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Florida State head coach Mike Norvell spoke to the media on Tuesday ahead of the Seminoles’ season opener this Sunday against No. 9 Notre Dame at 7:30 p.m. on ABC at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Entering his second season at the helm of Florida State, the 39-year-old knows his second season in Tallahassee is pivotal, and it starts with the challenge of facing one of the most talented teams in the nation.
“A top-10 national power,” Norvell said. “A team that has been very consistent in a high level of play. Very well coached.”
Well-coached the Fighting Irish are, as head coach Brian Kelly enters his 11th season in charge, coming off the school’s second CFP Playoff appearance. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Notre Dame opens up as 7.5-point favorite against Florida State.
Among Norvell’s challenges in the game will be matching up against the Notre Dame defense, with familiar foe and newly appointed defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman taking over. Freeman comes to South Bend from AAC power Cincinnati, a team that Norvell got the best of in back-to-back weeks in the 2019 season when Norvell was the head coach of Memphis.
Despite the success in the past, Norvell said he doesn’t expect that to play a factor in what his offense sees on Sunday night against the 25th ranked defense in the nation in 2020.
“The personnel is totally different, probably on both sides,” Norvell said. “But great coaches are going to adapt and adjust to the personnel they have. Obviously you’re going to see some of the focus of some of the things he’s implemented in the past at Cincinnati but also playing to the personnel he has at Notre Dame.
“This is a talented group. It definitely has experience sprinkled all throughout the defense. Guys that play hard and play fast. He’s going to bring an attack-style mentality. I mentioned on the radio show last week, this is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football. His defenses have always performed very well. It’s going to be a great challenge for our guys, not totally knowing what to expect. We’re going to have to adapt and adjust throughout the game.”
Norvell potentially brings a new starting quarterback into the fold with the arrival UCF graduate transfer McKenzie Milton. The first official FSU depth chart reads, “Jordan Travis or McKenzie Milton,” a sign that both quarterbacks will get a chance to run the offense. A Milton appearance on Sunday night will mark his first appearance in a game since Nov. 23 against USF when he suffered a broken leg.
Milton won’t be the only transfer quarterback to make his debut, as Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan is set to make his first start for Notre Dame. Norvell had nothing but praise for Coan, who missed last season due to injury.
“He’s a very talented player, and he’s had great success. You look at the success he had at Wisconsin, he’s played in big games,” Norvell said. “He’s played in adverse atmospheres being in the Big Ten during his time there. He was out this last season due to injury, but the thing you hear coming out of Notre Dame is how consistent and how accurate and kind of the game manager he is.
“He’s making guys around him better. He’s a new starter at Notre Dame, but he has a lot of productive collegiate experience. He’s going to do a great job for them. We have to try to make him uncomfortable with what we do and how we attack.”
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