If anybody didn’t believe the College Football Playoff needed to be expanded before Sunday, the four teams the CFP Selection Committee picked Sunday should have shown them the error of their ways. And I’ll return to the Sugar Bowl at the close of the 1992 season to prove why undefeated Florida State deserved an invite.
If you remember, that was the year Alabama faced a heavily favored Miami and its powerful offense led by Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torreta in the Sugar Bowl.
That was also the year that Alabama had one of the elite defenses college football has ever seen. I mention this because to watch FSU on Saturday against Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game was to witness a Seminole defense that could keep them in the game against any team in the country.
Not that the CFP Selection Committee saw it that way. Thirteen folks holed up in a hotel in Texas decided that Michigan, Texas, Washington and Alabama deserved to be the final four to play for a national championship a year before the playoffs rightly expand to 12 teams..
Never did we need an expanded playoff more than this year. But back to FSU and that 1992 Alabama team.
Miami was a heavy favorite against the Crimson Tide in ‘92.. It had the Heisman winner in Gino Toretta. It had a 29-game winning streak. It was the defending national champ. Conversely, Bama had an offense ranked 53rd nationally and a quarterback in Jay Barker who was the Webster’s Dictionary definition of a “game manager.”
So what happened? Alabama’s defense intercepted Toretta three times and crushed the ‘Canes 34-13. And who’s to say the ‘Noles couldn’t do the same with a defense that’s second in NCAA defensive stats against the pass, sixth in scoring and 14th in total defense? Defense wins championships. Just ask Louisville, which got buried by FSU's D in a 16-6 loss to the Noles in Saturday's ACC title game.
This is not to say that the committee was horribly wrong to pick the four it did. As the CFP proves time and time again, the BIg Ten is overrated, but Michigan is undefeated. So is Washington. As for Texas and Bama, well, the Longhorns whipped Bama at Bama by 10 early in September, then crushed a defensively-challenged Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game.
The case for Bama is that it stopped two-time defending national champ Georgia’s 29-game winning streak _ Bama apparently has a thing about halting 29-game win streaks _ in Saturday’s SEC title game in Atlanta. It might also be worth mentioning that the Tide was the last team Georgia lost to before its long winning streak _ the longest such streak in SEC history _ began.
Because of that, and because of the equally impressive resumes of the other three, the committee probably picked college football’s four best teams as of Sunday morning. And my guess here is that when Michigan faces Alabama in the Rose Bowl on January 1 and Texas squares off against Washington in the Sugar Bowl that same day, Alabama and Texas will prevail, setting up the mulligan of all mulligans for Alabama a week later in the CFP title game.
This is Tide coach Nick Saban’s best coaching job and it probably wouldn’t be too big a shock if Saban retires should Bama win it. But that’s all for later.
For now, at least for this week, it’s time to weep for Florida State and echo the words of FSU coach Mike Norvell, who said upon getting left out: “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 on the field. I’m hurting today for our players … It’s a sad day for college football.”
We learned a new category on Sunday _ Strength of record. Supposedly, Washington was No. 1 in this category, Michigan second, FSU third, Bama fourth and Texas fifth. By that standard, Texas should have stayed home, but are you going to keep the Longhorns out when they won by 10 at Bama?
Still, FSU won by 21 over SEC member LSU on a neutral field, won at Florida by nine and went undefeated in a Power Five league. Moreover, the best non-conference win by an SEC school this year _ and there weren’t many _ was Kentucky over then No. 11 Louisville. And FSU beat Louisville by more than UK while playing a third-team quarterback.
And there’s the rub. FSU quarterback Jordan Travis is out for the rest of the season with an injury, finished in the 11th week of the season.. As CFP committee chair Boo Corrigan _ the commissioner of the ACC, which Florida State is a member of _ “Florida State is a different team than they were in the first 11 weeks. They had an incredible season, but as you look at who they are now without Jordan Travis they are a different team. We had eight really good teams this year, which made it somewhat of a unique year, and the player availability was really important.”
So should have been this fact: Again, from Norvell: “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.”
None of the four teams in the playoff can make that claim
There’s no way to fix it, of course. Or is there? In the money-grubbing world of college athletics, perhaps a third party with really deep pockets could step in and make the CFP an offer it couldn’t refuse.
Think of this: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has more money than Fort Knox. According to Forbes Magazine, he was worth $170 billion as of a month ago. That’s more than most countries are worth. So what if Bezos decided to stage a game on January 15th _ the Monday after the CFP title game _ with the CFP winner playing Florida State in SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The winner gets $100 million, the loser $50 million. Even that won’t drop Bezos’ worth below $170 billion. Beyond that, he could call it the Amazon Prime Bowl, or the Bezos Bowl. Everybody would watch. He could run ads with QR codes for Amazon Prime purchases. Heck, he might even make another billion on the game.
And every dollar of ad revenue he makes from other advertisers _ Dr. Pepper, McDonald’s, whoever _ goes to the CFP, which loves money.
Yeah, it probably won’t happen. But does anybody have a better idea to save this disgusting, infuriating, hugely less than satisfactory college football season?