How an undefeated team is kept from the College Football Playoffs

The final four teams for the 2023 College Football Playoff were announced on Sunday, with one undefeated team left out of the top.

Florida State’s undefeated season

For the Florida State Seminoles, this seemed to be their year. The team finished with a perfect 13-0 record, winning the ACC tournament for the first time since 2014. This is only the third time in program history that the Seminoles have gone undefeated. However, all these accomplishments were not enough to land the team in a top spot.

Instead, the College Football Playoff committee chose the Michigan Wolverines, Washington Huskies, Texas Longhorns, and Alabama Crimson Tide to contend for the national championship title.

But here’s the thing, both Alabama and Texas have lost games, ending the season with 12-1 records.

This decision makes FSU the first undefeated conference champion team from a Power 5 conference to be left out of the playoff games.

Why?

Why Florida State was left out of the CFB playoffs

“Unavailability of key players.”

Near the end of the season, FSU’s star quarterback Jordan Travis suffered a broken leg and was pulled from the remainder of the games. Instead of falling apart, the Seminoles were able to win their last two games against the Florida Gators and the Louisville Cardinals with their second and third-string quarterbacks.

Even though the team kept their undefeated season alive, the CFP committee said the team wasn’t the same without Travis.

“Florida State is a different team than they were through the first 11 weeks,” said Boo Corrigan, the College Football Playoff committee chair. “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.”

Corrigan made this announcement Sunday on ESPN when the final four teams were announced.

According to the committee selection guidelines, one of the factors that goes into choosing the top 4 teams is the “unavailability of key players.” So, without their star quarterback, the committee said the team is not the same and therefore should be kept from the top 4.

Strength of schedule

One of the big questions posed by many is how Alabama got into the playoffs before Florida State.

In week 14, the Seminoles were No. 4 in CFP rankings, well above the No. 8 Crimson Tide. However, after Alabama’s surprising upset win over the previously ranked No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs (24-27), Alabama jumped to No. 4 and pushed FSU to No. 5. This dramatic change happened even though Florida State won the ACC championship and beat Louisville 16-6 with their third-string quarterback.

One reason for the CFP committee’s decision to put Alabama at No. 4 is due to the team’s strength of schedule.

What does strength of schedule mean?

Not all wins are created equally. Some teams may play easier opponents, therefore making their win less impactful than a team who wins against a more difficult opponent.

That’s why the CFP committee looks at a team’s strength of schedule, which determines the difficulty level for a team to win based on their schedule.  

For 2023, Alabama had the fifth-best strength of schedule, while Florida State’s was 55th.

Alabama also had four wins over top 25 teams throughout the season while FSU had only three.

Corrigan explained that the strength of schedule is “a factor, and it’s a part of our protocol as we look at it… Alabama’s strength of schedule was significantly higher than Florida State’s.”

This staggering difference is one of the more understandable reasons FSU was kept from the playoffs.

FSU reactions to the decision

For obvious reasons, the Florida State coaches, staff, and players are frustrated at the decision and aren’t afraid to speak their minds.

FSU coach Mike Norvell released a statement saying, “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 continued, “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 athletic director Michael Alford also released a statement discussing his frustration about the decision and that he believes this is destructive for college football.

“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,” he said. “It is unforgivable.”

Alford says he believes losing their star quarterback will maintaining a winning record should have enhanced their ability to make it into the playoffs, instead of being a factor that kept the team out.

He ended his statement saying, “The committee failed college football today.”

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips also issued a statement expressing the same feelings as Alford and Norvell. He said, “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.”

Florida State staff and athletes aren’t the only ones upset about the decision. Hundreds of college football fans have erupted on social media platforms such as X, discussing their disappointment about the decision.

User Jacob Willis wrote, “Absolutely horrible how you let two teams that have lost a game this season into the CFP but not an underfeated power 5 team. Makes no sense. Seminoles were #cheated.”

Another user, Nathaniel Lawrence, said, “Shameful. College football badly needs reforms to address your unjust and biased misdeeds. @FSUFootball deserved to be in the playoffs and you know it.”

However, some users understand the difficulty of the decision and believe putting Alabama in the playoffs was the right idea.

“You had a difficult job this year, too bad we didn’t have a 6-team format,” said user BowTied Anticommunist.

What’s next for the Seminoles

The No. 5 Florida State Seminoles will face the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl on December 30.

Despite the team’s disappointment, coach Norvell said he and the team will give their all in their final game of 2023.

He said, “We have one more opportunity to define this 2023 team in the Orange Bowl, and I believe in how our team will respond.”

The playoff semi-final games will be held on January 1. No. 1 Michigan plays No. 4 Alabama at the Rose Bowl and No. 2 Washington plays No. 3 Texas at the Sugar Bowl.

This is the last year that the playoffs will consist of only four teams. Starting next year, the College Football Playoffs will transition to a 12-team format.

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