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I think I've been selling 1993 Florida State (and the crazy 1993 college football season) short

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I think my memory of the 1993 Florida State team has done the Seminoles a bit of a disservice. I think of the 1990s as a time when Nebraska caught fire from 1994-97, Florida and FSU mauled each other in the same time period, Tennessee peaked, Ohio State surged, etc. And in my head, basically all of that started in 1994 while FSU took the 1993 title in a bit of a weaker year.

(The "Notre Dame potentially got screwed because FSU finished ahead of the Irish after losing to the Irish" narrative probably didn't help that in my head.)

Maybe it was indeed a weaker year. Only one team at or above the 98th percentile, as you see below, is pretty rare. But that doesn't mean FSU wasn't awesome. In terms of Est. S&P+, the Seminoles were, on average, 5.5 points better than anybody else and 7.6 points better than Notre Dame. Yes, they lost in South Bend by a touchdown. Yes, they barely beat (a very good) Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. But Nebraska was No. 3 in Est. S&P+, for starters. And they beat Est. S&P+ No. 2 Florida by 12 in Gainesville. They beat No. 6 Miami by 18, No. 25 North Carolina by 26, No. 33 Virginia by 26, and No. 37 Kansas by 42.

So yeah, Bowden's 'Noles were pretty good that year.

Man oh man, were the mid-1990s dominated by three schools.

1993: 1 FSU, 2 Florida, 3 Nebraska

1994: 2 Florida, 3 FSU, 4 Nebraska

1995: 1 Nebraska, 2 Florida, 3 FSU

1996: 1 Florida, 2 Nebraska, 4 FSU

1997: 1 FSU, 2 Nebraska, 3 Florida

Ohio State indeed rose during this period, Tennessee surged, faded for a second, then surged again. Notre Dame and Miami remained awesome for a while. But it wasn't until 1998 that the ruling class's grip loosened a bit. And even then, you ended up with Tennessee and FSU in the title game.

