Florida State’s Tate Rodemaker may be championship weekend’s most consequential player

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Pocket
WhatsApp
Florida State’s Tate Rodemaker may be championship weekend’s most consequential player

Every morning, Alan Rodemaker texts his son Tate a Bible verse. Wednesday morning, less than 100 hours before Tate would play the most important football game of his career, Alan chose Isaiah 40:31: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

It’s an inspiring message to Alan, and he hopes Tate, now the starting quarterback at Florida State, will find some strength in it, too. This weekend, Tate will make just the third start of his collegiate career, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher.

Rodemaker has been in uniform for four years at Florida State and spent the last two backing up Jordan Travis, the ACC Player of the Year and a key reason why the Seminoles are one win away from their first playoff berth in a decade. But when Travis went down two weeks ago with a devastating lower left leg injury that ended his college career, Rodemaker finally got the call.

“What he’s experiencing right now is what he’s wanted, what he’s waited for, what he’s prepared for,” Alan says. “He always wanted to be the quarterback for Florida State. We’re so sad about Jordan — he and Jordan are close — but this is his opportunity, this is why he waited.”

From one perspective, Tate Rodemaker is the most important player in college football right now. How Rodemaker performs Saturday in the ACC championship will go a long way toward determining the final four-team playoff field. That means a whole lot of programs and fan bases have an interest in his performance … and they’re not looking to cheer him on.

If Rodemaker leads the Seminoles to a convincing victory over No. 15 Louisville, it’s a done deal — the 13-0 Seminoles would be ACC champions and a lock for the playoff. If Florida State falls, they drop into the one-loss bucket with a whole bunch of other schools, and at least some of those (Oregon, Texas, Alabama) might have just won conference championships of their own. So, barring substantial chaos elsewhere, a loss in the ACC championship game means elimination from the playoff field.

Tate Rodemaker eluded the Gators long enough to get Florida State a much-needed win last week. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Tate Rodemaker eluded the Gators long enough to get Florida State a much-needed win last week. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

It’s the third possibility that’s the most confounding: a narrow Florida State win over a tough Louisville team. At that point, the committee will take a close look at this Florida State team, and Rodemaker’s performance will be a key factor. Would a 13-0 Florida State that limped through the ACC title game get the nod over a 12-1 Georgia, a 12-1 SEC champion Alabama or a 12-1 Big 12 champion Texas? Probably, but the issue won’t be decided until Saturday evening.

Until then, Florida State fans have to go on precedent and prediction. First, the history: the closest comparison to this situation came in the very first year of the playoff’s existence, and it breaks in FSU’s favor. Back then, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett — a Heisman contender — broke his ankle in late November against Michigan, and questions about the Buckeyes’ ability to play at a similarly high level behind replacement Cardale Jones dogged the team right up until the committee seeded it fourth. But Jones, dismissing all doubt, would go on to lead the team to a national championship victory over Oregon.

Rodemaker got in one more game of preparation before the conference championship than Jones did, a rough experience against Florida that ended up turning the Seminoles’ way. After going down 12-0, including suffering a sack for a safety, the Seminoles rallied behind Rodemaker to win 24-15 and keep their playoff hopes alive. To two of the men who know him best, that Florida game demonstrated that Rodemaker is ready for the job that he’s about to face.

“What we saw last week, he went three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, gave up a safety … I would have a hard time doing that. Tate just shakes it off,” Alan says. “You would not know the difference after he throws a 70-yard touchdown pass or an interception. Sometimes that drives you crazy because you think he doesn’t care, but he’s always been in control.”

“It was the worst combination of things you could hope for at the beginning of a game for a first start of the year for him,” Florida State head coach Mike Norvell said earlier this week. “But that’s where you sit there and [have] appreciation for him, the poise, the ability to respond, the intelligence, the preparation.”

Rodemaker arrived at Florida State in 2020, coming off a stellar high school career in Valdosta, Georgia, under his father’s tutelage. Alan Rodemaker knew his son had talent, but he learned the depth of his game when Tate, as a sophomore, entered a must-win game with a familiar scenario — win to get into the playoffs — and proceeded to throw for 242 yards and four touchdowns.

“I don’t think he’s one that gets really nervous,” Alan Rodemaker says. “He’s almost too calm out there. I wish he was a little more hyped out there. I would be a nervous wreck, doing a lot of stupid things.”

Tate made spot appearances for Florida State throughout his first three years, highlighted by last season’s comeback win over Louisville on the road after Travis went down with another, far less severe injury.

That performance led to high postgame praise from Norvell: “I’m so proud of Tate Rodemaker. I knew we could win with Tate. I knew we could win with Tate,” he said. “I’ve seen it in practice, I’ve seen him work. I’ve seen him so much invest and be prepared for the moment. And he got put in a challenging situation. On the road. But he just went out there and responded in the second half.”

Rodemaker’s numbers against Florida weren’t astounding — 12 of 25 for 148 yards, no touchdowns but also no interceptions. But he was facing rough field position most of the game, and he orchestrated touchdown drives of 90 and 75 yards around halftime that helped quell the Gator threat.

“Playing in that game, that rivalry, in that environment, it’s a lot. And I thought he did a good job,” Norvell said after the game. “His demeanor and confidence he had throughout the course of the game is something that you can feed off of.”

The looming question for Florida State is just how much Travis’ absence will harm their chances in ways they can no longer control. The playoff committee’s Boo Corrigan noted Tuesday night that Florida State is “a different team. It’s pretty obvious, with Jordan Travis not playing and Tate Rodemaker playing, they’re a different team, just as anyone would be if they lost their quarterback in that situation.” In a potentially ominous sign for Florida State, Corrigan allowed that “player availability, if you will, it’s a big part of the conversation” of which teams would get playoff bids.

Alan Rodemaker has tried to screen out the social media noise and speculation. “What they’re doing is projecting what’s going to happen. You can’t do that on past performance. Every week is a new week for Tate,” he says. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Tate tore it up. I’m really expecting him to do that.”

The ACC championship kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Saturday evening, when Tate Rodemaker will get his chance to make Seminole history.

Read More

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Pocket
WhatsApp

Never miss any important news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Get notified about new articles