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Kirby Smart sympathizes with Seminoles, says winning every game 'really hard to do'

Georgia head coach will face Florida State in Orange Bowl after being left out of College Football Playoff
Florida State Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell and players celebrate beating Louisville Cardinals for ACC championship, Dec. 2, 2023
Posted at 3:58 PM, Dec 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-04 16:08:02-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Even Kirby Smart knows winning isn't easy to do.

But that is all Florida State has done in 2023.

If the objective is not to lose, Florida State is winning.

So why does an Atlantic Coast Conference championship and a trip to the Orange Bowl against Smart's Georgia Bulldogs feel like such a letdown for Florida State head coach Mike Norvell and his team?

Maybe it's because the Seminoles (13-0) were denied a spot in the last season of the four-team College Football Playoff – left out by a selection committee that decided the value of the Seminoles wasn't as great without starting quarterback Jordan Travis in it.

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In doing so, Florida State becomes the first undefeated Power 5 conference champion to be excluded from the playoff.

"I know firsthand how hard it is to have an undefeated season," Smart said Sunday during an Orange Bowl media conference call. "It is hard. It's hard to win games in any conference. It's hard to win games repeatedly. He had a perfect season and won every game. That's really hard to do."

Smart should know. His Bulldogs (12-1) won 29 consecutive games before their winning streak was snapped by Alabama in last weekend's Southeastern Conference Championship game.

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart gestures during 2023 SEC Championship game
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart gestures during the first half of the Southeastern Conference Championship game against Alabama, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Atlanta.

That loss dropped the two-time defending national champions from No. 1 to No. 6, just behind fifth-ranked Florida State.

Travis was lost for the season during Florida State's home finale, leaving backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker to beat rival Florida on the road. Rodemaker was ruled out of the ACC Championship game against Louisville and third-string quarterback Brock Glenn struggled in his first career start, but the defense prevailed in a 16-6 victory to capture the Seminoles' first ACC championship after a 10-year drought.

"Like coach Smart said, it's hard," Norvell told reporters Sunday. "It's hard to do, especially when you face some of the adversities that we've had this year, whether it's injury or different things to overcome. It's all part of it. As we tell our team all the time, your truest identity shows up in times of great adversity. We faced it. They put it on display."

Florida State Seminoles QB holds fist to crowd as he's carted off field after injury, Nov. 18, 2023
Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis gestures to the crowd as he's taken off the field after being injured during the first quarter against North Alabama, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Like the Seminoles, who have won 19 straight games dating to the 2022 season, the Bulldogs have battled injuries, including star tight end Brock Bowers.

Smart can relate to Florida State players, coaches and fans who feel they didn't get a fair shot.

"I empathize with anybody that goes undefeated and doesn't get in," Smart said, adding that his Bulldogs also felt like they've been snubbed. "I personally feel like we deserved to be in. We've got a really good football team and we're considered No. 1 in the country all year, then fail. We have a hornet's nest around here, too, of players that are disappointed."

The snub could serve as a motivator not just for Florida State, but also Smart's team.

"That works both ways," he said.