Throughout this college football season, there has perhaps been no top-tier team with more questionability surrounding it than Florida State football.
No, the Georgia Bulldogs haven’t removed all doubt, but they’re two-time defending champs. And no, the Michigan Wolverines haven’t played anyone great quite yet, but they’ve made the last two CFP brackets. In other words, they’ve proven a consistent ability to fight at the highest level. Meanwhile, all the Seminoles have done in recent memory is get one 10-win season that should have gone even better.
When you combine that with the fact that their best win (45-24 over LSU) was all the way back in Week 1, along with their tendencies to suffer both slow starts (Duke, Pittsburgh) and blown leads (Boston College, Virginia Tech), it becomes painfully obvious that the Seminoles have done nothing more than look like a solid team — and “solid” doesn’t translate to “contender.”
However, just because we may not see FSU’s ability to win the CFP doesn’t mean that it isn’t in position to make the CFP, and this can be seen by looking at its remaining regular-season games: Miami, North Alabama, and at Florida.
The Hurricanes and Gators, while intense rivals, have proven that they have no business winning their meetings with the Seminoles through their multiple losses (especially the ones that came from names like Georgia Tech and Arkansas). Also, UNA fans shouldn’t need a walkthrough covering why their Lions don’t stand a snowball’s chance.
In short, that bunch likely has most agreeing that the ‘Noles have a relatively high chance of entering the ACC title game unbeaten, and with it being their final challenge before Selection Day, that goes a long way in regards to their playoff worthiness.
But unfortunately, at the same time, that is where we encounter the biggest question marks of their pre-playoff path — their title game opponents, and whether the Seminoles have proven they have what it takes to endure them as well. With the current favorites to meet them in Charlotte being the Louisville Cardinals, I would not be so eager to say that they have.
The Cardinals have been flying under the radar as one of college football’s most dangerous squads, having convincing wins over powers like Notre Dame and Duke under their belts while just one game sits in their loss column.
Now sure, the loss in question (38-21 to 2-7 Pittsburgh) was a doozy, and has undoubtedly played the leading role in why they’ve been slept on like they have. But since then, they’ve fought through tooth and nail to show no weakness in the games that have followed, and have been crowned by many as the biggest threats to FSU’s perfect season — that is, until this week rolled along.
Thursday night proved that Louisville’s ceiling hasn’t risen whatsoever
On Thursday night, the Cardinals hosted two-win Virginia for what I (and I assume many others) would have put money on being a total beatdown of the Cavaliers, but it ultimately could not have been further from such.
With less than half of the fourth quarter to go, Louisville was not only struggling with, but losing to the Cavs, 24-17. After tying the game on a long touchdown pass and forcing a punt, the Cards had an even-longer touchdown run to take a 31-24 advantage with under four minutes to spare.
From that point, UVA failed to convert on fourth down and they knelt the ball to narrowly escape with their ninth win of the year — along with the laughter of all who once feared them.
Say what you want about Florida State, but the Seminoles are yet to have their backs pushed up against the wall of their own stadium by anyone, but much less by a team that has 50 percent of its win count taken up by William & Mary.
Now I know what some of you people will be whining: “But Austin, Florida State beat Boston College by only two points, and had to go to overtime to beat Clemson! Why aren’t you hating on the ‘Noles for squeaking by those visibly flawed teams?”
Well for starters, I’ve already mentioned how those games and others paint them out as if they can’t go the distance, but secondly, those games were on the road and against schools that sit with positive records today. Do those factors excuse their hiccups? Of course not, but I’d rather skate past a 6-3 BC or an ACC powerhouse like Clemson in enemy territory than do so against a sorry Virginia at home.
And again, one could very easily brush off Louisville due to its loss at Pitt alone, but I was willing to give the Cards a freebie there; it was after a big win over Notre Dame, Acrisure Stadium is no easy road environment, and the programs have a competitive history. However, now that they’ve pulled this most recent stunt against another conference cellar-dweller, they’re out of chances — I refuse to see them as realistic candidates for the ACC title at least until the Seminoles stoop to a remotely similar level.
The ‘Noles may look far from impenetrable, and the teams with potential to meet them in Charlotte (such as Louisville) aren’t necessarily “bad,” but I no longer see anything or anyone that should prevent them from going 13-0. That makes them, in my eyes, the safest bets to qualify for the CFP going forward.