Florida State’s path to the College Football Playoff remains clear after the selection committee released its second set of rankings Tuesday night. As long as Mike Norvell’s Seminoles keep winning, they’ll be in the final four for the first time since 2014.
If not? Then FSU’s odds of appearing in a semifinal at the Sugar Bowl or Rose Bowl look dicey.
“Really good team,” committee chairperson Boo Corrigan said of the ‘Noles.
The concern, however, is that FSU has not played enough other really good teams — and won’t, either.
The Seminoles’ only win over a currently ranked team is their Week 1 triumph over LSU, which slid five spots to 19th. To make matters worse, none of FSU’s final regular-season opponents were in Tuesday’s top 25, either. Granted, the Seminoles’ strength of schedule isn’t awful; most metrics have it higher than Georgia, Michigan and Oregon. Corrigan praised FSU’s overtime win at Clemson, victory over Duke and ability to beat Pitt without stars Johnny Wilson and Keon Coleman. But consider FSU’s schedule to other top playoff contenders:
• No. 1 Ohio State has wins over No. 10 Penn State and No. 20 Notre Dame with No. 3 Michigan looming.
• No. 2 Georgia just beat No. 14 Missouri and faces No. 9 Mississippi and No. 13 Tennessee in its next two games.
• No. 3 Michigan doesn’t have a top-25 win yet but plays the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes.
• No. 5 Washington has victories over No. 24 Arizona and No. 6 Oregon, with games left against No. 18 Utah and No. 12 Oregon State.
• No. 6 Oregon has a win over the Utes and can add another against the Beavers.
• No. 7 Texas has three ranked victories (No. 8 Alabama, No. 16 Kansas and No 25 Kansas State).
• The Crimson Tide have top-20 triumphs over Mississippi, Tennessee and LSU.
Conference championships will change these numbers, but not necessarily in FSU’s favor. The ‘Noles have clinched a spot in the Dec. 2 ACC championship, likely against No. 11 Louisville. Based on Tuesday’s preview, the Cardinals would be one of the lowest-ranked teams in a conference title game, ahead of only the Big Ten West’s sacrificial lamb and whatever team in the 15-25 range plays Texas for the Big 12 crown.
FSU isn’t to blame for this predicament. Not with a non-conference schedule that started with LSU and ends with Florida. It’s not the Seminoles’ fault that the Gators are in danger of missing a bowl game for only the third time in the last three decades. Or that Miami couldn’t sustain success after blowing past Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies in September. Or that Clemson is having its worst season since 2011. Or that Pitt already has as many losses (seven) as it did over the previous two years combined. Or that Southern Miss is 2-7 after starting the season with realistic hopes of making a bowl for the second consecutive year.
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But that’s the downside of being in the ACC. Playing in a winnable conference eliminates the margin for error.
As long as FSU finishes as an undefeated ACC champion, the Seminoles should ease into the playoff. But if they slip up to Florida or Miami and have to fight against one-loss champions like Georgia, Texas or Oregon? Then the Seminoles will be able to add to their list of grievances with the ACC.
College Football Playoff rankings
1. Ohio State (9-0)
2. Georgia (9-0)
3. Michigan (9-0)
4. Florida State (9-0)
5. Washington (9-0)
6. Oregon (8-1)
7. Texas (8-1)
8. Alabama (8-1)
9. Mississippi (8-1)
10. Penn State (8-1)
11. Louisville (8-1)
12. Oregon State (7-2)
13. Tennessee (7-2)
14. Missouri (7-2)
15. Oklahoma State (7-2)
16. Kansas (7-2)
17. Oklahoma (7-2)
18. Utah (7-2)
19. LSU (6-3)
20. Notre Dame (7-3)
21. Arizona (6-3)
22. Iowa (7-2)
23. Tulane (8-1)
24. North Carolina (7-2)
25. Kansas State (6-3)
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