Monday Notebook: Norvell's Receipts, The U Not Back And Enjoying Wins

Florida State v Boston College

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On December 8, 2019 FSU hired Mike Norvell as its new head coach. The hiring didn't wow Seminoles fans who had higher expectations for the hire. Norvell went 38-15 in four seasons at Memphis and was asked to get FSU back on track and back among the nation's best after Jimbo Fisher jumped to Texas A&M.

Norvell had to rebuild a program and roster as the country headed into a COVID lockdown period and he lost the opportunity to get out and develop important relationships with recruits and coaches. He had to maneuver a portal world during a time where zoom calls replaced the on-campus visits.

The 2020 season began with two straight losses including a blowout delivered by rival Miami 52-10 and things only got worse. FSU finished Norvell's first season in Tallahassee at 3-6. And the critics were loud. Many wondered if he deserved a second season. Willie Taggart didn't get to finish his second season before getting fired. Norvell stayed focused. He kept on recruiting and continued to rebuild his roster. While many checked on his buyout, he kept on grinding.

FSU lost a heartbreaking 2021 opener to Notre Dame in overtime, 41-38 and a glimmer of hope surfaced. But the positive feeling was gone six days later when FSU lost to FCS Jacksonville State on the final play of the game. The Seminoles would lose their first four and a consensus was developing that Norvell was done and there was no way he could see a third season. Who knows, if FSU didn't owe so much money to former coaches, maybe they would have bought him out and been in the market for a new coach. But combined buyouts of previous coaches and COVID impacted budget may have saved Mike Norvell. His team went 5-3 in its final eight games and quarterback Jordan Travis gave fans hope that maybe the future was bright. Norvell was coming back for a third season.

He added a top-20 recruiting class in 2022 and there were expectations that FSU maybe could make a bowl game in 2022. Now, FSU is off to a 4-0 start and ranked in both polls for the first time since 2018. They crushed Boston College Saturday night 44-14 like FSU used to beat ACC opponents and the vibe is different. Mike Norvell's team is playing with confidence and a swagger.

The remaining schedule still presents some challenges with games against Wake Forest, NC State, Clemson, Miami, Syracuse and Florida still to come. But Mike Norvell has a right to sit back at his desk and enjoy the moment. One year ago his team fell to 0-4 after a loss to Louisville and most wanted him fired. Since that game, FSU is 9-3 and the team he has been trying to build is starting to shine. Most of those critics have now flipped their opinions and the praise is pouring in. You couldn't blame Norvell for pulling out the columns, the video and audio of everyone saying FSU had to get rid of him. But to his credit, Norvell stayed the course and now has a program headed in the right direction. The Seminoles are averaging 37.5 points a game and allowing 18.8 and there is reason to believe FSU might win eight or nine games and play a 13th game.

Mike Norvell weathered the storm of COVID and doubters of his ability and now FSU may just have the right guy to get back to where it so desperately wants to get to...

Mario Cristobal didn't ask for the pre-season hype but he got it anyway. The Canes' were supposed to be closer to being back. The school spent like drunken's sailors on Cristobal and his staff. They made NIL headlines and the vibe was all about South Beach and the "U" being back. Two weeks can change so much. The Canes headed to College Station with a chance to beat a wounded Texas A&M team and vault in or near the top 10. But Miami failed to score a touchdown and lost in College Station. The game against Middle Tennessee State was supposed to be a laugher to get back on track and roll to a 9-1 record before facing Clemson. 

Oops! Middle Tennessee State lost to James Madison 44-7 to start the season. They did win two straight before heading to Miami. They dominated the Canes winning 45-31. After grabbing a 17-3 first quarter lead, they never let Miami get any closer. Middle put up over 500 yards and the Canes pulled their once Heisman candidate Tyler Van Dyke after a second pick. 

Cristobal said the usual after a loss like this: "They coached better than us. They played better than us," Cristobal said. "They were better. We didn't do a good enough job. There's no excuse. Real men look in the mirror and do something about it and don't allow any cracks to happen from the inside. We all came here for a purpose and a reason. We've got a lot of work to do."