S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
1 Florida State 12-1 27.9 99.47% 39.5 2 11.6 1
2 Florida 11-2 22.4 97.99% 40.4 1 18.0 21
3 Nebraska 11-1 22.3 97.96% 35.8 7 13.4 5
4 Tennessee 9-2-1 20.9 97.20% 37.9 4 17.1 18
5 Notre Dame 11-1 20.3 96.86% 36.9 5 16.6 17
6 Miami-FL 9-3 18.2 95.26% 30.0 25 11.8 2
7 UCLA 8-4 17.7 94.75% 33.8 11 16.1 13
8 Texas A&M 10-2 17.1 94.12% 32.2 13 15.1 9
9 Oklahoma 9-3 16.3 93.24% 30.8 21 14.5 8
10 Colorado 8-3-1 14.5 90.83% 33.0 12 18.5 26
11 Ohio State 10-1-1 14.5 90.83% 29.9 27 15.4 10
12 Michigan 8-4 14.5 90.83% 28.1 32 13.6 7
13 Wisconsin 10-1-1 14.1 90.12% 29.9 28 15.8 11
14 Auburn 11-0 13.6 89.39% 32.0 16 18.4 24
15 USC 8-5 13.5 89.19% 29.8 29 16.3 15
16 Penn State 10-2 13.1 88.52% 31.7 17 18.6 27
17 West Virginia 11-1 12.3 86.93% 32.0 15 19.7 32
18 Alabama 9-3-1 12.1 86.70% 25.5 46 13.4 4
19 Arizona 10-2 11.9 86.28% 24.8 50 12.9 3
20 Louisville 9-3 11.4 85.21% 30.4 24 19.0 29
21 Virginia Tech 9-3 10.5 83.20% 35.1 9 24.6 54
22 Boston College 9-3 10.0 82.07% 32.1 14 22.0 43
23 Washington 7-4 9.7 81.28% 26.9 38 17.2 19
24 Fresno State 8-4 7.6 75.76% 38.0 3 30.4 83
25 North Carolina 10-3 7.3 74.75% 30.0 26 22.7 45
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
26 Georgia 5-6 6.8 73.48% 31.5 18 24.7 56
27 Kansas State 9-2-1 6.8 73.19% 26.8 40 20.1 33
28 Michigan State 6-6 6.5 72.51% 26.8 39 20.3 34
29 California 9-4 6.4 72.23% 30.7 22 24.3 51
30 Ole Miss 5-6 6.3 71.75% 19.9 74 13.6 6
31 Washington State 5-6 6.2 71.45% 25.6 45 19.4 30
32 Arizona State 6-5 6.0 70.94% 27.1 37 21.1 38
33 Virginia 7-5 5.4 68.99% 24.9 49 19.5 31
34 Indiana 8-4 5.4 68.90% 21.6 63 16.2 14
35 Texas Tech 6-6 5.1 68.01% 34.1 10 29.0 77
36 Oregon 5-6 4.0 64.32% 26.5 43 22.4 44
37 Kansas 5-7 3.7 63.13% 22.2 62 18.5 25
38 Texas 5-5-1 3.6 62.77% 26.8 41 23.2 47
39 BYU 6-6 2.9 60.39% 36.9 6 34.0 100
40 Memphis 6-5 2.8 60.09% 23.3 58 20.5 35
41 Bowling Green 6-3-2 2.7 59.93% 21.3 66 18.6 28
42 Kentucky 6-6 2.4 58.65% 19.0 77 16.6 16
43 Arkansas 5-5-1 2.0 57.32% 17.8 88 15.8 12
44 San Diego State 6-6 1.8 56.66% 35.4 8 33.5 98
45 Oregon State 4-7 1.4 55.06% 24.2 53 22.8 46
46 Cincinnati 8-3 1.3 54.77% 23.0 60 21.7 40
47 LSU 5-6 1.3 54.58% 23.2 59 22.0 42
48 Syracuse 6-4-1 1.2 54.23% 26.5 42 25.3 59
49 Illinois 5-6 1.1 54.06% 19.3 76 18.2 22
50 Stanford 4-7 1.0 53.51% 31.5 20 30.5 85
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
51 New Mexico 6-5 0.9 53.14% 27.4 35 26.6 69
52 Mississippi State 3-6-2 0.3 51.09% 22.2 61 21.9 41
53 Wyoming 8-4 0.3 51.06% 27.4 36 27.1 71
54 South Carolina 4-7 -0.1 49.76% 18.1 83 18.2 23
55 NC State 7-5 -0.5 48.27% 25.4 47 25.9 63
56 Utah 7-6 -0.6 47.66% 30.7 23 31.3 86
57 Missouri 3-7-1 -1.7 43.72% 23.5 56 25.2 58
58 Clemson 9-3 -1.8 43.45% 15.5 95 17.3 20
59 Ball State 8-3-1 -2.8 39.76% 20.9 69 23.7 48
60 Vanderbilt 4-7 -3.1 38.94% 17.8 89 20.9 37
61 Purdue 1-10 -3.1 38.93% 23.3 57 26.4 66
62 Western Michigan 7-3-1 -3.2 38.57% 18.0 86 21.2 39
63 Georgia Tech 5-6 -3.5 37.52% 23.6 55 27.1 70
64 Colorado State 5-6 -3.6 37.10% 20.8 70 24.4 52
65 Utah State 7-5 -3.7 36.58% 28.1 33 31.8 89
66 Nevada 7-4 -3.8 36.48% 31.5 19 35.3 103
67 Iowa State 3-8 -4.2 35.08% 24.1 54 28.3 75
68 Rutgers 4-7 -4.6 33.68% 28.4 31 33.0 94
69 Baylor 5-6 -4.8 33.00% 24.7 51 29.5 80
70 Rice 6-5 -5.2 31.83% 25.0 48 30.2 82
71 Central Michigan 5-6 -5.2 31.74% 21.0 67 26.2 64
72 Minnesota 4-7 -5.5 30.66% 25.8 44 31.3 87
73 Oklahoma State 3-8 -5.6 30.55% 15.0 96 20.6 36
74 Northwestern 2-9 -5.7 30.02% 20.8 71 26.5 67
75 UL-Lafayette 8-3 -5.9 29.57% 18.7 79 24.5 53
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
76 Hawaii 6-6 -5.9 29.53% 29.1 30 34.9 101
77 Iowa 6-6 -6.4 27.88% 17.9 87 24.3 49
78 Tulsa 4-6-1 -6.5 27.68% 20.8 72 27.2 73
79 Toledo 4-7 -7.0 26.21% 18.7 78 25.7 61
80 Pittsburgh 3-8 -7.1 25.76% 21.0 68 28.1 74
81 San Jose State 2-9 -7.7 24.15% 24.4 52 32.0 90
82 Duke 3-8 -8.4 22.16% 21.4 65 29.8 81
83 SMU 2-7-2 -9.2 19.99% 17.3 91 26.5 68
84 Southern Miss 2-8-1 -10.0 18.09% 17.2 92 27.1 72
85 Miami-OH 4-7 -10.1 17.84% 14.6 97 24.7 55
86 TCU 4-7 -10.2 17.53% 18.3 82 28.4 76
87 Maryland 2-9 -10.4 17.05% 27.8 34 38.2 105
88 Akron 5-6 -10.5 16.78% 14.4 98 24.9 57
89 Air Force 4-8 -11.9 13.85% 17.5 90 29.3 78
90 Pacific 3-8 -12.0 13.65% 14.4 99 26.3 65
91 UNLV 3-8 -13.4 11.04% 21.6 64 34.9 102
92 Wake Forest 2-9 -13.4 11.00% 18.0 84 31.4 88
93 Eastern Michigan 4-7 -13.5 10.78% 10.8 105 24.3 50
94 Ohio 4-7 -13.5 10.76% 12.1 104 25.6 60
95 New Mexico State 5-6 -13.8 10.34% 19.6 75 33.3 95
96 Houston 1-9-1 -14.4 9.33% 18.4 81 32.8 93
97 Army 6-5 -15.0 8.42% 18.4 80 33.5 97
98 UTEP 1-11 -15.3 7.98% 20.3 73 35.6 104
99 Navy 4-7 -15.8 7.35% 16.2 94 32.1 92
100 East Carolina 2-9 -16.4 6.65% 14.1 100 30.5 84
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
101 Louisiana Tech 2-9 -16.9 6.11% 12.6 103 29.4 79
102 Northern Illinois 4-7 -17.3 5.62% 16.4 93 33.7 99
103 Arkansas State 2-8-1 -17.4 5.51% 8.4 106 25.9 62
104 Tulane 3-9 -18.8 4.26% 13.3 101 32.0 91
105 Kent 0-11 -20.8 2.84% 12.6 102 33.4 96
106 Temple 1-10 -22.5 1.95% 18.0 85 40.5 106

