TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With nine appearances since its first in 1980, Florida State has played in more Orange Bowls than any other.
If recent projections are to be believed, the Seminoles could make it 10 in a few weeks.
Thanks to a confluence of events across college football – especially back-to-back losses by the Louisville Cardinals – the No. 12 Seminoles seem to be in line to play in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens on Dec. 30.
Fifth-ranked Michigan is the predicted opponent in virtually every projection. The full pairings for the “New Year’s Six” bowl games, which includes two College Football Playoff games (the Fiesta and Peach Bowls), as well as the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton and Fiesta Bowls, will be announced on Sunday.
“That would be wonderful,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said when asked about the possibility of an Orange Bowl appearance.
Fisher has guided the Seminoles to four straight berths in a BCS/New Year’s Six bowl. That’s tied with defending national champion Alabama for the longest such streak in the nation, and it includes a victory over Northern Illinois in the 2013 Orange Bowl.
The Orange Bowl is woven in to the fabric of Florida State football.
The Seminoles won their first national championship there following the 1993 season, and played for another seven years later.
Back-to-back Orange Bowls against Oklahoma in 1980 and 81 helped announce FSU’s arrival under coach Bobby Bowden. And, along the way, the Seminoles have played in memorable Orange Bowls against college football heavyweights such as Nebraska, Notre Dame, Miami and Penn State.
“(The Orange Bowl) is a tremendously important event in the state of Florida, and in the history of our program,” said Rob Wilson, FSU’s associate director of athletics for communications.
“It was sort of our first big bop, the Orange Bowl, and you always remember that. Our first prom date was the Orange Bowl.”
With Clemson nearing a berth in the College Football Playoff, the CFP committee will likely choose either Florida State or Louisville to fill the ACC champion’s usual Orange Bowl spot.
While both FSU and Louisville are both 9-3 and present strong cases – the Seminoles have won four straight games and appear to peaking late in the season, but Louisville can claim a 63-20 victory over FSU from Week 3 – the committee might have tipped its hand Tuesday when it ranked FSU 12th and Louisville 13th.
“Louisville does hold the head-to-head, but … that was early in the season,” said CFP Chairman Kirby Hocutt, who is also the athletics director at Texas Tech. “So, we talked about – in the eyes of the selection committee – who is the better football team at this particular time? And that is Florida State.”
Still, there is another slate of games on Saturday, and although FSU and Louisville won’t be participating, the outcomes of those games could have an impact on bowl scenarios.
The ACC Championship Game has the heaviest implication. If Virginia Tech upsets Clemson, the Hokies would go to the Orange Bowl as the ACC champion, while the Tigers would either receive an at-large bid to a New Year’s Six game or fill out one of the ACC’s remaining bowl slots.
Other theories suggest that a lopsided win by Alabama over Florida in the SEC Championship Game could de-value FSU’s win over the Gators and allow Louisville to slip past the Seminoles when the final CFP rankings are revealed.
If FSU misses the Orange Bowl, then the Citrus Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl (both in Orlando) or Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville appear to be the most likely landing spots, based on projections from before Louisville’s late-season slide.
For the Seminoles, many of whom hail from the South Florida area, the Orange Bowl sounds like a fine place to spend the holidays.
“It would be very special,” said junior receiver Travis Rudolph, who grew up in West Palm Beach. “I have a lot of family that would be trying to get out there.
“Just going back to South Florida, that would be exciting.”
Florida State’s bowl projections, as of Dec. 1:
Jerry Palm, CBS Sports: Orange Bowl vs. Michigan
Mark Schlabach, ESPN: Orange Bowl vs. Michigan
Brett McMurphy, ESPN: Citrus Bowl vs. LSU
Erick Smith, USA Today: Orange Bowl vs. Michigan
Colin Becht, SI.com: Citrus vs. LSU
Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports: Orange Bowl vs. Michigan
CollegeFootballNews.com: Orange Bowl vs. Michigan
Jason Kirk, SBNation: Russell Athletic vs. West Virginia