The unprecedented move by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to leave undefeated Florida State, 2023 ACC champion,was met with immediate, and justified, blowback. A 13-0 run that began with a three-touchdown win over LSU and ran through the ACC's regular season unblemished, only to be tested by the devastating injury to quarterback Jordan Travis, positioned the Seminoles as a team of true resolve able to win at the thinnest of margins.
But at No. 5, Florida State is left out of the 2023 College Football Playoff.
Other unbeaten power-conference champions include No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Washington, who are very much in the field. No. 3 Texas and No. 4 Alabama are one-loss conference champs who happen to settle the head-to-head debate ... for them.
By the final voting, the Crimson Tide's win over previously No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game was enough to jump the undefeated Seminoles, but not the one-loss team that's owned their head to head all season.
Seminoles athletic director Michael Alfordboth "unforgivable" and an "unwarranted injustice" against the program. ACC commissioner Jim Phillips called the exclusion of the league's unblemished champion "unfathomable" as FSU now heads to the New Year's Six.
Leaving out the SEC champion would have also been a first for the committee, but so is this.
Jordan Travis' injury, coupled with Tate Rodemaker's injury, clearly limited the team's offensive ceiling. Against Louisville for the ACC title, the Noles managed just 219 yards in the 16-6 win. The Florida game wasn't much better.
Still, it found ways to win those games. The committee repeatedly stressed that a team's entire body of work is evaluated when determining the rankings. If Travis' absence is going to be connected with this team, it should be done in a way reflecting what's great about this year's Seminoles: They are not only eager, but able, to win games against higher level teams with outstanding defensive effort.
Close calls -- with or without Travis under center -- were not unique to the Seminoles. Texas found itself hanging on for dear life against Houston and TCU teams that failed to make a bowl game before escaping with wins. Alabama, meanwhile, won a dogfight with USF and needed a fourth-and-31 miracle to beat an Auburn team that had just been blasted at home by Conference USA runner-up New Mexico State a week prior.
And of course, there's a simple question amid all the noise -- did the games actually matter in the end for FSU? The Seminoles did everything asked of them while playing in what the sport defines to be a power conference, even overcoming adversity that would have potentially undone others.
"There are plenty of talented teams that have ability, but they've shown an ability to lose a game too," coach Mike Norvell told ESPN. "This team has not."
Ultimately, the committee determined that wasn't enough for FSU to continue its pursuit of its first national title since 2013. The Seminoles won't have to worry about a repeat of this situation in the immediate future, however. A new 12-team playoff field that debuts in 2024 is set to have auto-bids for at least the five-highest ranked conference champions. FSU would have been in this year under those parameters.
Instead, the Seminoles enter bowl season on the wrong side of a college football controversy that isn't likely to be forgotten anytime soon.