Florida State made things as difficult as possible on the College Football Playoff selection committee, using a dominant defensive performance to beat No. 14 Louisville 16-6 on Saturday night for the fourth-ranked Seminoles’ first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 2014.
The Seminoles moved to 13-0, but even that doesn’t guarantee a spot in the four-team playoff after Alabama knocked off No. 1 Georgia for the Southeastern Conference championship and Texas, which beat Alabama this season, won the Big 12 title.
No Power 5 team has ever gone unbeaten, won its conference title and failed to make the playoff.
Seminoles fans held up signs reading “Win and we’re in!” But Florida State’s offensive performance created some doubt about whether it’s one of the four best teams in the country.
Lawrance Toafili ran for 118 yards and a touchdown for the Seminoles, who stuck to a conservative game plan with third-string quarterback Brock Glenn behind center. Glenn finished 8-of-21 for 55 yards.
Starting QB and Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Travis is out for the season with a leg injury. Tate Rodemaker, Travis’ backup, was sidelined with a concussion.
The difference for the Seminoles was their defense, which had a season-high seven sacks and a critical interception that kept Louisville out of the end zone.
Trailing 10-6 in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals (10-3) had a chance to take the lead after they tackled Seminoles punter Alex Mastromanno before he could get the kick away.
Louisville took over at the Seminoles 11, but three plays later, Tatum Bethune picked off Jack Plummer’s pass in the end zone.
After a 33-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald put Florida State ahead 13-6 with 3:11 left, the Cardinals had one more shot.
But Braden Fiske sacked Plummer on a fourth down, giving the Seminoles the ball at the Louisville 20 with 2:35 remaining. Fitzgerald made it a two-possession game with his third field goal of the game from 40 yards.
Plummer finished 14-of-36 for 111 yards.
The game was tied 3-3 in the third quarter when the Seminoles finally took the ball out of Glenn’s hands, going to the wildcat formation with Toafili in the backfield. Toafili received the direct snap from center and raced around right end for a 73-yard gain and then scored from 2 yards out on the next play, from the same formation.
Toafili was named MVP of the game.
Rodemaker went through pregame warmups for the Seminoles and even put on his game jersey, making it look as though he might play. But just before kickoff, he removed his pads, signaling that Glenn would be FSU’s QB.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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