And so that thump is the hype of Miami's season landing hard. Cristobal would not commit to starting Van Dyke against North Carolina after a bye week. The Canes have several key injuries but this is a bad loss. It brought out defenders to say it somehow was Manny Diaz' fault for the team he left behind. This is on Cristobal and he knows it. It's also ridiculous to bring out the knock that he wasn't a good game day coach at Oregon. 

Miami can still make a run in the ACC but the hype is gone and the "U" needs to stop thinking it's back and start realizing this was always more than a one year rebuild, no matter how much was spent to buy the hype...

I am in the category of looking at Florida's loss to Tennessee as the game that may be the game that kick started Anthony Richardson's career as a quarterback. In the 38-33 loss, Richardson threw for 453 yards and two scores. Yes, he made several mistakes, but he also saw he can play the game at a high level. Tennessee's offense often means its defense will give up yards and points and it may cost them a game or two this season. But Richardson gained gallons of confidence with a performance like that. He looked the part and made some pro-like throws and added two more scores running the ball. He has two weeks, in games against Eastern Washington and Missouri, to continue his development before an improving LSU team comes to the Swamp and then the game with Georgia in Jacksonville.

As for Florida now at 2-2 and winless in the SEC, be honest with your pre-season view. Losses to Kentucky and Tennessee were possible and the 2-2 record was predictable. The Florida team Saturday, on offense, was much better than the previous week. Florida's defense has not played well and that is a concern. This team may have a ceiling of eight wins and maybe seven is more realistic. That may be hard for Florida fans to swallow but you need to stomach another sort of rebuild and Billy Napier knows this is a process and has the stomach for it. The question is- do Florida fans?...

53-13. That is UCF's record in the five-plus seasons since their undefeated 2017 campaign. Some wins are not pretty but there are no beautiful losses. UCF threw for just 49 yards and yet still beat an ACC team by 17 points in their 27-10 win over Georgia Tech. Some fans of the Knights have struggled with enjoying Sundays when their team has won and choose a social media therapy session of complaining. Yes, John Rhys Plumlee needs to be better and more consistent. At times, Gus Malzahn chose to stay with the run when he knew the passing game was not working. The Knights ran for 284 yards and their defense made several big plays when needed. That defense might be the best since Gene Chizik was coordinator back in 2001. Defensive coordinator Travis Williams has built a unit that features two NFL candidates at defensive end, a pair of hard hitting linebackers and an experienced secondary that is allowing under 14 points a game. UCF will get a challenge in their conference opener against SMU at home this weekend. The Mustangs beat the Knights 55-28 in Dallas last year. Can the Knights limit SMU points and will John Rhys Plumlee be the effective passer he was a week ago against FAU? UCF will need that Plumlee to get their conference run going in the right direction...

Nuggets: Tulane won at Kansas State last week. Tulane lost at home to Southern Miss and Kansas State won at Oklahoma. The transitive property never really applies in college football...Stephan F. Austin beat Warner University 98-0. The Lumberjacks scored their final touchdown with over six minutes left and actually lined up for a two-point conversion but purposely took a knee. They could have scored 100 but finally called off the dogs. Warner University is in Lake Wales, Florida. They had already lost to the likes of Keiser University(44-7), West Florida(52-3) and Florida Memorial 49-22. They look to bounce back against Webber International next week...Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State are probably the three best teams in the country. But after that, who knows and you can make a guess that the 20th ranked team is as good as the 7th ranked team...There are some really good matchups this week: 7th ranked Kentucky plays at 14th ranked Ole Miss, number two Alabama plays at 20th ranked Arkansas, 9th ranked Oklahoma State travels to 16th ranked Baylor in a rematch of their great Big XII title game last year. Also, Wake Forest plays at FSU in a matchup of ranked teams. And two unbeatens play when North Carolina State plays at Clemson...

Final note: Cheerios, Rice Krispies and Cinnamon Toast Crunch were the top selling cereals in 2021.

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