Sunday was just another day in College Football Inc. The fires of hell raged across the land after the selection committee chose the four teams to compete in the annual playoff that determines the national champion.

Michigan (13-0) and Washington (13-0) were easy calls. But the decision to exclude undefeated Florida State in favor of the imperial Alabama set off another noxious bomb of noise and instantly activated the hot-take sports media industrial complex.

Let there be moral outrage, controversy, posturing, sermonizing, righteous indignation, people yelling, and the virtue-signaling sympathy for the forsaken victim. Let there be hatred of the diabolical SEC and the unholy alliance with powerful and controlling television partners that pull all the strings. These evil executives can prioritize ratings/revenue by rearranging or obliterating traditional (sacred?) college football conferences. It can be done via email.

Let’s begin by stating the obvious. To do so, we must reset our memories and reenter the inescapable reality of major college football.

— There is no set, clearly defined, locked-in methodology for selecting the four teams to compete in the College Football Playoffs. The selection committee had always operated with plenty of wiggle room, with the sound of incessant double-talk playing in the background. The committee always makes space for a collective change of mind/heart – and the contradictions and flip-flopping be damned.

— Late last week College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock put a clue out there that let us know what was coming. “Most deserving is not anything in the committee’s lexicon,” Hancock said. “They are to rank the best teams in order, and that’s what they do. Just keep that word in mind: best teams.”

— Using the word “best” can be selectively applied as a cover-all reason to justify any subsequent decision. And yet – after all the conference championships were played – a large percentage of national CFB pundits predicted a playoff foursome that included Florida State. Hancock’s message didn’t register.

— The notion that true “fairness” exists in the big, bad business of major college football – playoff selections included – is quaint, childlike and adorable. And also terribly naive. When has this industry set an unbreakable standard of fairness?

— We’re talking about a sport that just wiped out the historically precious Pac 12 Conference through another round of vicious TV-revenue greed. In a wanton lust for money, Pac 12 members heartlessly abandoned historical partners Washington State and Oregon State by lunging for the enhanced riches offered by the Big Ten, Big 12, and ACC.

– The history of college football is overloaded with systems for deciding on the national champion. The responsibility has been passed around to sports-media humans, the coaches, computers, committees. Before the 2014 advent of the four-team playoff, the BCS scheme identified two contending teams to settle the matter in a winner-take-all championship. Worthy teams have been excluded many times. Politics have always been part of the process. As Danny Heifitz (The Ringer) pointed out: “Dozens of times over the past 150 years, multiple teams were crowned No. 1 by different polls; multiple champions are listed in the official NCAA record books from seasons as long ago as 1869 and as recently as 2003.”

— Remember undefeated Boise State getting the brushoff in 2006 and 2009? What about undefeated UCF in 2017.

– As Heifitz wrote, “the Power 5 leagues are overwhelmingly represented in the voting body. We have seen for decades that going undefeated matters only if you have a seat at the table. What’s new this time is that the tables have turned, and the ACC is losing its seat.”

This time the committee downgraded Florida State because of injuries to starting quarterback Jordan Travis – a true star and a superb leader – and primary backup Tate Rodenmaker. Florida State had to rely on freshman Brock Glenn to handle the ACC Championship matchup with Louisville.

Though the Seminoles won their final two games without Travis, Rodenmaker and Glenn combined to 20 of 47 passes (42.5%) and an average of 4.02 yards per passing attempt. FSU got through Florida and Louisville on the strength of its defense and rushing attack. That was admirable, yes. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to fill the fourth spot in the playoffs with an incomplete team that has a glaring weakness at quarterback.

As committee chairman Boo Corrigan told ESPN: “You can lose a running back, you can lose a wide receiver, but a quarterback as dynamic as Jordan Travis” (became) “a really big factor for the committee.”

You don’t have to agree with Corrigan but he’s right. History backs that up. If you want a legitimate chance to win this thing, you’d better bring an elite offense and a quarterback who can drive the fast car and handle the hazardous turns. Bottom line: Alabama’s quarterback positon was strengthened along the way as Jalen Milroe evolved into a dangerous playmaker. And Florida State’s quarterback position was weakened by attrition.

