Florida State was on the receiving end of one of the season’s most lopsided losses for a power conference team in the early going of the 2016 season, courtesy of Louisville and Lamar Jackson. While the Seminoles took a setback in their first ACC game of the season, there is still just over three-quarters of the season left to play and there is still hope for the folks in Tallahassee to play for an ACC title. Writing off a team after just one week in September is never wise, of course, although a loss to Louisville poses as a tricky hurdle for Florida State. Florida State still has a chance to bounce back and make a run in the ACC, although they will clearly need some help from an unlikely ally; Clemson. And Houston?
In order for Florida State to play for an ACC title, the Seminoles very likely have to win their seven remaining ACC conference games. That would include a home win against Deshaun Watson and Clemson in November. Florida State loses a head-to-head tiebreaker with Louisville fo course, so the Seminoles need the Cardinals to lose twice to jump ahead of them in the ACC Atlantic Division. Louisville plays at Clemson in two weeks, so FSU fans will be rooting for the Tigers. But who else in the ACC is going to give Louisville a run? Take a look at Louisville’s ACC schedule and tell me how confident you are the Cardinals get tripped up, outside of Clemson;
- Oct. 1 at Clemson
- Oct. 14 vs. Duke
- Oct. 22 vs. NC State
- Oct. 29 @ Virginia
- Nov. 5 @ Boston College
- Nov. 12 vs. Wake Forest
The Clemson game may be a toss-up, but that is one favorable ACC schedule the rest of the way for the Cardinals. If Louisville wins at Clemson, they might as well book their rooms for wherever the ACC places its conference championship game right after the game, because that division will belong to them. But what if Clemson beats Louisville and Florida State beats Clemson and all three win their remaining ACC contests? What happens then? That may depend on what happens in the Louisville-Houston game and perhaps the Florida State-Florida game.
Sorting through the ACC’s division tiebreaker procedures, the ACC could feasibly have to go down the list until it gets to the tiebreaker that relies on the College Football Playoff rankings (a silly tiebreaker, but whatever). Here is the seventh tiebreaker, which is the one that could benefit FSU at the end of the year if it gets the help it needs;
The tied team with the highest ranking in the full [College Football Playoff] Standings following the conclusion of regular season games, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the two-team tiebreaking procedure shall be applied between the top two ranked tied teams.
How could this benefit Florida State? First, Florida State needs to win out the rest of the way, which would include a win over Clemson and a win over a potentially well-respected Florida (SEC East Division leader?) Assuming that happens, it would be expected Florida State would claw their way back up whatever ranking system you prefer to use. 11-1 Florida State would likely grab a spot in the top 10, even with a blowout loss at Louisville. Meanwhile, Clemson’s late-season loss at Florida State could be enough to drop the Tigers behind the Noles, but FSU may still be trying to catch Louisville, because a hypothetical loss at Clemson may not drop the Cardinals far enough down for FSU to catch-up for a while. Enter the Houston Cougars.
Louisville travels to Houston on November 17 for a game that already has college football fans getting excited. The way these two are playing, we could have a very significant showdown in order. Forget about what the game could potentially mean for the larger picture. If Louisville stumbles at Houston, the question of how far they could drop comes into play. With FSU theoretically on the rise in November, would a road loss to Houston be enough to allow FSU a chance to skip past the Cardinals? IT’s not entirely out of the question.
It still looks to be a pretty steep mountain for Florida State to climb, but the season is never defined solely by what happens in the first three weeks of a season. If it were, Ohio State would not have won a national championship two seasons ago and Texas A&M would have a couple more Heisman Trophy winners since Johnny Manziel. For Florida State, the Seminoles can only focus on what is in front of them now and see where things fall later on. The margin for error is thin for the Seminoles, but the door to an ACC title has not been slammed shut just yet.
Unless Louisville beats Clemson. Then the door will be padlocked for good in 2016.