Every Saturday night, Ari Wasserman and David Ubben react to the weekend’s slate of games on “Until Saturday.” On Mondays, they revisit the biggest takeaway from Saturday night’s instant reaction. This week: David Ubben addresses why the College Football Playoff committee may doubt Florida State after starting quarterback Jordan Travis’ injury, but the Seminoles still deserve a chance to compete for the title.
The starting quarterback suffered a gruesome broken leg.
His backup had hardly played; people knew little to nothing about him.
As soon as it happened, the picture of his team as a legitimate national title contender faded from view.
It ignited debate: Exclude them from the College Football Playoff. Let the teams still at full strength battle it out.
Six weeks later, his team was crowned national champion.
There is clear precedent for how to handle Florida State after starting quarterback Jordan Travis left Saturday’s win against North Alabama on a cart with his left leg wrapped in an air cast.
FSU QB Travis carted off with apparent leg injury
Quarterback J.T. Barrett left the field at Ohio Stadium in the exact same way in 2014, seated on a cart, his broken leg in an air cast, in pain over the injury but stewing over a season that appeared lost.
Cardale Jones, best known at the time for a controversial tweet, was the Buckeyes’ next best hope. It looked grim.
The Buckeyes’ roster had plenty of NFL-caliber talent elsewhere: Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel were in the backfield. Jones’ top target was Michael Thomas. Joey Bosa, Darron Lee and Michael Bennett were harassing passers all season long, combining for 28 sacks.
Florida State has one of the nation’s best 1-2 punches at receiver with Johnny Wilson and Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman, the nation’s best at hauling in contested catches. Tight end Jaheim Bell arrived this offseason after two productive seasons in the SEC at South Carolina.
Edge rusher Jared Verse is No. 8 on The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s list of the 50 best draft prospects. Running back Trey Benson has 20 rushing touchdowns in the past two seasons and looks headed for a 1,000-yard season.
The Seminoles have plenty of talent to help new quarterback Tate Rodemaker.
But a decade ago after the injury, most reasonable onlookers immediately dismissed Ohio State as a title contender. It was reasonable, and so is the same stance toward Florida State this morning after losing one of the game’s best quarterbacks and turning to Rodemaker, a three-star recruit who’s never thrown more than 31 passes in a season and never made a start in his four seasons with the Seminoles.
Nobody thinks Florida State can compete in the Playoff anymore.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t.
How will FSU, and the Playoff committee, respond after Jordan Travis’ injury?
In several seasons during the Playoff era, it’s been hard to identify four teams playing at a national title-caliber level. It’s led to teams being included by default and resulted in semifinal beatdowns.
This is not one of those years. Eight of the nine Power 5 teams with one or fewer losses look deserving of a Playoff spot. There will be games between them in the two weeks ahead to thin the herd, but most likely, the committee will have a team with a compelling case to include ahead of Florida State.
And the Seminoles have two games to convince the committee — the only 13 opinions in the sport that actually matter — they belong in the field and the idea of excluding an undefeated Florida State is outrageous.
Ohio State, then No. 5 in the CFP poll had one game: It entered the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game as a four-point underdog to No. 13 Wisconsin.
It promptly raced to a 38-0 halftime lead in an astounding 59-0 win, leapfrogging co-Big 12 champions TCU and Baylor to grab the fourth spot in the Playoff.
If Florida State and Rodemaker navigate the next two weeks and beat a Florida team playing for a bowl berth and knock off one-loss Louisville to win the ACC championship, the Seminoles will have earned the right to play for the national championship.
The committee is well within its protocol if it chooses to exclude an undefeated Florida State from the Playoff.
When ranking teams, committee members may consider “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’ injury obviously qualifies.
But the sport has seen this exact scenario play out before.
Give Florida State a chance.
(Photo: Don Juan Moore / Getty Images)