And yes, that matters. In the first nine seasons of the college football playoff semifinals and championship, the winning teams averaged 38.6 points in their 27 victories. They scored 40+ points 12 times, generated at least 34 points in 18 of the 27 wins, and never put up fewer points in a game than 24. Quarterback play is essential to success.

Florida State supporters rushed to point out that the 2014 Ohio State team won the national championship with third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. But the comparison to Florida State doesn’t hold up. Jones proved that he could thrive on a big stage with a fantastic performance in the Big Ten championship game. In a stark 59-0 destruction of 11th-ranked Wisconsin, Cardale Jones completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdown passes. In Saturday’s 16-6 victory over Louisville in the ACC title match, Glenn completed eight of 21 passes for 55 yards.

I do feel bad for Florida State. To be left out after going 13-0 is painful and unprecedented so I understand the anger. But – sorry – I believe the committee got it right.

Here are my reasons:

1. Much fuss is being made over Florida State’s exclusion based on precedent. Until now, an undefeated Power 5 Conference team had never been bumped from the playoff field. But unlike the previous nine playoff seasons – when it was much easier for a Power 5 unbeaten to sashay into the playoffs – the circumstances were different.

There was an extremely talented and crowded field of teams lined up to make a strong and formidable case. Going into the conference championship weekend, three teams were undefeated and five others had only one loss. All eight were considered worthy of a place in the playoff bracket depending on how things played out over the final weekend. In the 10 seasons of playoff parsing, this was by far the most accomplished group of teams in both size and resume.

Example: By losing to Alabama, Georgia tumbled from No. 1 to No. 6 in the final CFP rankings. In the history of the four-team format, Georgia became the first No. 1 team in the next-to-last ranking to get scratched from the final four in the final ranking. Ohio State lost one game, by six points, on the road at No. 1 Michigan. No playoff for the Buckeyes.

A 13-0 record wasn’t going to give any team an automatic pass into the final four. Oregon suffered its second loss in the Pac 12 title game on Friday night, but the three remaining unbeatens and four one-loss teams had the credentials to qualify.

Through the years no selection committee had a more challenging assignment than this one, and post-selection caterwauling was inevitable. I’m one of the folks who believe the committee’s responsibility is to select the four best teams in the nation. And to that end, Alabama qualifies.

Considering the significant cluster of meritorious teams in contention here, I can’t automatically disqualify the SEC champion because of one loss. And certainly not when that champion went 9-0 against SEC rivals this season. And not when Alabama – among the four playoff semifinalists – had the most wins (4) this season against opponents that finished in the Top 25 in the final CFP rankings.

2. Alabama lost an early-season home game by 10 points to visiting Texas. But from that point, the Crimson Tide settled their roiling issues at quarterback, settled their massive offensive line, and had a defense that gradually improved. Saban did one of his most masterful coaching jobs. His team, once belittled, won 11 in a row in a streak capped by the 27-24 upset win over No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Who was better at the end of the regular season, Alabama or Florida State? Who is more equipped to win it all? Who had the more established and dynamic quarterback to run the offense? Alabama.

For all of this and more, the Crimson Tide shouldn’t have been canceled just for losing a Week 2 game to a formidable Texas squad on Sept. 9. This Texas team was ultimately ranked third in the final ranking, so it’s not like Bama got felled by a palooka.

3. A key question: Should strength of schedule matter? In my opinion, yes, absolutely. According to the ESPN ratings, Alabama played the fifth-toughest schedule in the nation among FBS level teams. Florida State’s strength of schedule was No. 55. (In the Sagarin ratings, Florida State was down at 61st in strength of schedule.)

4. The SEC was rated as the No. 1 conference in the nation this season. Florida State’s home base, the ACC, was ranked last among the Power 5 conferences. So what record has more value? A 12-1 mark as champion of the No. 1 conference that played the fifth-toughest schedule? Or a 13-0 record as a member of the weakest Power 5 conference that played the 55th most difficult schedule?

According to Sagarin – who splits the the Big Ten and SEC into divisions – here were the best conferences in our land for 2023:

– SEC West (home of Alabama.)

