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Florida State Seminoles

Orange Bowl Preview: Florida State and Michigan Get Set to Tangle

Ari Russell

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(Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire)
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The day has finally arrived, where we have some big time bowl games popping up. Probably one of the most anticipated non CFB Playoff  match ups takes place on Friday night in Miami Gardens, as the Florida State Seminoles get set to take on the Michigan Wolverines. 

This game has a bunch of intrigue for various reason.

Let’s start with Dalvin Cook. It’s expected to be the last time we see Cook in a Florida State uniform as all signs are pointing to him skipping his senior year for the NFL Draft. He has nothing else to prove at this level. Cook will leave FSU as the most decorated RB in school’s history. After breaking the school’s career rushing record and TD record, what else does he have to do? The amazing part is that he did this all in three years. It’s going to take a real stud for anyone to break Cook’s records any time soon. Sad to see him go, as he’s such an explosive player, but it should be fun one last time to see him Friday night.

The net intriguing part of this game is to see how inspired Michigan will be. We know that Harbaugh, and the Wolverine faithful, feel slighted about not making it to the CFB Playoff. They felt they got robbed in the Ohio State game, and they have a point. However that loss to Iowa, wasn’t a good look, and it’s hard keeping one loss teams out that won their conference ahead of a 2 loss team that didn’t even win their division. Either way you know Harbaugh is going to get his troops fired up for this one. When he’s angry, usually his opponents feel the pain. Plus we saw how fired up those Stanford teams got, when they felt slighted. Could we see the same with the Maize and Blue on Friday? It’s possible.

The last intriguing part, well not last, but last for this article, that at least I’m interested in seeing, is FSU freshman QB Deondre Francois. If for whatever reason you haven’t seen this young man play, Friday night you want to turn your TVs on. There is no question Francois is going to be an emerging star. Expect Heisman hype going into next season, especially if he has a big Orange Bowl. The ACC is turning out to be a QB heavy league, and that will be even next year with Mitch Trubisky, Brad Kaaya and DeShawn Watson possibly going pro. Keep an eye out for Francois. We know the Michigan defense is stout, but this guy is special.

Should be a good one at Joe Robbie…I mean Sun Life….I mean Hard Rock Stadium Friday night.

The Capitol One Orange Bowl (have to mention sponsor before I get sued) Kickoff at 8pm ET.

Born in the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C., Ari Russell watched the rise of the 1980’s Miami Hurricanes and knew that he had to be part of the “U” someday. After graduating from Coral Gables, Ari rose through the ranks of the former XM Satellite Radio and then Sirius/XM as college football executive producer. He later spent 2 seasons as the publisher of the website “Beyond U Sports” focusing on major college football/basketball. Ari brings a great perspective on everything Miami, including the Dolphins to F.F.I.

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Florida State Seminoles

New FSU coach Norvell says he won’t coach Cotton Bowl

Florida Football Insiders

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Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
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When Mike Norvell left his Memphis Tigers just after they had won the American Conference Championship Saturday game to take the FSU job, there was some debate about whether he would return to coach his old team in their upcoming Cotton Bowl?

However, the new Noles boss announced late Tuesday morning that he’s coached his final game for the Tigers and won’t be able to be with them in Dallas when they take on Penn State:

Norvell sent an open letter to the Memphis students and fan base saying it was a difficult decision, but that his focus has to remain on immediately rebuilding Florida State:

“It is with tremendous sadness announcing that I have coached my last game leading that great team. With the transition to a new opportunity and a restricted calendar, which is unique to this year, I will not be able to coach the Cotton Bowl.

As I have told the team throughout my time, you give everything you have each and every day to the best of your ability focused on your CLIMB, and I could not stand in front of them without being able to prepare to the level they deserve. The team is in great hands with the administration, the coaching staff and the leaders on the team will continue to do what they have been trained to do and RESPOND.

