Jordan Travis confirmed on Monday what was clear to everyone on Saturday; The leg injury he suffered Saturday against Northern Alabama will end his incredible quarterback career at Florida State.
Travis was one of the best and most likeable players in America and played a major role in the Seminoles’ return to national prominence and entry into the College Football Playoff. At 11-0, FSU was ranked fourth in last week’s rankings.
His injury immediately sparked debate about how the playoff committee should view the Seminoles without him, especially with a crowded, top-heavy field forcing tough decisions about who should advance to the playoffs.
It goes like this: Even if Florida State finishes with wins over Florida (in Gainesville) and Louisville (in the ACC Championship), a 13-0 team led by backup Tate Rodemaker would rank among the top four teams in the world Country? For example, if Alabama upsets Georgia in the SEC title game, could you choose a Travis-less FSU over either (or both) team(s)?
In other words, could losing Travis actually result in the committee leaving out an undefeated Power Five champion?
Well, it shouldn’t.
The committee should not consider Travis’ injury in any way, negative or positive.
Whatever team coach Mike Norvell brings to the field, it is the team and should be judged as exactly that – the Florida State football team.
Results should count, not the names of the players.
Fortunately, the College Football Playoff will expand to 12 teams next year, with five expected automatic bids. Fortunately, this should all but eliminate headache-inducing, hypothetical debates like this one.
Could this situation – injury debates – arise on the sixth (or seventh) overall bid? Of course, but there’s far less at stake here than anyone suggests leaving out a major conference winner.
It’s reasonable to assume that Florida State isn’t as good a team with Rodemaker playing in place of Travis. After all, almost any team would be better with Jordan Travis at quarterback. Plus, there’s a reason Norvell started one after the other.
However, that is still an assumption.
And the hurdle that needs to be overcome here is not whether FSU can play better or even as well with one quarterback or another. It’s about whether they can play well enough as a team to win enough games and secure a spot in the field.
Maybe Florida State needs to play differently. Maybe other parts of the team need to be more important to influence the game.
In the nine-year history of the CFP, a backup quarterback has led his team to the national title twice.
The first was in 2014, when Ohio State University third-stringer Cardale Jones helped the Buckeyes to victories over Alabama and Oregon.
Then came the 2018 title game, when Alabama coach Nick Saban substituted starter Jalen Hurts for backup Tua Tagovailoa, who scored an overtime victory over Georgia.
It’s not that these teams recruit bad players. Although Jones was ranked third on the Ohio State depth chart, he still ended up a fourth-round draft pick and remained in the NFL for three seasons. Tagovailoa, of course, turned out to be a top-five pick and is now a star with the Miami Dolphins. Hurts isn’t that bad either.
Is Tate Rodemaker one of those guys? Nobody knows, but that’s the point. The committee should not attempt to quantify what cannot be quantified – FSU’s projected strength with a different quarterback.
Think about the Ohio State team. With Jones at the helm, coach Urban Meyer leaned on running back Ezekiel Elliott, who responded with 476 yards and six touchdowns in the semifinals and championship. Who can say a more balanced offense with starter JT Barrett would have been better?
If anything, the committee made a mistake this year when it publicly admitted that it had given Ohio State extra points in a debate with TCU and Baylor because the Buckeyes had won the Big Ten title with a backup quarterback.
The theory that the win with Jones showed the team’s overall strength wasn’t necessarily wrong, but by that standard, not having a starter injured and thus showing roster depth was a negative for TCU and Baylor.
It shouldn’t have mattered at all. Same as this year.
Florida State will travel to the Swamp on Saturday and then play in the ACC title game. The Seminoles have a chance to play their way into the CFP.
It shouldn’t matter who the quarterback is or isn’t.
This is a team tournament and the Seminoles will be on the field, perhaps for better or perhaps for worse. Together they show everyone what needs to be shown.