“The most challenging couple weeks of coaching I’ve ever had.”
Norvell said he spoke to the team immediately after the College Football Playoff committee’s decision on Dec. 3 to move FSU from No. 4 to No. 5 in the final rankings — jumped by both Texas and Alabama — and followed that up with several text messages to players while he was on the road recruiting.
He said many Seminoles players are still struggling with the reality that an undefeated season was not enough to sway the committee.
“You had to learn how to work through disappointment, hurt, frustration and anger — every bit of it — for 18-to-22-year-old kids and a 42-year-old coach,” Norvell said Tuesday. “It’s hard. But at the end of the day, you control things you can control. We did everything we needed to to win 13 games this season.”
Florida State was ranked in the CFP’s top four for much of the season, but when quarterback Jordan Travis went down with a season-ending leg injury against North Alabama in Week 13, the offense struggled to regroup, scoring just 40 points in wins over Florida and Louisville to close out the season.
The Seminoles’ margin of victory in those two games were still better than that of Alabama or Washington, and its yardage differential better than Michigan‘s in the same span. Still, the committee determined the struggles in the passing game — FSU started No. 2 quarterback Tate Rodemaker against Florida and No. 3 quarterback Brock Glenn in the ACC title game while Rodemaker was in concussion protocol — was evidence the Seminoles were not capable of winning a championship.
“As you look at who they are as a team, right now, without Jordan Travis, without the offensive dynamic that he brings to it, they are a different team,” committee chair Boo Corrigan said.
Florida State began practice this week for its Dec. 30 date with No. 6 Georgia in the Capital One Orange Bowl (4 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+ and the ESPN App) — a game that figures to be played without a host of top players from both teams.
Seminoles running back Trey Benson, receiver Johnny Wilson, defensive tackle Fabien Lovett, tight end Jaheim Bell and defensive end Jared Verse have already announced they’re skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft, while a number of other contributors are in the transfer portal. The fate of defensive lineman Braden Fiske, receiver Keon Coleman and several other notable draft prospects remains unclear, though Norvell said Tuesday he’s “got a grasp” on who’ll play and who will not.
Regardless, Norvell said bowl prep is an opportunity for Florida State to make progress — both for a chance to finish the season without a loss and to get a jump start on the future, in spite of the playoff committee’s snub.
“We get an opportunity to go get better,” Norvell said. “You can’t just be good when it sounds good. … This is our reality, so you push through it and go get better.”
Norvell said the challenges of being on the road recruiting in the immediate aftermath proved particularly difficult, and he said players were faced with a barrage of reminders on social media.
“They’ve had a lot thrown at them,” he said.
Norvell said he hoped the experience of the past few weeks would provide a good lesson for his players that will allow them to better navigate other challenges down the road.
Norvell didn’t specifically criticize the committee, saying “I wasn’t in that room, and it wasn’t my choice,” but he added that he will not allow it to take away from what he believed was a championship-caliber season.
“The feelings I have that we didn’t get an opportunity are one thing, but I’m so proud of who this team is and what we represented for 13 weeks of the season,” Norvell said. “I’ll never forget the feelings I have, and I hope these guys don’t either. But it doesn’t take away from what these guys have accomplished throughout the course of the year.”