Alabama, Texas, Florida State make final cases for College Football Playoff

Dec 3, 2023, 6:04 AM

The Florida State Seminoles...

The Florida State Seminoles celebrate after defeating the Louisville Cardinals 16-6 during the ACC Championship at Bank of America Stadium on December 2, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

One of these three teams will not make the College Football Playoff: Alabama, Florida State and Texas.

Whichever is left out Sunday will have every right to be angry, and in the case of two, their absence in the CFP would be unprecedented.

No. 8 Alabama was the agent of chaos Saturday, upsetting No. 1 Georgia for the Southeastern Conference title and ending the two-time defending national champ’s 29-game winning streak.

“Georgia was No. 1, right? You beat the No. 1 team, what does that make us?” Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe told reporters.

If only it was so simple.

The final four-team College Football Playoff is poised to be the most controversial yet. Is it too late to fast forward to next year’s expansion and implement the 12-team format? The CFP selection committee might wish that was possible right about now as its sorts through a crowded field of contenders at a resort hotel in Grapevine, Texas.

Safely in at 13-0: No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Washington.

That leaves two spots for the Southeastern Conference champion (Alabama) or the team that beat the SEC champion (Big 12 champion Texas) or an Atlantic Coast Conference champion (Florida State) that lost its star quarterback to injury, but still hasn’t lost a game.

If Alabama is left out, it will be the first CFP in its 10-year history without at least one SEC team.

If Florida State is left out it will be the first unbeaten Power Five champion to be passed over.

Rarely in the previous nine years the national champion has been decided by a four-team playoff has the bracket failed to fall into place with little debate.

In 2014, Ohio State vaulted over Baylor and TCU and into the playoff with a Big Ten title game blowout of Wisconsin. The Big 12 teams still haven’t gotten over it, but the Buckeyes proved it was a justifiable decision by winning it all.

Ohio State has been on the short end a couple of times, too. But this year, the committee could be facing a truly vexing problem or two.

But this year, the best teams just kept winning. There were no big upsets. There were no bad losses. The top eight teams in the country, including No. 6 Ohio State, finished 97-6. Five of those six losses were to other top-eight teams. The other loss was Texas falling to No. 12 Oklahoma.

Last season, TCU lost its conference title game and made the playoff and Ohio State didn’t even make it to the Big Ten championship and both managed to make the field.

This year, Georgia’s attempt to become the first team in college football’s poll era to win three straight national titles appears to be over after a three-point loss to Nick Saban’s Tide.

Over the last three seasons, Georgia is 40-0 against not-Alabama and 1-2 against Alabama.

The first two Power Five conference title games of championship Saturday only served to increase the chances of creating tough choices for the selection committee.

First, No. 7 Texas routed No. 19 Oklahoma State, making an emphatic case for its first playoff berth.

“I think the intent of the College Football Playoff is putting the four best teams in that playoff. Do we think we’re one of those? For sure we do,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said.

The day got better for the Longhorns when Alabama beat Georgia. Texas knocked off the Alabama by 10 in Tuscaloosa in September and is now the team that beat the team that just beat the No. 1 team.

“It’s not a one-week analysis; it’s a full-season analysis,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, stumping for his conference on ESPN well before the games kicked off.

The SEC is facing a potential predicament it never has before, getting shut out of an event its teams have won six times looks like a possibility — no matter what its commissioner thinks.

“That’s not the real world of college football,” Sankey said, dismissively, when presented with the mere suggestion.

No need to stump out West. Washington got to sleep without worry after becoming the first Pac-12 team to go 13-0 since it expanded to 12 schools in 2011.

The Huskies and Oregon — both Big Ten-bound — gave the beleaguered conference a thrilling and ironic sendoff in Las Vegas on Friday night with one of the best games in the 105-year history of Pac-12 football.

Michael Penix Jr.’s clutch play and Dillon Johnson’s hard running gave the Huskies their third straight three-point victory in the rivalry.

The Pac-12’s playoff drought will end after six years — in the final season of the conference as we know it — by its last school to reach the CFP.

Michigan covered a 21 1/2-point spread against No. 18 Iowa in the Big Ten title game. Coach Jim Harbaugh returned to the Michigan sideline after a three-game suspension by the Big Ten and the Wolverines matter-of-factly secured a third consecutive trip to the CFP after a month of turmoil.

Under normal circumstances, Florida State would have been looking at a win-and-in situation in the ACC championship against No. 15 Louisville, but quarterback injuries have complicated the Seminoles’ status.

First, they lost Heisman Trophy contender Jordan Travis to the broken lower leg two weeks ago. Then, on Saturday, Florida State was forced to start freshman Brock Glenn because Tate Rodemaker was out with a concussion.

A loss by Florida State would have cleared things up, but the Seminoles’ defense wouldn’t budge.

“It’s hard to win A game,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said. “These guys have found a way.”

Without Travis, both Alabama and Texas (and Georgia for that matter) can claim that they should be in over the ‘Noles. Perfect record bedamned.

“The criteria is not to put the undefeated teams in the four-team playoff,” Sankey said.

The CFP’s protocol describes the selection committee’s mission as both simple and vague: Pick the four best teams.

The job has never been tougher.


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