Though ridiculously early 2023 college football rankings are deservedly hyping Florida State as a top-10 team, let’s pause that discussion for one more day. First, we have to figure out whether the Seminoles end the 2022 season in the top 10.
That’s one of the questions in front of me as I compile my final AP top 25 ballot of the season (which we’ll post after tonight’s College Football Playoff national championship). And it’s an important one; FSU last finished in the top 10 in 2016 and has only done so four times in the past 20 years.
FSU entered bowl season 13th in the AP poll, the CFP rankings and my ballot. The Seminoles (10-3) won their bowl game (a wild one over Oklahoma in Orlando), while four teams within striking distance ahead of them lost their bowl games: USC (11-3), Clemson (11-3), Kansas State (10-4) and Utah (10-4). Three of them (Clemson, Kansas State and Utah) weren’t particularly close, either.
The Seminoles’ biggest strength is the way they ended the season. Their six-game winning streak is one of the longest in the country, and four of them were blowouts (Georgia Tech, Miami, Syracuse and Louisiana). Compare that to USC, which lost its final two games, or Clemson, which lost two of its final three.
FSU’s biggest weakness is the competition it faced. The Seminoles only beat three teams that finished with winning records: LSU, Louisville and Syracuse. And they also needed a late field goal to beat a middling Oklahoma team. The Trojans beat four teams that are ranked or on the cusp of being ranked. The Utes beat three. Kansas State beat national finalist TCU to win the Big 12, and Clemson has a head-to-head over FSU in Tallahassee.
To finish in the top 10, the ‘Noles will also have to hold off 12-2 Tulane (which has wins over Kansas State and USC), 10-4 LSU (which crushed Purdue in the other main Orlando bowl) and 10-3 Oregon State (which nearly shut out the Gators in the Las Vegas Bowl).
Mike Norvell’s third season at FSU was clearly a breakthrough. We’ll find out late tonight whether it was historic, too.
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