May 24, 2024

The last year of the four-team College Football Playoff, fittingly, will present the selection committee with its toughest decision yet — one so hard and fraught with political drama that the 13 humans probably are going to wish they were Bowl Championship Series computers for the next 24 hours.

Based on the rankings entering this weekend, only two teams are clearly in the field: No. 2 Michigan, the Big Ten champion, and No. 3 Washington, the Pac-12 champion. Three Power-Five conference champions with traditionally locked-in résumés — No. 4 Florida State, No. 7 Texas and No. 8 Alabama — are left for two spots.

No matter what, it seems, history will be made Sunday morning when the committee releases its bracket, which will include a semifinal game in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

If Florida State — the ACC champion at 13-0 after edging No. 14 Louisville 16-6 on Saturday night — is left out, the Seminoles would be the first unbeaten power conference champion to not receive a playoff invite.

If Alabama — the SEC champion at 12-1 after upsetting two-time defending champion and No. 1 Georgia 27-24 — is left out, 2023 would be the first year that an SEC team did not receive a playoff invite.

On Saturday, Texas simply did what it was supposed to do, smacking around No. 18 Oklahoma State 49-21 to win the Big 12 championship. But most important to this discussion is what the Longhorns, 12-1 just like Alabama, did in September — they beat the Crimson Tide 34-24 in Tuscaloosa.

It would send a terrible message to not count the decisive head-to-head victory as a tiebreaker, so expect the Longhorns to make their first playoff on Sunday morning.

The debate will center around the Seminoles, who won by two scores against the Cardinals with their third-string quarterback thanks to a dominant defensive performance, and the Crimson Tide, who did not lose an SEC game and just ended the Bulldogs’ 29-game winning streak.

Florida State quarterback Brock Glenn runs the ball against Louisville on Saturday.

Florida State quarterback Brock Glenn runs the ball against Louisville on Saturday.

(Erik Verduzco / Associated Press)

The committee likes to say that its job is to select the four best teams, but what it often has done is pick the four most deserving résumés. Using résumés always has kept the decision-making process neater.

This time, there is little doubt that Alabama is the better team than Florida State if the Seminoles don’t have injured starting quarterback Jordan Travis, which they wouldn’t in the playoff.

But the Seminoles have the better résumé for the season. They beat every team put in front of them, and the committee will factor in that Florida State won at Florida last week with second-string quarterback Tate Rodemaker, who would be back for a playoff semifinal.

The pressure on the committee is going to be gargantuan. There is no winning, which only confirms the need for the change to a 12-team format beginning next season.

If I had to predict the verdict, I expect the power of the SEC to prevail, with the committee being able to use Travis’ injury as the excuse to overlook the Seminoles’ perfect record.

But what if I’m wrong? What if the committee denies the SEC and rewards the Seminoles’ unblemished record and Texas’ head-to-head trump card? Well, the South may secede from the union again.

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