June 16, 2024


As soon as Alabama won the SEC championship Saturday night, the college football world knew the next 24 hours would be chaotic. 

Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide defeated Georgia, a team that had won 29 straight games and back-to-back national championships, to become a one-loss Power 5 champion. 

Nick Saban after winning SEC

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 27-24 in the SEC championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Dec. 2, 2023, in Atlanta. (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

The win was the 11th straight for Alabama and came against a team that the College Football Playoff committee had ranked as the top team in the country the past three weeks. 

All that was needed for the committee to be put in a no-win situation was for Florida State to defeat Louisville to finish off an undefeated season and take home the ACC championship. 

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The Seminoles did so with a third-string freshman quarterback under center, setting up a long night for the playoff committee. 

In the final year of the four-team playoff, the committee was presented with the impossible task of choosing four teams to compete for the national championship. 

In doing so, deserving teams would be left out in the cold. 

The committee ranked Michigan, Washington, Texas and Alabama as the four top teams in the nation on Sunday, putting Florida State on the outside looking in. 

Jordan Travis holds ACC title

Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis holds the ACC trophy with his teammates during the ACC championship game against the Louisville Cardinals, Dec. 2, 2023, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. (John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

And while the Seminoles are most certainly the team with the biggest gripe, they aren’t alone. 

Georgia’s lone loss of the season was by just three points to Alabama, which is on a roll and was deemed the fourth-best team in the country by the CFP. 

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A 12-team playoff at least ends the gripes of Power 5 champions that were rightly miffed by the selection committee’s decision. 

The expanded playoff is still one year away. 

So, let’s take a look at the two scenarios the playoff committee was presented with before the final year of the four-team playoff plays out in January. 

Alabama left out, Texas and Florida State in

Leaving Alabama out of the CFP would have created the same level of anger as the Florida State snub. 

Consider SEC commissioner Greg Sankey’s comments on ESPN’s “College Gameday” Saturday. 

Sankey was presented with the possibility that the Southeastern Conference could be left out of the playoff entirely, and the commissioner said the committee may have to consider two SEC teams in the playoff. 

“That’s not the real world of college football,” Sankey said. “Let’s go back to like ‘Sesame Street’ so we’re really basic. One of these things is not like the other. And that’s the Southeastern Conference. We have five of the top 15.” 

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Greg Sankey speaks at SEC Media Days

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during SEC Media Days at Grand Hyatt Nashville July 17, 2023. (Johnnie Izquierdo/Getty Images)

“We have five of the top 15. So, a third,” Sankey added. “And our teams are playing everyone in the conference. They’re all attached. They have to overcome a lot of adversity [and] intense environments. There’s going to be close games. But the reality is, there’s been no one that’s experienced the success in the postseason – the College Football Playoff – that we have. 

“So, when you put us up actually against the teams rather than committee rooms, we stand alone. And we stand alone this year, regardless of today’s outcome. I think the opportunity in front of the committee is to acknowledge that there could be, depending on the outcome, two of the best four teams from the SEC.”

The issue is the approach the committee takes to selecting four teams for the playoff. 

The concept of the four “best teams” getting to play for a national championship is flawed, as it’s hard to determine how it’s defined. Teams, especially at the collegiate level, are not always the same in September as they are in December. 

Alabama is a good example. 

The Crimson Tide’s lone loss of the season came in Week 2 against the Texas Longhorns with Alabama’s quarterback situation nowhere near being where it is today. 

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Jalen Milroe reacts

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe celebrates after the SEC championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs, Dec. 2, 2023, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After the loss, Jalen Milroe did not play against South Florida as Saban gave Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner a shot under center. After a less-than-impressive win, Saban turned back to Milroe, who turned himself into a player who has had odds of winning the Heisman at times this season. 

In the final 11 weeks of the season, Milroe was brilliant, accounting for 28 touchdowns and throwing just four interceptions since the September loss to Texas. 

Additionally, Alabama’s lone loss of the season came against a team that the committee ranked as the third-best in the country. 

Alabama being left out of the playoff would have created the same level of anger from fans, just based on a different argument. 

Florida State out, Alabama and Texas in

The Seminoles becoming the first undefeated Power 5 Conference champion to miss out on the CFP became a possibility in Week 12. 

Heisman-hopeful quarterback Jordan Travis suffered a gruesome leg injury against North Alabama, ending his season. 

The conversation about Florida State as a playoff team began almost instantly because the offense without Travis simply wouldn’t be the same. 

Jordan Travis is taken off the field

Quarterback Jordan Travis of the Florida State Seminoles is carted off the field after an ankle jury during a game against the North Alabama Lions on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, Nov. 18, 2023, in Tallahassee. (Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

This is the issue with the four “best teams” approach. 

Without Travis, it’s hard to argue that Florida State is one of the best teams in the country. Michigan, Washington, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State would likely be favored over the Seminoles in a matchup with the Seminoles. But Florida State was the “best” in every game they played. 

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Should projecting a team’s future performance in games be part of the conversation? Shouldn’t the criteria be the four most deserving teams? 

And shouldn’t winning, despite obstacles, be the ultimate factor?

ESPN analyst and former head coach Dan Mullen thinks so. 

“The problem I have is there’s no consistency with the committee from one year to the next,” Mullen said during an appearance on OutKick’s “Hot Mic w/ Hutton & Withrow.”

“When you say, ‘OK, who’s the best team?’ ‘Oh, let’s just hide behind the best team.’ I have a hard time with that because the best team [is the] team that wins, in my mind. And winning teams are the best teams.

“I think they have too many little excuses to hide behind and how they did it. I’m not sure they have enough football people on there … but I don’t like it.”

Mullen added that while he’s frustrated with the decision by the committee, he said Alabama “earned it just as much as anybody else,” while noting that the win column should’ve played a more significant role in the committee’s decision.

Mike Norvell celebrate

Florida State coach Mike Norvell lifts the trophy after the team’s win over Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (AP Photo/Erik Verduzco)

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“I think what they did was disrespectful to the game of football and disrespectful to anybody that’s played the game of football or coached in the game of football or really be a part of it,” Mullen, an analyst for ESPN, added. 

“I don’t think people understand how hard that is to do. So, I think it was disrespectful to the game to hide behind who the best team was. Because if you’re just going to pick subjectively who the best team is, why play the game?” 

By proclaiming that the four “best teams” would be selected for the CFP, the committee painted itself into a corner, essentially saying the results of the season did not mean as much as the way a team is perceived four weeks from now. 

The 12-team playoff could not come quickly enough. 

Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report



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