Florida State has been in a little bit of a no-win situation the last four months.
They could shred an ACC schedule that’s perceived as weak, and they could get no credit for doing so, or they could play teams close and get even less love from the college football world. Last year, they chose to do the former; This year, it was the latter.
But both regular seasons finished with a goose egg in the loss column, and now, the Seminoles are one victory away from getting into the College Football Playoff.
Although other teams have fought through tough, close victories (and losses, as FSU is the only remaining undefeated team in the country), no squad has been penalized for winning dangerously more than the ‘Noles. And that’s strange to me – and even some famous alumni – because if there’s any team that has embodied a champion and deserves the benefit of the doubt over the last 24 months, it’s Florida State.
Because they haven’t been beaten in that time frame.
Meanwhile, every other team in the FBS subdivision has lost at least three games. FSU’s two biggest rivals, Florida and Miami, have combined to lose 24 times since the ‘Noles’ last loss. And this is all coming just five years after FSU decided to remove head coach Bobby Bowden and rebuild a very broken football program.
People like to say respect is earned, so where’s the respect for the Seminoles? As I wrote more than a month ago, the final five games on FSU’s regular-season schedule were a gauntlet because they’d be facing five above-average defenses. Has FSU’s offense looked like it’s regressing in the last month? Perhaps it’s because they were facing even better defenses than they’d face if they qualified for the College Football Playoff and the current top 4 remained the same.
The facts are that Florida State faced five of the top 15 defenses in the nation during the regular season and beat all five. Did they look great in each of those games? Nope. Did they come out on top? You betcha.
And by the way, Oregon and Alabama – the two teams ranked ahead of FSU by the CFP committee – have played five top-15 defenses. Combined.
(Full disclosure – Alabama’s defense is also ranked in the top-15, and they can’t play themselves.)
FSU has also been plagued by the injury bug all season, but has managed to get healthier down the stretch. That likely helped to extend the winning streak, with the defense doing all it can to hold opponents’ scores as low as possible while the offense has struggled with superior defenses.
Perhaps the best performance for FSU’s defense came Saturday against a listless Florida offense. FSU turned the ball over four times and had a punt blocked, giving UF incredible field position all five times. In those five ensuing drives, Florida only outscored FSU 13-7, sealing their fate later on.
The defense didn’t have to hold up as well as it did in those situations, but perhaps the reason why FSU is still undefeated is because someone always seems to step up to make a big play at just the right moment.
For all those who say FSU hasn’t played anybody good this season, I’d argue that 99 percent of the teams in college football wouldn’t have made it through their schedule without a loss, especially when you consider they got every team’s best shot. To never slip up once, even when there’s a massive target on their backs with every team vying to be the one that ends a long winning streak, is pretty amazing.
And here’s another thing about FSU’s schedule: They played two “Power 5” non-conference opponents, as well as Notre Dame. They went 3-0 in those games. The SEC played a total of 11 “Power 5” non-conference opponents and went 5-6. So they’re at least trying to close the gap between themselves and the SEC in the strength of schedule discussion.
Florida State has done everything they can to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff, winning every game while losing only the infamous “Eye Test.” They might not look like a champion to some, but until someone knocks them off, that’s exactly what they should be.