Florida State has slipped from the ranks of the nation’s top college football teams in recent years, but optimism in Tallahassee is running high with the arrival of new coach Mike Norvell. During a four-season stint at Memphis, Norvell won at least eight games every year, went 38-15 overall, and guided the program to its first New Year’s Six bowl and American Athletic Conference title.
Norvell has plenty of challenges ahead for 2020 but also inherits a roster that returns 17 starters and went to a bowl game last year. Getting to the postseason this fall will require Florida State to navigate a non-conference slate that features games against Boise State and Florida, along with road trips to Louisville, Miami and NC State in league play.
Will Florida State make a bowl in 2020? That was the question posed to Athlon editors and a college football contributor.
Florida State Football: Will the Seminoles Make a Bowl in 2020?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think Mike Norvell is the best hire of the 2019-20 coaching carousel and will give Florida State a short-term bump before moving the program forward in the coming seasons. While the talent level is still high in spots, Norvell inherits a couple of problems — offensive line and quarterback play — that have spanned the last two coaching staffs in Tallahassee. While both areas remain unsettled for 2020, I think Florida State gets to a bowl in Norvell’s first year. The Seminoles return 10 starters on a defense that should improve under new coordinator Adam Fuller. Marvin Wilson is among the top returning defensive linemen in college football, and the return of Jaiden Lars-Woodbey from injury adds another difference-maker to the unit. With Texas A&M transfer Jashaun Corbin awarded immediate eligibility, Norvell’s offense has a playmaker at running back to help replace Cam Akers. If James Blackman provides steady play under center, second place in the Atlantic Division should be within reach for Norvell’s team.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
It's been a couple of rough seasons for Florida State fans but I fully expect Mike Norvell to get things around in Tallahassee. That doesn't mean the Seminoles will immediately challenge Clemson in the ACC or for New Year's Six bowl berths, but I do think he can start things off with a postseason appearance in 2020. The schedule is not easy and the lack of spring practice only complicates matters for the new coaching staff, but I think Norvell and his assistants can find a way to coax at least six wins out of the talent on the roster they inherited. Eight or more wins, however, would be quite impressive.
Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
Blue bloods only stay down for so long, and Florida State did squeeze into a bowl game last year, but I'm going to lean against the Seminoles reaching the postseason in 2020. FSU did make a great hire in Mike Norvell, but he's going to have an uphill battle to establish his culture and re-align the defense to a 4-3 setup with the uncertainty that comes with the coronavirus pandemic. Spring practice was already cut short, and it's unclear when in-person coaching will resume. That's going to give Florida State a thin margin for error with an offense that is losing its best playmaker in Cam Akers. The schedule doesn't give the Noles any breaks either with a trip to Boise State, a neutral field game against West Virginia, and ACC Coastal matchups against Miami and Pitt.
Mike Ferguson (@MikeWFerguson)
After watching the nation's longest bowl streak end in 2018, Florida State suffered through another losing season in '19. The Seminoles fell in the Sun Bowl to Arizona State after moving on from Willie Taggart. Former Memphis head coach Mike Norvell has people excited for the future in Tallahassee. FSU made a bowl game last season and most expect that it will be better this season.
Eight wins is an attainable goal and there's no reason to believe that the Seminoles won't make a bowl in 2020. Norvell pulled off a Houdini by convincing wide receiver Tamorrion Terry and defensive tackles Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden to return this season. The non-conference slate is tough for FSU, but outside of Clemson, the ACC is still largely suspect as a conference. The Seminoles will be more talented than most teams they line up against.
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45)
Florida State hasn't been Florida State for a few years now, but Mike Norvell takes over a program that shouldn't be too difficult to get back on track for a number of reasons:
1. It's located in a talent-rich area, with an abundance of premier prospects in Florida, Alabama and Georgia all nearby.
2. The Florida State name brand still resonates; this isn't a situation akin to Nebraska, trying to sell a legacy that's gone dormant for two-plus decades.
3. The ACC, beyond Clemson, isn't far ahead of Florida State despite the Seminoles' dip.
What's more, Florida State has not had a recruiting class in the last five cycles ranked worse than No. 22 in the nation — and that was the most recent class, signed in Norvell's first year. Talent isn't an issue.
The schedule, on the other hand, presents hurdles. The Seminoles travel to Boise State in Week 3, setting a tone in which some potential toss-up games — Boise State, NC State, Louisville, Miami, Syracuse — are played on the road. A neutral-site Week 1 date against West Virginia, in Year 2 of its rebuild under Neal Brown, will set the tone. Realistically, though, the only thing that keeps FSU out of a bowl game is COVID-19 cancellation.
Antwan Staley (@antwanstaley)
Mike Norvell will attempt to get Florida State to their second consecutive bowl game and his first with the school this year. If Norvell is to do that, he will have to navigate a difficult schedule, which includes a season opener in Atlanta against West Virginia, who should improve in head coach Neal Brown's second season in Morgantown. The Seminoles also have road trips to Boise State, Louisville, and Miami in 2020. And then there are their home games against Clemson and Florida, which FSU will likely be underdogs in. Despite their schedule, the Seminoles should be able to get six wins and qualify for a bowl. Their margin for error is slim, but there's enough talent to make it happen.
Nicholas Ian Allen (@NicholasIAllen)
Florida State has ranked among the nation’s most disappointing programs in each of the last three seasons, but making a bowl game should be the bare minimum we expect from the Seminoles in Mike Norvell's first season. Quarterback play and the offensive line are still questions, but as always, Florida State has the benefit of one of the most talented teams in college football. In fact, using my preseason depth charts, the average recruiting rating of Florida State’s projected defensive starters (.9527 in the 247Sports Composite) is the highest of any unit in the country. In terms of the full roster (.8921), the Noles rank among the top 20 nationally. Looking at the schedule, only three of Florida State's 2020 opponents possess even comparable raw talent — Clemson, Miami and Florida — and the Seminoles should be favored in at least eight games. Coaching turnover is never easy but falling short of bowl eligibility would be simply unacceptable.
(Top photo courtesy of @FSUFootball)