For weeks, the College Football Playoff picture felt set.
The Michigan/Ohio State winner, Georgia/Alabama winner, Oregon/Washington winner and Florida State. It was hard to see any surprises, as the favorites kept on winning, and in most cases, were doing so decisively.
Saturday that changed. Saturday, a major injury has created uncertainty with the final team.
After Heisman Trophy contending-quarterback Jordan Travis suffered what looked to be a devastating leg injury in Florida State’s beatdown of North Alabama, the Seminoles are now a mystery. They are far from a given to finish undefeated, having to play at rival Florida next Saturday in Gainesville and surprising Louisville in the ACC championship game the week after that. And even if they do survive those contests, it will be interesting to see how the playoff committee ranks them.
This isn’t the same team without Travis. Not even close. His injury adds major intrigue. Travis’ backup, Tate Rodemaker, did throw for 217 yards and two touchdown passes on Saturday, but that was against North Alabama. Rodemaker is a junior who has hardly played throughout his career. Now he has the keys, and how he performs the next two weeks, granted undefeated Florida State can win both games, will determine his team’s fate.
Travis was carted off the field with an air cast on his left leg after getting hurt on a run in the first quarter. His leg bent at an awkward angle underneath him. There have yet to be any details released about the extent of the injury, but it’s hard to envision him returning this season. Just a brutal blow for a player having a fantastic senior year and a team that was absolutely a championship contender after nearly a decade of irrelevance.
Football can be a cruel sport.
There are a number of possibilities the Travis injury could wind up creating. The three big games left – Michigan-Ohio State on Saturday, Georgia-Alabama and Oregon-Washington the weekend after – may not be elimination games after all. Particularly if those contests are competitive and close. It’s easy to see the committee taking a one-loss Georgia or one-loss Michigan or Ohio State now. One-loss Texas shouldn’t be counted out either if it wins out, since it has that big road win at Alabama from early September.
Travis’ injury changed so much. It changed Florida State’s season and changed the playoff picture in a way nobody could’ve expected at the start of the day on Saturday. There is now drama with the College Football Playoff and just a few weeks left in the regular season.
Michigan doesn’t seem ready for Ohio State. It followed up that unimpressive win over Penn State with an even less impressive performance against Maryland, a 31-24 victory that didn’t exactly scream out title contender.
Look, I think Michigan misses Jim Harbaugh on game days. Arguing otherwise is silly. He’s the program’s leader. But, let’s also point out, this team played nothing but cupcakes until the last two weeks. Its first nine opponents have a cumulative 43-53 record. The best team was Rutgers. That doesn’t seem to have helped them.
It won’t matter if the Wolverines knock off Ohio State this week, and they are a 5.5-point favorite. But the Buckeyes, having played a far tougher schedule, seem to be surging and ready for the annual blood war otherwise known as The Game. Michigan may be reeling at the wrong time.
Jayden Daniels may have emerged as the Heisman Trophy front-runner in recent weeks, but Saturday was a step back in my mind. It was unnecessary and it was a classless decision by LSU coach Brian Kelly to keep him out there for the entire game of a 56-14 whipping of outclassed Georgia State.
You don’t win the Heisman by scoring a few extra touchdowns against a lower-tier opponent. Daniels wound up reaching the end zone a whopping eight times (six passing, two running) and piling up 509 yards of offense in the one-sided blowout. It was 35-14 at halftime and 42-14 after three quarters. There was no reason for Kelly to keep Daniels in the game. LSU is out of the race for the playoff, so the Tigers weren’t playing for style points.
I fail to see what was gained here by LSU and Kelly, other than trying to impress Heisman voters by running up the score and stat-padding. It was needless.
First appeared on nypost.com