The Sun Bowl is right around the corner as Arizona State is getting set to take on Florida State just prior to the New Year.
The Seminoles sit at an even .500 after going 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the ACC. Following a down year last season, and a middle of the road campaign this year, former head coach Willie Taggart was let go in November.
Replacing him is a name familiar to Sun Devil fans, as former ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has taken the reigns in Tallahassee.
After departing from Tempe, Norvell helped spur consecutive winning seasons at Memphis, where his starting quarterback was former Sun Devil Brady White, who transferred to the Tigers after losing a starting quarterback battle in Tempe.
Both ASU and Florida State are in the midst of intriguing seasons full of ups and downs, and to learn more about the Seminoles, we sent a few questions over to our friend Jon Marchant of Tomahawk Nation, who kindly gave us his responses ahead of the bowl game.
What is Florida State’s biggest strength and weakness?
TN: Their biggest strength was the big-play ability of the offense. Between QB James Blackman’s willingness to attack deep, WR Tamorrion Terry’s ability to win at the elevated catch point, and RB Cam Akers’ explosiveness and toughness, this offense was capable of some fun plays that could keep them in tough games.
As for weakness, where to start? Injury has decimated this team, and they were sloppy and undisciplined all season. But most of all, the weakness was the offensive line. They are again one of the worst in the country.
Who is one under the radar player that ASU fans should know about?
TN: I would say safety Hamsah Nasirildeen, but he’s hurt along with everyone else. Cam Akers and Marvin Wilson aren’t playing, and the ‘Noles have lost multiple other starters on defense. So I guess I’ll go with cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. He’s a young player with a lot of potential, and he could flash some playmaking ability.
What’s been the perception surrounding Mike Norvell’s hire, and what was the ultimate boiling point surrounding the Willie Taggart firing?
TN: I think the perception has been overwhelmingly positive. He wasn’t a household name here so many were initially confused or disappointed.
But his staff appears to be young and talented and he did a great job keeping FSU’s recruiting class together. That’s about as good as you can do at this early junction.
As for Taggart, the boiling point was unoriginal - a loss to a rival, in this case Miami. A lot of factors went into getting to that point though. Including financial - both in terms of sagging ticket sales and lack of support among boosters for Taggart’s regime, Taggart setting unrealistic expectations, and the lack of on-field progress.
What do you think is the biggest thing that Norvell and Florida State needs to do to get back in the national spotlight of college football?
TN: It’s hard to narrow it to one thing since I think Taggart got caught in a vicious circle of recruiting failures and not winning games. But it all starts with recruiting in college football. But to avoid falling in the trap that caught Taggart, Norvell will need to hit QB (check), OL (specifically OT), and Edge. FSU is loaded at skill positions and has some interesting talent in the secondary. But the OL has been so bad it cripples everything else.
Score prediction? What does FSU need to do to “chop” down ASU in the Sun Bowl? Ha, see what I did there?
TN: Ha! Both teams are short-handed, and FSU is the underdog. If FSU is going to win they need to play mistake-free football. Limit the penalties and win the turnover luck battle. They’ll also need to hit some big plays on offense so they won’t be forced to drive the field, and on defense play assignment-sound and limit the big play. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced FSU can meet that tall task. I think the Seminoles will fall to the Sun Devils 31-23.