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“I don’t think there is a conversation:” Mike Norvell address talk of leaving undefeated FSU out of playoff

“Since the BCS was created and the history of this, there’s never been an undefeated Power 5 team that was denied an opportunity to play for a national championship over a one-loss team.”

Peyton Baker/Tomahawk Nation

No. 4 Florida State, in its fourth season under head coach Mike Norvell, secured a 13-0 record and ACC Championship with a 16-6 over the No. 15 Louisville Cardinals.

The win gave the Seminoles their third victory over a current Top 25 team (No. 13 LSU, No. 22 Clemson). Overall, FSU has the most wins (eight) over bowl-eligible Power 5 teams and is currently No. 3 in ESPN’s Strength of Record rankings (which reflects the chance that an average Top 25 team would have team’s record or better, given the schedule).

With Alabama having upset Georgia in the SEC Championship the narrative for the Crimson Tide to jump into the top four of the College Football Rankings has hit an all-time high, which is further complicated by the fact that one-loss Texas, the team that beat them, stormed to a Big 12 title on Saturday.

According to DraftKings, Florida State has the best odds to make the playoff out of the three — the Seminoles sit at -400 odds, Texas at -300 and Alabama at +100.

After the win, Norvell addressed the emerging debate in a fairly unbothered manner.

The work they put in, the journey we’ve been on, the ups, the downs, the adversity that we’ve faced, tonight starting a true freshman quarterback in the ACC Championship game, not necessarily how we envisioned it, as we’ve been going through these last 13 games, but it was a football team that responded together, and that’s what we have. We have a real team, no matter how you’ve got to do it, no matter what it needs to look like, we find ways to win games.

This is a real team. It’s one that finds a way to win games. Whatever it needs to look like.

There’s plenty of teams that have talent. There’s plenty of teams that you could sit there and point to a moment here or a moment there, but it’s about getting the win. It’s about making sure that you show up and you do the things necessary to achieve in each situation, and we’ve done that on the road. We’ve done it at home. We’ve done it with a backup quarterback, and now we’ve done it with a true freshman quarterback. This team continues to find ways to make it happen.

You sit back and you look, since the BCS was created and the history of this, there’s never been an undefeated Power 5 team that was denied an opportunity to play for a national championship over a one-loss team.

There’s a reason. Because you have to earn it on the field. I don’t care how much talent you have. I don’t care what it looks like on a game or in a moment. You’ve got to get it done, and if you have all that ability, well, go finish. That’s what this team has done. This team has showed up week in and week out and they’ve worked for it.

We’ve had some one-play games. We’ve had some challenging moments that they had to respond, and that’s what makes a champion. These guys are champions.

You know what, if we get our opportunity, which I fully expect to get, this is going to be a team that’s going to continue to do all things necessary to put themselves in a position to go take the next step.

I believe in this football team. It’s funny there’s people that can count us out. Jordan Travis went down. That was a special player. He means everything to our program. When he went down, we still went on the road, and big rival, found adversity and responded to it and found a way to get a win.

Tonight, same thing. Adversity shows up, challenges set in, this team is built for it. I believe in them. I don’t care where, who, when. I’ve had 13 straight games this season, and the final six last season, and you know, we beat a lot of teams from all these different conferences that presumed are at this other — we show up and play and find a way to win, and that’s what this team has done.

I believe in this team 100 percent. I don’t care who, where, when we play. This team is going to show up and they’re going to battle. You can take any stat line. And we told our guys, tonight whatever it takes, if it’s offense, if it’s defense, we’ve got to help and we’ve got to respond and we’ve got to have each other’s back in situations.

We scored 16 points tonight. If somebody said you score 16 points, what’s it going to look like? Tonight it looked like a win. Something that will be remembered. It’s something that obviously our football team did what was necessary, right, to be able to achieve success.

Because that’s what it comes down to. You can have all the talent in the world, but it comes down to doing the things necessary to win games, and that’s what this team just consistently does.

It’s entertainment in some things to be able to have the conversation [of leaving FSU out], but I don’t think there is a conversation. We’re at Florida State. We open up a season with LSU on the road, maybe a Heisman Trophy candidate, maybe winner in their quarterback that — you know, we showed what we were about then defensively, special teams-wise, offense, the talent that we have.

The way that we’ve won games. To go on the road at Clemson. Nobody else was able to accomplish that. Some ranked teams went in there, but we were the only team that was able to beat them on the road, and it was tough.

We’ve been down in games. We’ve been down 10 points I think in three or four different games, and we responded. It’s not just like we came back — we came back and finished games. We came back and were able to do the things necessary to achieve victory.

I don’t think there is a conversation. This is a team that is well deserving. This is a team that has earned it. This is a team that has showed up consistently and proven that they have what it takes to win, and we’ve done it against more Power Five bowl eligible teams than anybody else out there.

So I don’t want to hear about the schedule. Actually we schedule a tough non-conference. We put ourselves out there, and then you embrace it in how you go about your business. This team, they’ve earned it.

