Nole Contendre

And you thought the reality TV seasons were winding down?

Au contraire.  Because yesterday, ESPN, via its stooges known as the college football selection committee, announced its casting for what will thankfully be the final four-team College Football playoff.

Michigan–and don’t anyone out there even THINK of putting an asterisk anywhere NEAR their name–is number one.  They not only won the Big Ten, they made bettors happy by holding Iowa scoreless and keeping the game total below the over/under.  Washington dealt arch-rival Oregon a second heartbreaking three-point loss in the last-ever game played under the banner of the Big 12.  Both are 13-0.

There are currently two other unbeaten teams in the FBS rankings, and somehow, neither one will be including the Final Four.  Liberty, although winning Conference USA in their debut season and just their sixth at this level, isn’t complaining (indeed, they’ll get a much-deserved shot at the big time with a New Year’s Day afternoon challenge against those Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl).

Florida State?  Well, they’re more than a little miffed.   Because, honestly, they’re just not a big enough deal for who really calls the shots.

UPI’s Mark Moran did his best to spin the supposedly neutral Selection Committee’s decision yesterday:

Alabama, Michigan, Texas and Washington will vie for college football’s national championship, leaving an undefeated team, Florida State, out of the title game for first time in the modern era.

Texas and Alabama both had one loss on the season, but Florida State went 13-0, including beating two teams in the SEC, considered the toughest conference in college football.  The Seminoles finished fifth in the polls despite going 13-0 and winning an ACC championship Saturday night, relying on their third string quarterback and a defense that recorded 13 sacks and held its opponents to zero or negative yards in the fourth quarter over the last two games. Starting QB Jordan Travis broke his leg earlier in the season and the second string quarterback Tate Rodemaker was out with a concussion.

The CFP selection committee said Alabama was chosen over FSU for the final spot largely because of Travis’ injury and the fact that Alabama finished the season with a win over top-ranked Georgia.

But Florida State’s leadership wasn’t buying one whit of that horsesh-t.  Per Moran:

“Leaving Florida State out of the CFP (College Football Playoff) is shocking and shows that selection is based on potential and not performance and that the system is broken,” FSU president Richard McCullough wrote in a social media post.

And FSU head coach Mike Norvell X-eeded more in detail and with more emotion:

And as THE SPUN’s Andrew Halloran added, Norvell was joined by an awful lot of equally frustrated and angered fans, not all of which were members of Noles Nation:

ESPN, meanwhile, is taking heat for showing extreme “bias” in the eyes of many. Most of the college football world believes they are too much in favor of the SEC.

“I swear this is worse than Fox News,” one college football reporter tweeted in response to a tweet from ESPN’s Peter Burns.

The SEC, of course, poached Oklahoma and Texas from the SEC. In response, “The Alliance” was formed, which voted in rejection of an expanded College Football Playoff for 2024.

ESPN has been criticized by many on Sunday.

“It’s hilarious how hard the bias comes through with these ESPN dudes. Booger played at LSU, hates Bama and is beside himself that FSU didn’t get in. Joey knows that Bama has a better chance than FSU to beat #Michigan, loves it. McElroy almost can’t contain himself,” one fan wrote.

College football has gladly taken the money that ESPN, FOX and, to a lesser extent, CBS and NBC have ponied up for the rights to these games.  And ESPN in particular has made a cottage industry out of bowl games, as witnessed by the creative scheduling they have employed for the 42 games that will be played in 23 days starting a week from Saturday, most of which to be airing on their networks.

It’s one thing to have teams from the New York and South Florida markets square off in other meaningless games being played in Boca Raton and Yankee Stadium.  Or a mediocre Boston College team play in Fenway Park.  Or even Liberty, a school founded in part by Jerry Falwell, get its first truly top-tier test against a school as from liberal a location at Eugene, Oregon.  Those are storylines right out of central casting, and arguably needed to drive any interest beyond those of degenerate gamblers and rabid alumni for this exhibitions.

But to apply the same sort of rationale to the empty argument that ESPN’s Chris Fowler struggled to offer last night on SPORTSCENTER WITH SCOTT VAN PELT?  Fowler’s contention was something to the effect  “the Committee is charged with finding the four BEST teams–teams a competing coach would want to avoid playing.  What defines best is sometimes arbitrary”.

Imagine if the NFL felt that way?  The Atlanta Falcons are currently on pace for a home field NFC playoff game despite having a record three games below that of the Dallas Cowboys, currently the top wild card team, and exactly the same as both the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks, currently on the outside looking in based on tiebreakers.

Imagine if the NBA felt that way?  You think they might not have wanted larger markets or more marketable players than the eight that advanced to this week’s quarterfinals?  There’s no Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves, despite the fact that they finished with the same record as the lowest qualifying Western Conference team.  There’s no Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference, who were also at 3-1 with the same record as the wild card winning Knicks, nor are the defending conference champion Miami Heat or the league’s current second-best team, the Philadelphia 76ers, competing, because they both committed the indignity of going 2-2 in the four games with the weird-colored court.

Heck, even the Associated Press disagrees:

College Football Playoff Rankings
1 13-0
2 13-0
3 12-1
4 12-1
5 13-0
AP Top 25
1 13-0 1539
2 13-0 1499
3 12-1 1375
4 13-0 1358
5 12-1 1329

But ESPN is paying hundreds of millions of dollars for exclusive rights to the SEC beginning this fall.   Alabama just won the conference championship (admittedly, against the previous number one team in the country). Texas will be joining the conference.

And as Holleran noted in one additional Noles fan’s X-eet:

Wowww ESPN just showed a SEC Football promo commmericial before coming back to air and releasing the ranking …They don’t even care about being non bias man.

And, reportedly, ESPN was spooked about the possibility of a repeat performance from what they perceive as an undeserving team like TCU, which was blown out by Georgia to the tune of 65-7 in this past January’s championship game, one that resulted in a 24-year viewership low for the event and a year/year erosion of nearly 25 per cent.  17.2 million viewers just isn’t enough for some networks these days–although off the top of my head I can’t think of too many that have ever seen anything close to it in the last decade or so.

So I suppose the reports that the Committee’s hands were tied by an edict from someone in Bristol who said “No f–king way you’re not including the SEC champion” might just be true.  And since that team was indeed beaten by another Power 5 conference champion, and since the sunsetting Power 5 conference champion just happened to finish undefeated with the second most convincing and surprising win of the weekend, well, someone had to the tomahawk.

So Norvell will just have to shut up and deal.

Besides, look at the consolation prize he’s getting.  An Orange Bowl berth against yet another SEC team, those very same Georgia Bulldogs that were as undefeated as Florida State was heading into December.  In the next-best window before the Final Four.  On ESPN.

I suppose if there is some solace to be taken from this there are worse places to wind up that in Miami Gardens on New Year’s Eve weekend with a shot at what had been the best team in the country for three months.  I have a hunch the team and its statewide fan base will be highly motivated and likely quite inebriated.  And many more will watch on TV.

But a little advice to Noles Nation supporters seeking some sort of justice:  Do your best to watch on a device or at a bar or at someone else’s house.  You won’t count in Nielsen ratings if you do that.  And why should ESPN squeeze any more out of you than they are already have out of The Selection Committee?


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