No. 4 FSU’s playoff fate in hands of backup QB vs. No. 14 Louisville

Field Level Media

December 01, 2023 at 8:47 pm.

After one week spent outside the projected field of four, Florida State moved back to No. 4 in Tuesday’s latest College Football Playoff rankings.

That should mean the Seminoles (12-0) control their own destiny when a backup quarterback leads them against No. 14 Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game on Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.

When Washington supplanted Florida State for the No. 4 spot a week ago, Seminoles coach Mike Norvell wasn’t fazed, saying he had “not talked to (the players) about rankings at any point.”

Now, by virtue of Michigan’s win over Ohio State that knocked the Buckeyes down to No. 6, the Seminoles are back in the fourth spot with only the ACC title game left to conquer. But that might be easier said than done.

Florida State’s situation is precarious after star quarterback Jordan Travis suffered a brutal lower leg injury against North Alabama on Nov. 18. Backup Tate Rodemaker went just 12-for-25 for 134 yards last week while Trey Benson provided 95 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Seminoles’ 24-15 road win over rival Florida.

“It was a loud, challenging atmosphere, but one of the things that I was most proud of him with was that he owned the football,” Norvell said of Rodemaker. “He didn’t have any turnovers. We did have some tough plays and he was put in some tough situations when it comes to field position, and even some of the down and distance things that showed up, he was great with the ball.”

But it might not be Rodemaker leading the offense. ESPN reported Friday that Rodemaker will be a game-day decision for the Seminoles because of an unspecified injury. He took a hard hit in the Florida game and did not have a full week or practice.

If Rodemaker can’t go, freshman Brock Glenn is expected to play as the Seminoles remember their leader, Travis.

Florida State defensive end Jared Verse said the team is embracing a new motto: “Finish for 13,” a reference to Travis’ jersey number.

“The whole season, 11 games, he was there every step of the way,” Verse said. “… He’s still there. It means so much for us to go out there and put on (a show) for him.”

Florida State is vying for its first ACC championship since 2014.

“You get to a championship week, man, it’s still about the improvement, it’s still about the growth, it’s still about the fundamentals,” Norvell said.

On defense, Verse had 2.5 sacks against the Gators and is tied with Kalen DeLoach for the team lead with seven apiece. Florida State has allowed just 16.8 points per game this season.

The Cardinals (10-2) are not far behind at 20 points per game, but that number was dented by rival Kentucky in last week’s 38-31 loss that snapped Louisville’s four-game winning streak and knocked it down four ranking spots.

The Orange Bowl would be Louisville’s most likely destination if it wins its first conference championship since the 2012 Big East title. With two losses, there’s no room for the Cardinals in the playoff conversation with one-loss Oregon, Texas and Alabama all getting a shot at conference championships of their own.

Still, coach Jeff Brohm’s first year on the job has been a massive success. Louisville defeated Notre Dame, shut out then-No. 20 Duke and beat Miami on the road to close out a 7-1 ACC slate.

“We’re now in the national spotlight against an undefeated opponent that has a great chance of making the playoff,” Brohm said. “For us, we’ve got to prove our value. We’ve got to go out there and make this a competitive game.”

Jack Plummer guides the offense with 2,952 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. Jawhar Jordan is the ACC’s second-leading rusher in yardage (1,076) and has scored 13 touchdowns.

Florida State and Louisville did not meet in the regular season. The Seminoles won 35-31 at Louisville last year and lead the all-time series 17-6.

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