Like I said, each week it changes what’s the hot team or the most talented team, but then when they lose a game, there’s a reason. This team has all the ability, and they just get it done.

We just beat a top-15 team with a true freshman quarterback. Like that doesn’t matter. I don’t care perspective what people think. We win. We win. You know what, if we get the opportunity to go play in the national semifinal, it’s going to be a challenge. I believe in this team. I believe in what they can do. I believe in who they are. You know what, they showed up every single week and done it.

So I don’t really care about what everybody else’s opinions are. I know who I coach, and I know we get the opportunity, they’re going to go fight for everything they get because they’ve been doing it the last four years, and whatever the next opportunity is, I promise you they’re going to show up.

His full interview alongside running back Lawrance Toafili, with a full transcript, is below:

Florida State head coach Mike Norvell

MIKE NORVELL: First off, just so proud of our football team. The work they put in, the journey we’ve been on, the ups, the downs, the adversity that we’ve faced, tonight starting a true freshman quarterback in the ACC Championship game, not necessarily how we envisioned it, as we’ve been going through these last 13 games, but it was a football team that responded together, and that’s what we have. We have a real team, no matter how you’ve got to do it, no matter what it needs to look like, we find ways to win games.

We’ve got the most Power Five wins over bowl eligible teams in the country. This is a team that has been resilient in the way that they have had to overcome, and it shows up in how they play.

Defense had to show up big tonight, and they did. That was a really good Louisville offense that’s been playing — I think they scored 30 points in the last five or six games that they played, and to hold them to 6 points was awesome.

We made the plays necessary, and that’s what this team is all about. There’s times that you face challenges and you’ve got to get yourself up, and we’ve been through that. We’ve been through that the last four years. I’m grateful for all those challenges, for this team to go up and show up in times just like this.

I knew it was going to take everybody, and it absolutely did. And to be able to finish up 13-0, conference champions, the schedule which we played and how we’ve had to work through it, it’s a special group, and I’m just honored for the opportunity to coach them.

Q. Mike, I asked you yesterday about trying to lobby for Florida State, and there’s a lot of people questioning whether you deserve a playoff spot because you don’t have your starting quarterback, and that has increased since this game ended. What do you have to say about why this team belongs in the playoff?

MIKE NORVELL: Because this is a real team. It’s one that finds a way to win games. Whatever it needs to look like.

There’s plenty of teams that have talent. There’s plenty of teams that you could sit there and point to a moment here or a moment there, but it’s about getting the win. It’s about making sure that you show up and you do the things necessary to achieve in each situation, and we’ve done that on the road. We’ve done it at home. We’ve done it with a backup quarterback, and now we’ve done it with a true freshman quarterback. This team continues to find ways to make it happen.

You sit back and you look, since the BCS was created and the history of this, there’s never been an undefeated Power 5 team that was denied an opportunity to play for a national championship over a one-loss team.

There’s a reason. Because you have to earn it on the field. I don’t care how much talent you have. I don’t care what it looks like on a game or in a moment. You’ve got to get it done, and if you have all that ability, well, go finish. That’s what this team has done. This team has showed up week in and week out and they’ve worked for it.

We’ve had some one-play games. We’ve had some challenging moments that they had to respond, and that’s what makes a champion. These guys are champions.

You know what, if we get our opportunity, which I fully expect to get, this is going to be a team that’s going to continue to do all things necessary to put themselves in a position to go take the next step.

I believe in this football team. It’s funny there’s people that can count us out. Jordan Travis went down. That was a special player. He means everything to our program. When he went down, we still went on the road, and big rival, found adversity and responded to it and found a way to get a win.

Tonight, same thing. Adversity shows up, challenges set in, this team is built for it. I believe in them. I don’t care where, who, when. I’ve had 13 straight games this season, and the final six last season, and you know, we beat a lot of teams from all these different conferences that presumed are at this other — we show up and play and find a way to win, and that’s what this team has done.

Q. To follow up on that, do you feel like you could compete with the other three teams if you make it to the College Football Playoff?

MIKE NORVELL: I believe in this team 100 percent. I don’t care who, where, when we play. This team is going to show up and they’re going to battle. You can take any stat line. And we told our guys, tonight whatever it takes, if it’s offense, if it’s defense, we’ve got to help and we’ve got to respond and we’ve got to have each other’s back in situations.

We scored 16 points tonight. If somebody said you score 16 points, what’s it going to look like? Tonight it looked like a win. Something that will be remembered. It’s something that obviously our football team did what was necessary, right, to be able to achieve success.

Because that’s what it comes down to. You can have all the talent in the world, but it comes down to doing the things necessary to win games, and that’s what this team just consistently does.

Q. Can you talk about going to LT in the wildcat, getting a spark defensively, and just the decision to do that with UL’s defense being very good?

MIKE NORVELL: We talked about it all week. It’s a defense that doesn’t give up much in the run game. We felt we if we could gain a little bit of an advantage if we were able to implement a little bit of wildcat into it. We really put it in late in the week, and it was something that these guys, they did a wonderful job of being able to adapt to it.