I will always support and cheer for the Tigers and will forever be a Memphian. Maria, Mila and I are excited for our future in Tallahassee and at Florida State University, but MEMPHIS, we love you.”

Norvell was torn about staying with the Tigers, as he just Led them to their most successful season in program history. Their 12-1 record coupled with the Championship game win over Cincinnati Saturday has put them in a New Year’s Six Bowl game for the first time in program history.

Memphis has named Norvell assistant, Ryan Silverfield, as the interim head coach and he may end up being given the full-time job.

As a comparison, former UCF coach Scott Frost left Orlando for his alma mater, Nebraska, but came back with his staff for practices and coached them to their Peach Bowl upset of Auburn in January of 2018.

As for Norvell, he is already moved quickly and tabbed his former assistant Kenny Dillingham, as his new offensive coordinator. Dillingham left Memphis just this season and had been the offensive coordinator at Auburn.

It has also been reported that Norvell will keep Odell Haggins as assistant head coach for defense.

That move was expected, as Higgins has twice served as the interim head coach in the last three years, is heavily involved in the Noles recruiting and has been with the program as a player or as a coach for 30 seasons.

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Florida State Seminoles

Mike Norvell subplot for FSU-Arizona State Sun Bowl

Matt Zemek

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Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports
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New FSU head coach Mike Norvell will not coach the Seminoles at the 2019 “Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl “(what a great bowl name, right?). However, he is part of the story of this game, a tale which contains several plot twists.

One fundamental aspect of the Norvell story in El Paso might throw Seminole Nation a curveball: Norvell is part of the backdrop to this game for reasons which are better known by Arizona State fans than Florida State partisans.

Remember this: Mike Norvell used to be Arizona State’s offensive coordinator. Norvell guided the ASU offense under former head coach Todd Graham. Norvell jumped to Memphis four years ago from ASU.

This year’s American Athletic Conference championship and Group of Five championship – leading to a Cotton Bowl berth for Memphis against Penn State – were won by a quarterback who transferred from Arizona State: Brady White.

Mike Norvell, it could be argued, is the man who should have succeeded Todd Graham in Tempe, not Herman Edwards. Interestingly enough, when Herm was hired to replace Graham after the 2017 season, the whole coaching staff was not cleaned out. Two Graham holdovers stayed on the 2018 staff in Tempe, Arizona: John Simons and Rob Likens.

Simons lasted one year. Then he went to Memphis to follow Norvell. Likens, ASU’s offensive coordinator this past season, was just fired by Edwards, who wants to remake his offensive staff.

I know of an offensive mastermind ASU could have used: Mike Norvell. He could have given structure and dependability to ASU’s offense, but the Sun Devils and athletic director Ray Anderson had other ideas. Now, ASU is searching for the right offensive coordinator, a sign that the last two seasons haven’t made the grade in the desert.

Florida State fans can relate to the notion that the past two seasons of football have been the equivalent of chasing one’s tail. The Seminoles, like the Sun Devils, have gone nowhere. One could make the argument that in Arizona State’s case, the reality has been worse the past two years than it has been for FSU.

At least Florida State knows that even if it did moderately well in 2017 and 2018, Clemson was still sitting there as the roadblock to the playoff or top-tier national relevance. Arizona State didn’t have that kind of a colossus in its own division, the Pac-12 South, which makes a pair of 7-5 regular seasons seem like an even greater missed opportunity to rise in the ranks.

Mike Norvell is certainly the man Florida State fans hope will guide their program to renewed prominence. Yet, ask anyone in Tempe: Arizona State fans wish that when Todd Graham was fired, his former offensive coordinator could have replaced him.

Mike Norvell is trying to become the fulfillment of Florida State’s hopes and dreams. He is also the man with the exact skill set Arizona State football currently needs… but doesn’t have.

Norvell is not just at the center of the Florida State story. This Sun Bowl in El Paso will remind Arizona State fans of the guy who got away.

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