– Big Ten East (home of Michigan.)

– Pac 12 (home of Washington.)

– Big 12 (home of Texas)

– SEC East

– ACC (home of Florida State.)

– Big Ten West

5. Florida State was No. 3 in strength of record; Alabama was No. 4 in the same metric. That makes sense because the Seminoles won most of their games in a convincing fashion – just as we would expect given the softness of the ACC. But the counter to that point is easy: Alabama ranked only one spot lower than FSU in strength of record while navigating through one of the hardest schedules in the nation.

6. The pro-FSU media forces popped out a stat to make their case for the Seminoles. As usual, it was based on the “overrated” status of the SEC. It went like this: if the SEC is so great, then why did the mighty and invincible SEC go 4-6 against ACC teams this season?

That’s interesting … at least until you look at the particulars.

* FSU beat LSU and Florida
* North Carolina and Clemson beat South Carolina
* Miami beat Texas A&M
* Wake Forest beat Vanderbilt

In addition to Texas knocking off Alabama, Florida lost to Utah, and Arkansas lost to BYU.

Well, shucks y’all. Congrats! Vandy, Arkansas, South Carolina and Florida were four of the SEC’s worst teams. The foursome combined for a sorry-sight 7-25 record in SEC games and collectively finished 16-32 overall.

Texas A&M wasn’t awful … just dysfunctional. The Aggies and the program’s high-rolling sugar daddies had to pay coach Jimbo Fisher $77 million just to go away. Before getting sacked, Fisher had lost 14 of his last 24 SEC games. Given the context, Miami’s win over the Aggies was no earthquake.

7. Speaking of the ACC, here’s a final point: In the proposed 12-team playoff format, Florida State would have been in the playoffs this season. But the 12-team plan was scuttled by the commissioners from the ACC, Pac 12 and Big Ten. They wanted to stand up and show how much clout they had – or something like that.

Sunday, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips called Florida State’s exclusion unfathomable and went full blast in attacking the integrity of the process.

That’s priceless. Instead of accepting the original plan, Phillips and the ACC played a lead role in forcing the continuation of the four-team playoff for the 2023 season.

“We’re not opposed to expansion at some point,” Phillips said in January 2022 after blocking the implementation of the 12-team tournament. “Right now, we don’t feel like that’s the right thing to do in college football.”

Oh, my. That didn’t age well.

Way to show ‘em, Big Jim!

Phillips and his ilk finally realized their horrendous lapse in judgment and signed off on the 12-team format starting in 2024. Too late for the 2023 Florida State Seminoles.

There’s more. Not long ago, Florida State athletic director Mike Alford, the FSU university president and the school’s board of trustees were plotting an escape from the ACC.

As Pat Forde (Sports Illustrated) wrote: Florida State “fomented revolution against the ACC throughout the spring and summer, essentially arguing that the rest of the league simply wasn’t good enough for the Seminoles. They put their conference colleagues down in an attempt to lift themselves up as worthy of uneven revenue sharing. That’s now going to happen, but they damaged the perception of the conference as a whole during that process. Maybe winning the league didn’t mean as much as it should have after Florida State put so much effort into trashing the place?”

College Football is a pit where university-backed teams – aroused by the opportunity to increase revenue – have no problem stabbing each other in the neck to get a larger share of dollars. Florida State has no halo. They’re part of this free-for-all of gluttony and selfishness.

I have empathy for Florida State players and coaches. They just did what they were supposed to do, win games. The problem is above them.

The FSU administration wanted to brawl with the big boys? The FSU administration wanted to muscle up and block the expansion to a 12-team playoff – and stupidly do it against their own self interests? The FSU administration wanted to denigrate its own conference as being below standard – only to picot and shriek when the football team came up short in the selection process?

If you want to cast your conference as garbage, don’t cry on behalf of your team if you don’t get your way. It’s a cold, cold world. Florida State is part of an ecosystem that has a money-grubbing, dog-eat-dog mentality. That’s nothing new in college football. It’s been part of the DNA. Forever.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or access the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.