Tuesday April 23rd, 2024 9:48AM

After missing CFP, Dogs, 'Noles reset in Orange Bowl

By Tim Reynolds AP Sports Writer

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida State and Georgia players have said all the right things this week. They're happy to be in South Florida. They're aware of the Orange Bowl's history. They're eager for the opportunities that await them on Saturday.

What's unsaid is this: “But.”

Let's be honest: Neither the fourth-ranked Seminoles (13-0, No. 5 CFP rankings) nor the sixth-ranked Bulldogs (12-1, No. 6 CFP) really wanted to be here, for obvious reasons. They'd rather be at the Sugar Bowl or the Rose Bowl, competing in the College Football Playoff, having a chance to make the national championship game. But Georgia lost a game, Florida State lost a quarterback, and here they are, set to face off on Saturday in an Orange Bowl that oddsmakers believe will be a rout for the Bulldogs to enjoy.

“There's going to be times in life where things don’t go the right way or the way that you expected them to go or maybe even what you’ve earned,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said Friday. “You don’t always receive the reward for that. But you do control the response and what you do with it, where you go, and the attitude which you bring. ... I know we’re going to go out tomorrow and we’re going to fight with everything that we have.”

This is the reality for Florida State: It'll never know what might have been. What might have happened if quarterback Jordan Travis didn't get hurt? What might have happened if the CFP committee gave the Seminoles a spot in the semifinals? If Travis didn't break his leg, Florida State surely would have been more attractive to the CFP committee. Had a CFP invite come, the Seminoles surely wouldn't have seen about two dozen players either opt out or begin the process of transferring out.

“I understand their frustration," Georgia defensive lineman Mykel Williams said. “You go 13-0 and you win your conference championship, hey, you expect to be in. I completely understand their frustration.”

There is frustration for Georgia, though the Bulldogs' omission from the CFP field is easier to explain. Losing the Southeastern Conference title game to Alabama doomed Georgia's hopes, even though no team had ever fallen from No. 1 to out of the top four in the final week of the rankings previously. Georgia coach Kirby Smart lobbied for a berth, but some players said this week they knew what was coming — or more specifically, what wasn't coming — on Selection Sunday.

“I kind of knew, honestly,” Georgia quarterback Carson Beck said. “In my heart, I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re probably not going to get in.' ... That was our playoff game. Two top-ranked teams in the SEC championship, the team that wins is probably going to get in, and we ended up losing that.”

There are credos that both teams have been oft-repeating for the last few days.

For Florida State: “All we have is all we need,” said quarterback Brock Glenn, the former third-stringer who has the task of taking over for the injured Travis — one of the game's most dynamic players this season — and transfer-portaling Tate Rodemaker.

For Georgia: “Prove ‘em wrong or prove 'em right,” linebacker Chaz Chambliss said.

Neither really needs much in the way of explaining. Georgia wants to show the committee and everyone else that it is elite. And the Seminoles that'll be taking the field Saturday are not the Seminoles who took the field in the first 13 games of this season — injuries, opt-outs and transfers left a series of massive holes on the depth chart. The players responsible for almost all of the passing, rushing and receiving yards for Florida State in 2023 aren't going to be playing on Saturday.

Hence, the three-touchdown spread that FanDuel Sportsbook has put on this game.

“I think finishing is important,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I don’t think enough people talk about it and everybody says this is what you should do, this is what you should do. For kids that love football, they want to play football. This is the Orange Bowl. You’ve got an opportunity to go play in the Orange Bowl, and that’s not given to everybody.”

SPLIT TITLE?

Glenn gave a simple answer — “Absolutely” — this week when asked if the Seminoles have talked about the chance to lay claim to a split national championship if they win this game and finish 14-0. Florida State is one of four unbeaten FBS teams this season; Michigan and Washington are both in the CFP field and Liberty faces Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. It is possible, though seems unlikely, for voters in the AP Top 25 to vote Florida State No. 1 in the final poll of this season.

NORVELL VS. SMART

Smart has coached against Norvell before — when Norvell was a player. Smart was an assistant at Valdosta State when it visited Central Arkansas in 2001. Central Arkansas took a 31-7 halftime lead, before Valdosta State rallied for a 42-34 win.

Norvell was the leading receiver for that Central Arkansas team.

“Good halftime adjustments there,” Norvell told Smart on Friday.

NUMBERS OF NOTE

Florida State is seeking a second 14-0 season; the Seminoles had their other in 2013. Georgia is seeking a third straight season of at least 13 wins.

THE HISTORY

The teams haven't met since Jan. 1, 2003, when Georgia topped Florida State 26-13 in the Sugar Bowl. This will be the third consecutive FSU-Georgia game that's a bowl matchup. The schools haven't played during the regular season since 1965.

QUOTABLE

“Our guys have done everything we've asked them to do.” — Florida State defensive coordinator Adam Fuller.

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