The Michigan Wolverines, Washington Huskies, Texas Longhorns and Alabama Crimson Tide will compete in next month’s College Football Playoff, while the undefeated Florida State Seminoles were left out.
In the semifinal games set for January 1, No. 1 Michigan (13-0) will play No. 4 Alabama (12-1) at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, while No. 2 Washington (13-0) will take on No. 3 Texas (12-1) at the Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
The winners will face off in the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on January 8.
Florida State (13-0) finished at No. 5 in the final rankings, just missing out on the playoff. The Seminoles are the first undefeated team from a major Power-5 conference to be excluded from the playoffs since its inception in 2014.
FSU’s star quarterback Jordan Travis was injured two weeks ago, and though the team has still not lost, its offense has cratered since then, leaving them in a weakened state. The Seminoles won a low-scoring affair Saturday against the Louisville Cardinals 16-6 to earn the ACC title in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The College Football Playoff field is selected by a 13-member selection committee rather than by a simple win-loss record in part because college football teams play such different schedules.
The committee, made up of athletic directors and former coaches and players, ranks the teams based on their play on the field and considers conference championships, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and comparative outcomes of common opponents.
Florida State officials slam exclusion
Speaking on ESPN, College Football Playoff committee chair Boo Corrigan explained why FSU was left out of the final four.
“Florida State is a different team than they were through the first 11 weeks,” he said. “An incredible season. But as you look at who they are as a team, right now, without Jordan Travis, without the offensive dynamic that he brings to it, they are a different team.”
The committee’s decision to focus on Travis’ injury garnered harsh criticism from FSU, led by head coach Mike Norvell.
“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,” he said. “What is the point of playing games? Do you tell players it is okay 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 nonconference 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.
“I’m hurting for our players who have displayed a tremendous amount of resilience and response this season. What happened today goes against everything that is true and right in college football. 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.”
FSU Vice President and Athletic Director Michael Alford said the committee’s decision was “ridiculous” and a departure from the ultimate goal of sports: To win.
“For many of us, today’s decision by the committee has forever damaged the credibility of the institution that is the College Football Playoff,” he said. “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.”
Travis himself tweeted his disappointment in the decision, writing: “devastated. heartbroken. In so much disbelief rn, I wish my leg broke earlier in the season so y’all could see this team is much more than the quarterback. I thought results matter. 13-0 and this roster matches up across any team in those top 4 rankings. I am so sorry. Go Noles!”
The committee’s decision has financial implications, too, as the ACC would have received $6 million if Florida State had been selected to the playoff.
Only 4 spots for 6 deserving teams
This year’s selection was certain to be controversial, as there were six teams with legitimate claims to the playoff.
In its 10-year history, an undefeated team from a Power-5 conference (FSU, Washington and Michigan) had never missed the playoff, but neither had the SEC champion (Alabama) nor the previous week’s top-ranked team (Georgia).
Washington and Michigan were considered shoo-ins given their undefeated records, conference championships and sterling performances in recent weeks.
Michigan shut out the Iowa Hawkeyes 26-0 to win their third consecutive Big Ten championship in Indianapolis Saturday and will be appearing in their third consecutive playoff. The Wolverines beat then-undefeated Ohio State last week without coach Jim Harbaugh, who was suspended from the sidelines for three games following a league investigation into sign-stealing violations.
Washington, led by Heisman Trophy hopeful Michael Penix Jr., edged the Oregon Ducks 34-31 in Las Vegas Friday to win the Pac-12 title.
From there, the decision was murkier.
Alabama won the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship Saturday 27-24 over the then-No.1 and two-time defending champion Georgia Bulldogs in Atlanta, snapping Georgia’s 29-game winning streak. However, Alabama lost Week 1 at home to Texas, needed a miracle touchdown last week to beat Auburn and was ranked by the committee as the 8th-best team in its penultimate rankings.
Georgia, meanwhile, has won two straight national championships, was ranked No. 1 in the committee’s rankings prior to the conference championship game and its loss Saturday to Alabama was its first in over two seasons. The committee ultimately ranked them 6th.
Finally, while Texas won the Big-12 conference with a 49-21 beatdown of the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday, the Longhorns also lost to Oklahoma in October and barely squeaked out wins against middling TCU and Kansas State earlier this year.
This is the final year of the four-team playoff as the CFP expands to 12 teams in 2024. The four-team playoff began in the 2014-15 season and replaced the previous Bowl Championship Series system, which set the national championship game based on an analysis of polls and rankings.
Last season, Georgia crushed the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs 65-7 to win its second consecutive championship at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.