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Why Jordan Travis’ injury didn’t affect FSU football in CFP rankings

The Seminoles moved down a spot, but it didn’t have anything to do with Travis’ gruesome leg injury.
 
FSU football's College Football Playoff hopes hinge on Tate Rodemaker, Florida State's starter after the injury to Jordan Travis.
FSU football's College Football Playoff hopes hinge on Tate Rodemaker, Florida State's starter after the injury to Jordan Travis. [ COLIN HACKLEY | AP ]
Published Nov. 22, 2023

Though Florida State moved down a spot to No. 5 in Tuesday’s latest College Football Playoff rankings, the season-ending injury to star quarterback Jordan Travis wasn’t a factor for the selection committee. Yet.

Committee chairperson Boo Corrigan said Travis’ health “didn’t have any impact” on Washington moving past the Seminoles and into fourth.

“It had everything to do with Washington,” Corrigan said.

That stance is justifiable. After the Huskies’ win Saturday over Oregon State, they have three wins over teams in the committee’s latest top 20 (No. 6 Oregon, No. 15 Arizona and the No. 16 Beavers). FSU has two (No. 14 LSU and No. 24 Clemson).

The question is, how much will Travis’ absence affect FSU’s standing in the coming weeks? Corrigan and the committee don’t look ahead, so it’s impossible to say. Corrigan said the initial thoughts were a “concern for Jordan, what a great player he’s been and an appreciation for what he’s done.”

Florida State quarterback Tate Rodemaker, seen here warming up against Syracuse, led the Seminoles to a win over North Alabama.
Florida State quarterback Tate Rodemaker, seen here warming up against Syracuse, led the Seminoles to a win over North Alabama. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]

After that, the committee watched his backup, Tate Rodemaker, lead FSU from a 13-0 deficit to a 58-13 victory over North Alabama. If Corrigan and his colleagues read much into that performance, Corrigan didn’t say so. He merely recited the facts and added little else (aside from pointing out that FSU has “a lot of dudes” across the field, during his weekly ESPN interview).

“We’re going to close the books here in a little bit on Week 12,” Corrigan said, “and then move on to Week 13 and see how they play against Florida.”

And that, plus the Dec. 2 ACC championship against No. 10 Louisville, will ultimately determine whether FSU lands a spot in the semifinals or heads to another New Year’s Six bowl.

The committee is supposed to consider five factors as part of a process “that distinguishes among otherwise comparable teams.” The final one: “relevant factors such as unavailability of key players and coaches that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.” Travis’ unavailability, obviously, will affect FSU’s postseason performance.

And that means style points will matter for Rodemaker and the offense. If they play well enough in the final two games, the committee won’t have a reason to think the FSU of Dec. 3 is much different than the FSU of Nov. 3. It will be significantly harder to justify leaving off the 13-0 Seminoles in place of, say, 11-1 Michigan/Ohio State or 12-1 Texas.

Though it’s hard to apply previous years’ standards to 2023 because every season is different, Ohio State went through a similar situation in 2014.

Cardale Jones went from backup to starter for 2014 Ohio State.
Cardale Jones went from backup to starter for 2014 Ohio State. [ DARRON CUMMINGS | AP (2014) ]
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After the Buckeyes lost two starting quarterbacks, then-chairperson Jeff Long acknowledged that how the team performed and adapted to the leadership of new starter Cardale Jones would be “part of the evaluation that the committee will weigh.” Ohio State blew out Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship, and Long told ESPN that response “spoke volumes about the strength of the team.” Ohio State grabbed the fourth and final spot, then beat Alabama and Oregon to win the national title.

We don’t know whether Rodemaker can accomplish the same thing for FSU. But the possibility exists, which coach Mike Norvell seemed to acknowledge on ESPN’s rankings show.

“When we need the rankings to matter,” Norvell said, “we’ll be right in position to compete for a national championship if we do the things necessary to put ourselves in that position.”

That was true before Travis’ injury, and it’s still true after it.

College Football Playoff rankings

1. Georgia (11-0)

2. Ohio State (11-0)

3. Michigan (11-0)

4. Washington (11-0)

5. Florida State (11-0)

6. Oregon (10-1)

7. Texas (10-1)

8. Alabama (10-1)

9. Missouri (9-2)

10. Louisville (10-1)

11. Penn State (9-2)

12. Mississippi (9-2)

13. Oklahoma (9-2)

14. LSU (8-3)

15. Arizona (8-3)

16. Oregon State (8-3)

17. Iowa (9-2)

18. Notre Dame (8-3)

19. Kansas State (8-3)

20. Oklahoma State (8-3)

21. Tennessee (7-4)

22. NC State (8-3)

23. Tulane (10-1)

24. Clemson (7-4)

25. Liberty (11-0)

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