After a dominating 41-14 victory over rival and seventh-ranked Miami on Saturday night, Florida State has leapfrogged Oregon for the #2 spot in the BCS standings. Florida State is 8-0 for the first time since 1999 and trails only Alabama in the latest poll.
Conventional wisdom however suggests that the remaining schedule for both Oregon and Alabama is much tougher than that of Florida State and should all three schools win out, the Seminoles will likely be left out of the national title game. As of now however, Florida State may have the strongest body of work in the country.
Florida State currently joins a two-loss South Carolina team as the only schools in the country to hand two opponents its only loss. While the Gamecocks topped UCF and Missouri, Florida State has wins over Clemson and Miami by a combined 92-28 margin. Florida State’s wins over Clemson and Miami were against top 10 squads while Oregon and Alabama have combined to beat just one top 10 team.
Overall, Florida State has more wins over ranked opponents than anyone else in the top 10. Obviously that could change this week with Oregon visiting Stanford and Alabama hosting LSU, but the Seminoles’ three wins over ranked teams have been by an average of more than 42 points-per-game. Florida State’s 63-0 win over Maryland on October 5th no longer is as spectacular, but at the time, Maryland was 4-0 and coming off of a 37-0 shutout of a West Virginia team that had just upset Oklahoma State.
Exclude the Maryland game in which Florida State tied a school-record with a 63-point victory over a ranked team and the Seminoles were still more impressive in their victories over ranked teams than either Alabama or Oregon in those schools’ victories over their ranked opponents.
Florida State led Clemson 27-7 at halftime, 41-7 after three quarters and held a 51-7 lead at one point in the fourth quarter. Against Miami, the Seminoles never trailed and outscored the Hurricanes 20-0 in the second half for a 41-14 victory.
While Alabama’s 25-0 shutout of Ole Miss was impressive, the Crimson Tide allowed 42 points and 628 yards to Texas A&M and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Alabama also had to overcome an early 14-0 deficit to win, 49-42 in College Station.
Oregon has not had to grind one out in the final minutes of any contest, but the Ducks’ two victories over ranked opponents were not as impressive as Florida State’s. While Oregon’s 42-14 win over UCLA was a 28-point victory and Florida State’s 41-14 win over Miami was a 27-point win, the final score was not indicative of the domination.
The Ducks did not gain the lead for good against the Bruins until the final three minutes of the third quarter and the game was tied 14-14 at the break. In Oregon’s other win over a ranked opponent, a 45-24 victory at Washington, the Ducks led by just a touchdown, 31-24 after three quarters. No team this season has been within a touchdown of Florida State in the final 15 minutes.
Looking at the three teams’ worst performance, it is tough to who was least impressive on their worst day. Florida State did have to rally from a 17-3 deficit to win at Boston College 48-34 in September while Oregon allowed 38 points and 559 yards to Washington State at home on October 19th. It is worth noting that Boston College was blown out 35-7 at USC, a place where Washington State won, but to this point in the season, the Seminoles remain the only visitor to win at Chestnut Hill.
Alabama’s worst performance probably came at home against Colorado State. The Crimson Tide won 31-6, but were up just 17-6 after three quarters. Since then however, the Crimson Tide have been spectacular allowing just a grand total of 20 points in their last five games.
The biggest argument that many will make against the Seminoles is that they play in the ACC while the SEC and Pac-12 are certainly regarded as the nation’s top two conferences. With that said, Florida State has made the most of its few opportunities to make major statements pounding Maryland and Miami at home while scoring the most points ever for a visiting team at Clemson.
If teams were to meet on neutral fields today, Clemson would likely be favored over UCLA, Ole Miss and Washington, but probably not Texas A&M. It is also worth noting that the Huskies followed up their loss to Oregon with an even worse loss, 53-24, at Arizona State.
If the top three teams all win out, the national title game will likely feature Alabama and Oregon. The good news for Florida State however, is that its road ahead appears the easiest. The regular season for the Seminoles will not include a game against a team currently with a winning record although winning against rival Florida in Gainesville should not be counted as a “gimme”.
Alabama on the other hand, has two games remaining against teams in the AP top 10 with LSU on Saturday and at Auburn in the regular season finale. Like the Seminoles and Ducks, the Crimson Tide could face a ranked opponent in their conference championship.
Oregon will face perhaps its toughest challenge on Thursday at Stanford before closing the regular season with games at Arizona and against Oregon State, both good teams though neither is ranked. Should the Ducks run that slate, they will likely face Arizona State or UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship.
While five weeks is an eternity in college football, Florida State has to like the position its in. The Seminoles have made three major statements and their remaining schedule is much easier than either Alabama’s or Oregon’s although that could hurt Florida State in the long run. More good news is that it doesn’t appear that other unbeatens like Ohio State or Baylor will be able to come from behind to catch the Seminoles. With still five weeks left however, anything can happen and Florida State would be best served by simply continuing to dominate its opponents.