5 seed, will face the two-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs (No. 6) in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

“The consequences of giving in to a narrative of the moment are destructive, far reaching, and permanent. Not just for Florida State, but college football as a whole,” FSU athletic director Michael Alford said in a statement. “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 committee failed college football today.”

The FSU defense has been stellar since Travis got hurt. Over the past two games, the Florida State defense has a combined 13 sacks — and held its past two opponents to zero or negative yards in the fourth quarter.

“The 2023 Florida State Seminoles are the epitome of a total TEAM,” Alford said in his statement. “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 unforgiveable.

“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.”

Florida State was No. 4 in the previous CFP rankings and, prior to Sunday’s selections, no team ranked outside the top six of the second-to-last CFP rankings had ever jumped into the final four. Alabama and Texas both accomplished that feat Sunday.

“[FSU’s] exclusion calls into question the selection process and whether the Committee’s own guidelines were followed, including the significant importance of being an undefeated Power Five conference champion,” Phillips said in his statement. “My heart breaks for the talented FSU student-athletes and coaches and their passionate and loyal fans.

“Florida State deserved better. College football deserved better.”

Alford vehemently denied that the team’s quarterback situation should even matter, given the Seminoles continued to win.

“Wins matter. Losses matter. Those that compete in the arena know this,” Alford said. “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 Playoff. 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.”

Norvell said the Seminoles overcame adversity by continuing to win despite the injuries at quarterback.

“I’m hurting for our players who have displayed a tremendous amount of resilience and response this season,” Norvell said. “… A team that overcame tremendous adversity and found a way to win doing whatever it took on the field was cheated today. It’s a sad day for college football.”

The coach watched the selection show with his team on Sunday afternoon, and Norvell’s head dropped in disappointment as he learned the Seminoles’ fate.

“That’s one of the tougher moments I’ve ever had to experience,” Norvell said. “For all that they’ve done, you talk to a team about responding to adversity, getting up and going to get all that you can to find a way to win a college football game. It’s hard to do.

“Especially when you’ve faced some of the adversities that we’ve had this year, whether it’s injury or different things that have come, it’s all part of it. As we tell our team all the time, your truest identity shows up in times of great adversity. And we’ve faced it, and they’ve put it on display. So that was really that feeling in the moment.”

Florida State’s exclusion from the College Football Playoff was felt throughout the sport.

Asked if he could imagine going 13-0 and not making the field, Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said simply: “In all honesty, no.”

“You go undefeated and miss it by one spot, makes me feel sympathy for those guys,” Texas linebacker Jaylan Ford said. “Just like us, they put in the same amount of work in the offseason. They fought just as hard throughout the season. They’re still players. They’ve still got a program. It’s just a tough situation to be in.”

Both Norvell and Georgia coach Kirby Smart said their teams will put the disappointment behind them and will be ready for their Orange Bowl matchup against each other.

Georgia’s pursuit of a third straight national championship was derailed by one ill-timed loss. The Bulldogs (12-1) had won 29 straight games, but Saturday’s loss to Alabama in the SEC title game left Georgia on the outside looking in. As a result, the Bulldogs become the first No. 1 team in the penultimate CFP rankings to fall out of the top four after losing on Championship Weekend.

The only others to go from No. 1 at any point to completely out at the end were Tennessee (one week in 2022) and Mississippi State (three weeks in 2014).

The SEC champion has never been left out of the College Football Playoff. Alabama, which is in for the eighth time, kept that streak alive.

The SEC has won the past four national championships (Georgia twice, Alabama and LSU), and six of the nine titles overall during the CFP era. Twice, two SEC teams have played for the championship: Alabama beat Georgia for the 2017 title, and Georgia topped Alabama for the 2021 title.

ESPN’s Andrea Adelson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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