Jordan Travis confirmed Monday what was obvious to all on Saturday; the leg injury he sustained against Northern Alabama on Saturday will end his incredible Florida State quarterbacking career.
Travis was one of the best and most likable players in America, a huge part in the Seminoles' return to national prominence and College Football Playoff contention. At 11-0, FSU was ranked fourth in last week's rankings.
His injury immediately began a debate about how the playoff committee should view the Seminoles without him, especially if a crowded, top-heavy field of contenders forces hard decisions about who should make the playoff field.
It gets as deep as this: Even if Florida State finishes with victories over Florida (in Gainesville) and Louisville (in the ACC championship), would a 13-0 team led by backup Tate Rodemaker rank as one of the top four teams in the country? For example, should Alabama upset Georgia in the SEC title game, can you choose a Travis-less FSU over either (or both) team(s)?
In other words, could the loss of Travis actually make the committee leave an unbeaten Power Five champion out?
Well, it shouldn’t.
The committee shouldn’t factor in Travis’ injury in any way — negative or positive.
Whatever team coach Mike Norvell puts out on the field is the team and should be judged as just that — the Florida State football team.
Results should matter, not the names of the players.
Fortunately, the College Football Playoff expands to 12 teams next year, with an expected five automatic bids. Mercifully, that should all but eliminate headache-inducing, hypothetical debates such as these.
Could this situation — debates over injuries — arise over the sixth (or seventh) at-large bid? Of course, but the stakes are far lower there than anyone suggesting a major conference champion should be left out.
It is reasonable to assume that Florida State is not as good of a team with Rodemaker playing instead of Travis. After all, nearly every team would be better with Jordan Travis as its quarterback. Besides, there is a reason Norvell started one over the other.
That’s still an assumption though.
And the bar to clear here isn’t if FSU can play better or even as well with one quarterback or the other. It’s whether they — as a team — can play well enough to win enough games to earn a spot in the field.
Maybe Florida State needs to play differently. Maybe other parts of the team need to be more important in impacting the game.
In the nine-year history of the CFP, a backup quarterback has twice led his team to the national title.
The first was in 2014, when Ohio State’s third-stringer, Cardale Jones, helped the Buckeyes to victories over Alabama and Oregon.
Then came the 2018 title game, when Alabama coach Nick Saban benched starter Jalen Hurts for backup Tua Tagovailoa, who delivered an overtime victory over Georgia.
It’s not like these teams recruit bad players. Jones may have been third on the Ohio State depth chart, but he still wound up a fourth-round draft pick and hung around the NFL for parts of 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 too bad either.
Is Tate Rodemaker either of those guys? No one knows, but that’s the point. The committee shouldn’t attempt to quantify what isn’t quantifiable — FSU’s projected strength with a different quarterback.
Consider that 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 semifinal and championship. Who is to say a more balanced offense with starter J.T. Barrett would have been better?
If anything, the committee made a mistake that year by publicly acknowledging they gave Ohio State extra points in a debate with TCU and Baylor because the Buckeyes won the Big Ten title with a backup quarterback.
The theory that winning 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 should have played no role at all. Same as this year.
Florida State will head to the Swamp on Saturday and then the ACC title game after that. The Seminoles will have the chance to play their way into the CFP.
Who the quarterback is or isn’t shouldn’t matter.
This is a team tournament and the Seminoles, perhaps for better or perhaps for worse, will be on the field. Together they’ll show everyone what needs to be shown.