Michigan Downs Alabama in OT Thriller as College Football Playoff Committee Appears To Have Made Correct Call

    The College Football Playoff committee seems to have be justified in excluding undefeated Florida State after Michigan downed Alabama in a thriller.

    Flashback to four weeks ago: With undefeated Washington and Michigan sitting comfortably as the presumed top two seeds in the College Football Playoffs, five other teams watched nervously. One-loss Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, and Texas and undefeated Florida State all believed their teams deserved inclusion.

    The committee chose Texas and Alabama, shunning the Bulldogs, Buckeyes, and undefeated Seminoles. After a thrilling 27-20 overtime battle between the Michigan Wolverines and Alabama Crimson Tide, it seems the committee may have been correct in its decision to exclude the Seminoles.

    How Michigan Downed Alabama in the Rose Bowl

    The legacy of the 4-team College Football Playoff may be its uncompetitive semifinal games if not for the last two seasons. Just three of the first 16 CFP Semifinal games were decided by double digits, with more than half finishing in full-fledged blowouts. However, the final two seasons of the 4-team playoff format have brought fireworks.

    In the first half, both offenses struggled to move the ball against strong defenses. The Crimson Tide took advantage of a muffed punt to open the scoring on a long Jace McClellan run before Michigan responded with a long touchdown drive. JJ McCarthy began to find open receivers and Michigan took a 13-10 lead into the half.

    After the break, Alabama’s defense began rotating fronts and giving McCarthy exotic looks while Jalen Milroe began to take over in the quarterback run game. The momentum seemed to be with Alabama until McCarthy led Michigan on a majestic eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 20 with 1:30 left, forcing overtime.

    In OT, Michigan running back Blake Corum took over, scoring on a 17-yard run marked by an incredible blind cutback. Milroe led Alabama to the 3-yard line but was stuffed on a quarterback draw attempt on fourth down to end the game.

    Why Alabama Was the Correct Choice

    Close games aren’t always good games. Sometimes, teams can’t get out of their own way and each team stumbles to an ugly game. That wasn’t the case in the Rose Bowl.

    This was a combination of heavyweight fighters and a grandmasters’ chess match. Michigan’s offensive and defensive lines dominated at times, while Alabama made adjustments after adjustment to counter.

    This was, in my opinion, Nick Saban’s best coaching job of his career. The Crimson Tide overcame early season quarterback controversy, lack of identity, and issues at the skill positions to win the SEC Championship and nearly make the National Championship.

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    The Crimson Tide proved that not only did they belong, but they could take the No. 1 team in the country to the brink, holding them to season-low points in regulation in the process. Six of the top 10 Twitter/X trends Saturday involved Alabama or Michigan, and the playoff game was just the third to go to overtime.

    Alabama was absolutely the correct choice for the committee to make.

    Why the Committee (Correctly) Excluded Florida State

    Florida State absolutely had an argument to make the College Football Playoff. However, based on the stated rules of the College Football Playoff committee and the history of the sport we love, they weren’t ever guaranteed a spot in the Playoff.

    Despite being undefeated, Florida State isn’t the first team to be denied a shot at the national title. The Seminoles aren’t even the first undefeated Power Five Conference Champion to be denied a title shot.

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    In fact, the Seminoles are the 21st undefeated team to miss out on a title shot in the last 53 years. It’s unfortunate for Florida State but not unprecedented.

    The rest of those teams, though, when given the opportunity, shined in bowl games. Florida State, albeit without several starters due to opt-outs, set the record for largest margin of defeat in a bowl game.

    Even before that, however, there were obvious cracks in the armor. The Seminoles survived the last three games of the season without starting quarterback Jordan Travis, but even before the All-ACC quarterback went down, the Seminoles had struggled.

    In back-to-back games at Boston College and Clemson, the Seminoles squeaked by in the ugliest of ways. In Death Valley, the Seminoles were outgained 429-311 and would have lost if not for Clemson’s missed 29-yard field goal. At home against Miami, the Seminoles survived when the Hurricane quarterback was injured on a potential game-tying drive.

    Every team struggles, and good teams survive those scares. Florida State was a good team, maybe even a great team. However, the Seminoles weren’t one of the best teams. More than that, the advanced metrics hated the Seminoles, as SP+ had them eighth in the country.

    The committee seems to have succeeded in getting the sport’s best teams into the four-team playoff. National champions used to be decided by coaches or the media. Dozens of teams have claimed national titles in years they were never awarded the trophy. It’s one of the beautiful things about the sport.

    If Florida State wanted to claim a title, a win over Georgia in the Orange Bowl would have been enough to justify doing so. For fans of a sport that has always had controversy at the top, the 2023 season shouldn’t be viewed as unprecedented.

    In hindsight, the committee got it right. While Florida State certainly gave less than its best effort, the 60-point loss was more than a lack of effort. Georgia, also missing key pieces, steamrolled the Seminoles three weeks after losing to the team that jumped Florida State.

    The 2023 Seminoles were a great football team with the right to be angry at an arbitrary committee that decides the sport’s best teams. There were four spots and five Power Conferences. This was always going to happen eventually.

    The cool part is that it won’t happen again—at least not with a 12-team championship. If this year had been next, the Seminoles would have hosted Liberty in Doak Walker Stadium for the right to play… Alabama.

    In the final year of the playoff’s current format, however, the Seminoles were denied a playoff shot while the college football world was treated to an all-time classic. In that regard, the committee was unequivocally correct.

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