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Clark: Bowden’s FSU teams would’ve won 5 or more if playoff existed then

Every year around this time, as Alabama gets set to play in another national championship game, I wonder to myself just how many titles Florida State would have won during the Dynasty days if the College Football Playoff had been around back then.

I’m sure you do, too … if you’re old enough to remember the late 1980s and ’90s.

It doesn’t keep me up at night or anything. Netflix does that (that Bird Box movie is something, huh? Yeesh. Not exactly a lot of laughs in that one).

But when we talk about Nick Saban and how great a coach he is — and he’s probably the best to ever do it — it should definitely be noted that he’s been the benefactor of a playoff system that allowed him to win a national championship in a season where he didn’t even win his own division.

He’s won five national championships with a loss.

You know who would have loved to have that kind of leeway? You know who would have loved to watch a kick sail to the right and then say, “Oh well … we’ve just got to win out and we’ll still get to play for the national championship”?

Robert Cleckler Bowden. That’s who.

Bowden retired from coaching with two national championships. But that number really could’ve been five or six if the playoffs had been around. And when we compare eras, when we compare coaching greats and dynasties, it’s important to remember the context.

One guy gets to lose games every year and still play for national titles. The other guy had a kicker miss a 34-yard field goal by a foot, and the season was over.

This isn’t to diminish what Saban accomplished pre-playoffs by the way. His 2008 team and 2013 team were in the same boat as the 1990s FSU teams — one loss and their championship dreams were over.

And it should be noted that even with a loss, FSU got to play for the championship in 1993, 1998 and 2000. So it’s not as if every season came down to one moment of one game. The Seminoles got some mulligans, too.

But by and large, when FSU lost back then in the regular season (which wasn’t often), the universe had to implode for the Seminoles to somehow miracle themselves back into a shot at the national title.

With the playoffs in place, even if Alabama had lost in the SEC Championship Game this year against Georgia, there is zero chance the Crimson Tide would’ve been left out of the four-team tournament. So, quite obviously, the pressure is different for Alabama players and coaches in a game like that compared to, say, a final drive against Miami down by one or three points.

Anyway, with the national title game between ‘Bama and Clemson looming Monday night, and because we can’t write about the current FSU team being in the playoffs (maybe next year is the return to glory!), I thought it would be fun/nerdy to pontificate about how those previous FSU teams would have done.

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