Plenty of blame to go around – but not players, coaches

Georgia Bulldog tight end Oscar Delp tries to vault over FSU defensive back Kevin Knowles II, but gets tackled. The Bulldogs won the Orange Bowl 63-3 over FSU.

Of The Osceola

There’s plenty of blame to go around for how Florida State’s 2023 season ended, with a depleted roster no match whatsoever for a uber-talented and much-more-intact Georgia roster.
Blame the College Football Playoff committee for a historic snub the likes of which we have never seen and will never see again, leaving out an undefeated Power Five champion.
Blame the ESPN personalities who began the narrative of leaving undefeated FSU out of the Playoff in favor of one-loss Alabama BEFORE Jordan Travis got hurt, no matter what they say now.
Blame SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey for leading a gutless public charge that the high-and-mighty SEC couldn’t dare be left out of a single Playoff — even in a year where it was relatively down by its lofty standards — while ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips sat on his hands with one ineffective statement he released after FSU won its 19th straight game to improve to 13-0 this season.
The one group of people I urge everyone not to blame are the FSU players and coaches. Not the players who elected not to play in this game and definitely not the players who played, even if they struggled mightily.
Because this team in its true form did everything in its power and then some to earn a Playoff spot. It won its first 11 games with Travis at quarterback. Then it won at rival Florida with a backup quarterback. Then it won the ACC Championship Game with a third-string, true freshman quarterback.
FSU’s defense allowed one total touchdown over its final 2.75 games as an intact unit after Travis’ injury.
And still, 13 CFP committee members decided that FSU wasn’t good enough, perfect record or not.
“Tonight was a very difficulty night. It’s been a very difficult month, to be honest with you,” an emotional Mike Norvell began his postgame press conference Saturday by saying.
So I don’t blame a single player with any NFL Draft buzz who decided not to play in this game. Because they were all told four weeks ago with a cold splash of water to their faces that their undefeated season, all 13 wins of them, didn’t mean anything.
A number of late additions to FSU’s absent list for the Orange Bowl could have put off their surgeries they were set to have once the offseason began had FSU been in the Playoff. But with how things ended, who can blame them for getting a head-start on their recoveries and what lies ahead?
Sure, they could have all rallied together and decided to try to make a statement by playing in this game. But let’s be honest, even if the entire FSU roster had opted in and the Seminoles managed to knock off the Bulldogs, the national narrative wouldn’t have owned up to the mistake of leaving FSU out.
It would have instead flipped to one of, “Georgia has won the last two national titles. You think that team was remotely motivated to play in a meaningless Orange Bowl?”
But, of course, because these players opted out and the game was ugly as it was, there were more shameful bad-faith arguments proving this Orange Bowl validated FSU’s snub than you could possibly spend time replying to on Twitter.
From his comments after the loss, it would appear Norvell wasn’t especially bothered by the decisions of his players who elected to not play in the Orange Bowl.
“It was hard choices for a lot of the young men that were on our team. We were hurt. When you do the things that our guys did throughout the year, the way that they responded, the way that they fought, the way they pulled together, it hurt when we were not selected. It was the most challenging month I’ve ever had in my coaching career,” Norvell said. “You feel for your players and as you sit there and go through it with them, there were some tough choices that individuals made. Ultimately, I had talked to them about the opportunity. Obviously, there are guys like Kalen (DeLoach) who came out here and gave all that they had through the finish. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the guys who have been on the journey throughout the season and I’m grateful for the guys who were a part of this team and quite a few of them didn’t play tonight. They did so much. I hate that I didn’t get one more game with them. That’s probably the thing that hurts as much as anything.”
While this game got abominably ugly, I’d also strongly urge everyone to not blame any of the players who stuck around. Because it’s believed FSU had 53 scholarship players available for its Orange Bowl matchup, technically below the 55-player threshold that could have warranted the game being canceled due to lack of safety.
Overall, 16 starters/co-starters on FSU’s ACC Championship Game depth chart were not available Saturday. Eight total players were making their first career starts for the Seminoles on Saturday, six on defense and two on offense. And once again, a true freshman was at quarterback.
Against a Georgia team that was never going to make the playoff given how things broke down but certainly appears to be one of the four best teams in the country, that was never going to go well.
Blame the Bulldogs as well, I guess, for bringing a killer mindset to a meaningless game in the grand scheme of things. About the only way this game could have been remotely competitive was if UGA brought a sense of apathy to this game after seeing its 29-game winning streak snapped. Safe to say, the Bulldogs did not do that.
What made Saturday truly tough to watch is that those who did play deserved better. Everyone around the program did. Quite a few players returned for one more season with a “January to January” mantra and did everything in their power to make that a reality.
How the season ended Saturday doesn’t change what the true 2023 version of the FSU football team accomplished. But it does make things much more depressing.
Saturday’s loss will go down as the most lopsided loss in FSU football history. And the most lopsided loss in college football bowl history.
It’s really a shame FSU’s name goes next to those in the record books. Because if you ask me, the College Football Playoff’ committee’s name belongs there for finding out exactly how unmotivated a team can be to play a New Year’s Six bowl game.