Florida State is the ACC champion. But was the performance good enough to get into the college football playoffs? The ACC championship game set college football offenses back decades Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, as the Seminoles win 16-6 over Louisville.
Florida State finishes the regular season at 13-0. But behind third-string quarterback Brock Glenn, the Seminoles managed just 219 yards of offense. Is there a concept they could compete with the likes of Big 12 champion Texas? Or SEC champ Alabama? They each have one loss, and FSU is an undefeated conference champion. But the Seminoles’ best hope for offense relies on the return of backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker in time for the post-season.
The Quarterback Question
Rodemaker, who spent the week going through concussion protocols after the Florida game last week, was dressed out and warming up at full speed before the game. But Glenn got the start and Rodemaker spent the game on the sidelines in street clothes.
Glenn finished the game eight of 21 passing for 55 yards. Of FSU’s 219 yards 118 of that was from Lawrence Toafili in the Wildcat formation. He also added the game’s only touchdown and was named the ACC Championship game MVP.
And it’s not like FSU was being challenged by a potent Louisville offense. The Cardinals managed just 188 yards. Starting quarterback Jack Plummer was 14 of 36 for 111 yards.
The points were scarce all around Saturday night. The two teams were scoreless throughout the entire first quarter, managing all of a combined 37 yards of offense.
Florida State got a 45-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald in the first in the second quarter capping an 11-play, 50-yard drive. It took them 5:01 off the clock to wind up with just three points.
That was the entire scoring of the first half…3-0. The two teams combined for 149 yards with half of it through the air. The Cardinals added a 36-yard field goal from Brock Travelstead to tie the game at 3-3 in the third quarter.
Finding Some Offense
That was followed by what qualified as an outburst of offense thanks to Toafili. In the Wildcat, he hit the right side of the line and burst through for 73 yards to the Louisville two-yard line. He finished the job on the next play bursting up the middle for the two-yard touchdown. That put FSU up 10-3 which it turns out was more than enough.
Florida State head coach Mike Norvell said he had been planning all week to use the Wildcat, despite knowing that Louisville did not give up much in the running game. “We felt we could get a little bit of an advantage if we were able to implement a little Wildcat,” he said. “We really put it in late in the week. These guys did a wonderful job of being able to adapt to it.”
Louisville added a 33-yard Travelstead field goal in the fourth quarter to make it 10-6. Florida State added two more Fitzgerald field goals in the fourth quarter, from 33 and 40 yards to put the game away in the closing moments.
As much as the offense struggled Norvell also gave plenty of credit to his defense. “I think our defense is playing at an extremely high level. We’ve gotten better throughout the season,” he said. “They can adapt. They can adjust. And they can go out there and execute.”
Florida State players celebrate with their fans at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC after winning the ACC Championship Saturday night.
Did FSU Secure a Playoff Spot?
The questions were ongoing throughout the night as the Seminoles struggled to put together a statistically impressive offense. Alabama has one loss but upset the two-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs, who were undefeated. Michigan manhandled Iowa in the Big 10 Conference championship to remain undefeated. Washington edged Oregon Friday to remain undefeated as the Pac-12 champions. Is Alabama in even though they have a loss to Texas, who by the way blew out Oklahoma State to win the Big XII championship?
With the playoff committee delivering its final verdicts on Sunday afternoon, Norvell gave an emphatic defense of his team’s position in the big picture. He said going undefeated in a Power 5 conference should end the debate. “It’s entertainment. It’s something to have the conversations. But I don’t think there is a conversation,” he told the media after the game. He pointed to the win over LSU in the season opener and the win at Clemson as key elements in the Florida State resume. “We were able to do the things necessary to achieve victory. So I don’t think there is a conversation. This is a team that is well-deserving. This is a team that has earned it.” He said the Seminoles have won against more bowl-eligible Power Five teams than anyone else in the country. “I don’t want to hear about the schedule.”
In the playoff era, there has never been an undefeated conference champion who was left out of the semi-finals.
The playoff committee will be making its announcement at 12:30 Eastern on Sunday. Last Word will have its last post-season/bowl projections at 10 am Eastern.