Coming into the 2014 season the Florida State Seminoles were on top of the world. Defending National Champions, and the unanimous preseason No. 1 team in the country. As the season went on the Seminoles continued to win, but the perception of the team fell.
After dominating their 2013 schedule many expected the Seminoles to walk right through the 2014 schedule. Florida State won 7 of their 13 games by less than a touchdown and trailed in 9. What they didn’t do was lose any of those games. Despite being down over two touchdowns to NC State, Miami, and Louisville, Florida State was able to rally and win every game this season.
In the past that would have awarded the Seminoles the No. 1 ranking in the country. This year, however, a new era was dawning. The era of the College Football Playoff. An era where winning mattered less than having a quality loss.
For most of the season Florida State was one of two teams left undefeated with Mississippi State. The selection committee had the Bulldogs at No. 1 and Florida State at No. 2. At the beginning of November, with the Seminoles on a bye, one-loss Oregon jumped Florida State with a win over Utah.
Midway through November Mississippi State lost to No. 5 Alabama and the one-loss Crimson Tide jumped ahead of the Seminoles and the Ducks to claim the No. 1 spot. This put two one-loss teams ahead of the undefeated Seminoles. The Selection Committee would move another one-loss team ahead of the Seminoles, Baylor, but moved Florida State back to No. 3 in the final rankings.
The last time a Power-5 undefeated team, which was eligible for the postseason, dropped behind two one-loss teams in the rankings? 1992 when 9-0-3 Michigan finished the year at No. 5. It never happened in the much-maligned BCS rankings. Even to the computers winning mattered.
Midway through the season ESPN created a stat called game control. This stat focuses on teams gaining a lead and keeping it throughout the game. Florida State, despite being the only undefeated team in the country, finished 24th in the ranking. Southern Cal was 13 spots better than FSU in the metric despite losing four games. Three loss Georgia, who got hammered by 6-5 Florida, was 5th in the final ranking.
At the end of the season winning is supposed to be all that mattered. Instead it has turned into making excuses for the teams that have lost. Alabama lost to Ole Miss on the road. Oregon lost to Arizona at home. Florida State lost to no one, but might have been better off if they had.