Hayes: FSU, want to impress the Playoff committee? Give Keon Coleman the damn ball in ACC title game
This isn’t a difficult decision, Florida State. Get the ball to Keon Coleman.
Want to win the ACC and force the hand of the Playoff selection committee? Stick quarterback Tate Rodemaker in a film room every day this week and show him how you’re going to find ways to get the ball to Coleman.
Then go do it Saturday night against Louisville in the ACC Championship Game. Give the committee something to love about FSU.
Give them a rare player who can change the course of a game — any game — in 1 play.
“Keon is a ballplayer, man,” FSU offensive coordinator Alex Atkins said earlier this week. “I haven’t been around many of them like him.”
That’s what makes this unique preparation for Louisville so critical.
FSU is in a delicate situation with the Playoff selection committee. Forget about what Tuesday night’s ranking said. The Noles moved up 1 spot to No. 4.
Sunday’s final poll is the only one that matters.
We’ve seen crazy play out over and over with the Playoff committee after Championship Week, so why would this time be any different? All of those fancy metrics they like to tout week after week — for the love of pigskin, something called game control — are a moot point when the final vote arrives.
Because the vote after Championship Week is all eye test. Which 4 teams are the best 4 teams — not the most deserving.
So while FSU can hang its hat (and resume) on the reality that no unbeaten Power 5 conference champion has ever been left out of the Playoff, no unbeaten Power 5 champion has ever lost its starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate in November, either.
Now the Noles must give the committee something to see — something other than Rodemaker, who didn’t necessarily play poorly last week against Florida, but isn’t eye candy. He isn’t a player the selection committee can envision giving the No. 1 seed problems in the Playoff semifinals.
Coleman is — and remember, this is the eye test week. And by eye test, I mean what looks good on the field. In a championship game, with everything on the line.
Just like 2014, when Ohio State played in the Big Ten Championship Game with backup quarterback Cardale Jones. That 59-0 win over No. 13 Wisconsin eliminated all doubt from the Playoff committee, moving the Buckeyes past TCU and Baylor and into the Playoff with a backup quarterback.
Jones threw 17 passes in that game, but Ohio State gave the committee eye candy to watch and project into the Playoff: RB Ezekiel Elliott, who had 20 carries for 220 yards.
That’s how you convince a group of men and women deciding who will earn 1 of 4 precious spots that a backup quarterback isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Elliott rewarded the committee’s faith by rushing for 230 yards in an upset of No. 1 Alabama in the semifinal, then rolling for 246 yards in a rout of Oregon in the national championship game.
That’s why Coleman must be the focal point of the offense against Louisville. Give the committee a dynamic, dangerous player to hold onto — the undisputed best player on the field — to at least force them to think twice about passing on the Noles because star quarterback Jordan Travis is no longer available with a leg injury.
Coleman touched the ball twice against Florida, and had 58 yards: a 24-yard catch and a 34-yard punt return. That’s not nearly enough for a player who has 71 touches this season (46 catches, 25 punt returns) and 11 TDs.
In 11 games (he missed 1 game with an injury), FSU’s best player not named Travis has touched the ball an average of 6.45 times a game. That’s mind-boggling, considering he’s averaging 13.2 yards every time he touches the ball.
Florida rolled a safety to Coleman’s side of the field, and often bracketed him with a cornerback and safety. That led to FSU targeting Johnny Wilson — and the offense struggling though the early 4th quarter.
FSU can’t allow this game to get to the 4th quarter, and can’t give Louisville — a significantly more complete team than Florida — an opportunity to win the game late.
Follow the Ohio State plan from 2014. Put the ball in the hands of your best player, and let him work.
“You try to give guys opportunities,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said earlier this week. “And there were some (against Florida) that were in his control, and some that were out of his control. Ultimately, he’s a phenomenal player, and we want him to make a positive impact every game.”
It’s not a difficult decision. Get Coleman the ball.