There has to be a hole deep enough that not even Florida State can climb out of it. Even the Seminoles seem to want to see how close they can get. It wasn’t overtime against Clemson. It wasn’t a 24-7 deficit at NC State. It wasn’t the pick play against Notre Dame. It wasn’t 21-0 at Louisville on a Thursday night.
And it wasn’t going to happen on Saturday night in Miami, as Florida State rallied from a 23-7 first-quarter hole to stay undefeated and keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive. There is a scene in the seventh Halloween movie (H20) in which Michael Myers is loaded into a van in a bodybag, seemingly done for good. He has survived six-plus movies, including being thrown over railings and hit with a variety of objects, and this has to be it. He can’t come back again. But he gets out of the bodybag to terrorize Jamie Lee Curtis for a bit longer.
Eventually she wins out. But the resiliency from one of the horror genre’s best villains is astounding.
After the Seminoles went up 30-26 on a Dalvin Cook 26-yard run with 3:05 to play, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit called Florida State the playoff’s “Darth Vader.”
Vader was eventually beaten. This year's ‘Noles, so far at least, have not been.
1. Florida State’s path to the playoff is clear
It’s simple at this point: Just keep winning. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be dominant. There are reasonable arguments for why the Seminoles don’t deserve to be No. 1, or even No. 2, but the selection committee can’t keep them out of the playoff if they’re the only Power Five unbeaten.
There's a sense Florida State and its vocal fan base are daring the committee to keep them out. Sure, Clemson lost this weekend. So did Notre Dame. Yet the 'Noles like being doubted. They take each slight -- real or perceived -- to be an affront to their march to a repeat championship.
But if Florida State is undefeated with an ACC title, it will finish in the top four. It just has to get there in one piece.
2. The SEC could still get two teams in -- or none
Mississippi State’s loss to Alabama on Saturday hurt. The fact that LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M all lost hurt, too. The No. 1 team entering this weekend might have enough to stay in the top four now, but with a poor nonconference slate (Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin) there’s a chance the Bulldogs could be excluded, even if they win out, when the final field is unveiled.
It all really depends on the other teams around Mississippi State in the rankings, and coach Dan Mullen's squad will have to scoreboard watch for the first time since vaulting to the top of the polls earlier this fall. Still, if the Bulldogs have just one loss and win the Egg Bowl, they will be hard to keep out of the playoff given their body of work to this point.
Alabama, meanwhile, is in great shape. The Crimson Tide may be No. 1 when the newest rankings are released on Tuesday. But the road ahead is challenging: The Iron Bowl will not be easy and a matchup with Missouri or Georgia looms in the SEC Championship Game if Alabama does win the West.
There’s a lot left to sort through, and we’re no closer to knowing which team will emerge from the SEC now than we were on Oct. 4, when Alabama lost at Ole Miss. We do know the Tide will be a factor, though, just like always.
3. The Big 12 race may have tightened up
TCU’s close scrape in a 34-30 win over Kansas opens the door for Baylor to possibly slide into the top four in the Horned Frogs’ stead. Baylor beat TCU 61-58 on Oct. 11, and the Bears sure timed their bye week well.
That said, there are a few tricky contests left for both teams. Texas is suddenly a factor, and TCU’s game against the Longhorns on Thanksgiving doesn’t look as easy as it did a month ago. As for Baylor, it still has to play Kansas State, and Bill Snyder’s team would be a perfect spoiler in the final week of the season.
If at least one of the two makes it out of conference play with one loss, the Big 12 will likely be represented in the playoff -- unless the committee decides to go off the script it has written to this point.