A hot mess

Okay, so FSU, Florida, and Nebraska were the best teams again, and Notre Dame had just the one loss (famously to Boston College) ... a hypothetical Playoff would have been pretty easy this year, right? Not so much! This year was a mess! Here's the AP poll at the end of the regular season (record and end-of-regular-season Est. S&P+ ranking in parentheses):

1. Florida State (11-1, first)
2. Nebraska (11-0, fifth)
3. West Virginia (11-0, 11th)
4. Notre Dame (10-1, sixth)
5. Auburn (11-0, 16th, ineligible for postseason)
6. Tennessee (9-1-1, second)
7. Texas A&M (10-1, eighth)
8. Florida (10-2, fourth)
9. Wisconsin (9-1-1, 14th)
10. Miami (9-2, third)
11. Ohio State (9-1-1, ninth)

To summarize: There were three undefeated teams, and none of them were ranked first in the AP poll (or in the Est. S&P+ top four). Meanwhile, there were SIX one-loss teams, and two-loss teams ranked third and fourth in Est. S&P+. That is bonkers. This season was a perfect illustration of the fact that, quite simply, sometimes the best teams lose and less-than-great teams don't.

So who would have gotten into a four-team CFP? The two undefeated (and eligible) teams, NU and WVU, for sure. FSU almost certainly. And since Notre Dame a) is Notre Dame and b) had beaten FSU, I assume the Irish get in. But ... ohhhhh, the arguing that would have taken place on Twitter.

So you get something like...

1 FSU vs. 4 ND (REMATCH!)

2 NU vs. 3 WVU

And presumably you end up with FSU and Nebraska again playing for the national title, just as they did in the Orange Bowl.

Meanwhile, an awesome Florida team whomps someone besides WVU in a big bowl instead.

Other thoughts

  • Seriously, what a mess. UCLA was awesome but lost by a combined 14 points to California, Nebraska, Arizona State, and Wisconsin (while beating five teams that were ranked in the AP poll at the time). Preseason No. 2 Alabama finished 18th with three losses, preseason No. 3 Michigan finished 12th with four, and preseason No. 6 Syracuse finished 48th and 6-4-1. Up was down, left was right ... and FSU was still awesome amid the chaos.
  • With a messy year, you were guaranteed to have a sub-.500 team ending up pretty high. None made the Est. S&P+ top 25, but 5-6 Georgia was 26th, 6-6 Michigan State was 28th, 5-6 Ole Miss was 30th, and 5-6 Washington State was 31st. There was magnificent parity this year.
  • A top-25 Boston College team powered by ... offense? Does not compute.
  • I love overtimes, and I don't REALLY miss ties ... but I did enjoy when teams finished with records like 6-3-2 or 2-7-2.
  • Gary Barnett taking Northwestern to Pasadena in 1995 was amazing, but Barry Alvarez winning the Rose Bowl with Wisconsin was almost as impressive. The Badgers went from 1-10 and 86th in 1990, to 5-6 and 87th in 1991, to 5-6 and 48th in 1992, to 10-1-1 and 13th here.

Next up: 1992, in which only two of Florida, Florida State, and Nebraska finished in the top four!