LT had an unbelievable game. The big run, the touchdown, it was a spark we needed, and our offensive line, we knew there was going to be some challenges. That was a really good defense that we played against, but they rose up in the moment and were able to get it accomplished.

Q. How scary is the defense now after tonight? Because I feel like going into this College Football Playoff, some of these three teams you got to look out for our defense.

MIKE NORVELL: Yeah, I think our defense has played at an extremely high level. We have gotten better throughout the season. You look at the way they played in the second half of games. They can adapt, they can adjust, they can go out there and execute.

They got put in challenging situations tonight. To be able to get the interception there, with Tatum in the end zone, that was such a huge play.

These guys have such heart. They’re such competitors. Whoever lines up across from us, we know we’ve got to embrace the challenge. We’re built for challenge. That’s the way that we work, the way that we push the standard of what’s necessary here at Florida State. It’s how we’ve gotten the program back to where it is, because of guys like this.

It’s just a great group, and I thought our defense was lights out tonight and helped carry us to the championship tonight.

Q. Brock Glenn showed some poise at different times; made throws when you guys needed to; he obviously did enough, like you mentioned, to win the game. Talk about his performance.

MIKE NORVELL: You know, it was remarkable. To be able to go in there — that’s the thing, he’s a true freshman, but he missed the better part of the middle of the season due to injury.

He’s got great confidence. He’s going to be a special player. I’ve got a lot of confidence in where his career is going.

But he does have poise, and he’s able to go out there and execute. We put a lot on our quarterbacks, and he embraces that, as well.

For a few freshman just to get his first start in the ACC Championship game, I don’t think that’s happened in, what was it, 20-something years for a first-time starting quarterback? Two times in the last 20 years that that’s had to show up, and we got it done.

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: We’re extremely proud of him. He comes to work every day, and he just has the mindset that if anybody goes down, he’s got to be ready. I’m very proud of him and showing the moments and just being ready for his moments. I’m definitely proud of him for that.

Q. We were watching on Instagram waiting to see Braden and Jared break the rock. Talk about the defense; it seems like everyone in that unit played at a level to contribute tonight?

MIKE NORVELL: It was a talented offensive line group, too, from Louisville, too, but those guys knew it was going to take all of them.

You could go down the line like you mentioned. Pat; Fabien had a couple big plays; Josh Farmer; Jared; Braden. I don’t want to leave anybody out because all of those guys were impactful. I thought our linebacking corps really flew around the ball. Our secondary embraced the challenge in huge plays and in one-on-one situations where guys just — they got the job done. We wanted to be aggressive. We wanted to attack.

I’ve got all the respect in the world for Coach Brohm and the offensive mind that he is and the players that they have on that team, but our guys were special tonight.

Q. LT, what was your reaction during the week as it became clear the wildcat was going to be a bigger part of the package and what did you see on the 73-yard run?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: I was just trying to be ready for my moment, trying to make it happen if it needed to be done.

On that play, it actually just opened up. It was a perfect block by the lineman and running back in the backfield. He blocked for me, too, so it was really just me running, so definitely grateful for them.

MIKE NORVELL: You did it fast, and I liked it.

Q. Mike, are you surprised it’s even a conversation? Going undefeated in a Power Five conference, the whole point is to win the games and other teams haven’t. Are you surprised it’s even a conversation?

MIKE NORVELL: Yeah, it’s entertainment in some things to be able to have the conversation, but I don’t think there is a conversation. We’re at Florida State. We open up a season with LSU on the road, maybe a Heisman Trophy candidate, maybe winner in their quarterback that — you know, we showed what we were about then defensively, special teams-wise, offense, the talent that we have.

The way that we’ve won games. To go on the road at Clemson. Nobody else was able to accomplish that. Some ranked teams went in there, but we were the only team that was able to beat them on the road, and it was tough.

We’ve been down in games. We’ve been down 10 points I think in three or four different games, and we responded. It’s not just like we came back — we came back and finished games. We came back and were able to do the things necessary to achieve victory.

I don’t think there is a conversation. This is a team that is well deserving. This is a team that has earned it. This is a team that has showed up consistently and proven that they have what it takes to win, and we’ve done it against more Power Five bowl eligible teams than anybody else out there.

So I don’t want to hear about the schedule. Actually we schedule a tough non-conference. We put ourselves out there, and then you embrace it in how you go about your business. This team, they’ve earned it.

Like I said, each week it changes what’s the hot team or the most talented team, but then when they lose a game, there’s a reason. This team has all the ability, and they just get it done.

Q. Coach, playing with a third string quarterback in the ACC Championship game and winning it is an amazing and phenomenal feat, so just talk about the adversity your team has had to overcome along with the grit and determination that the team has portrayed during this game and throughout the whole season.

MIKE NORVELL: They’re built for it. Like I said in my opening statement, I thank God for the challenges we’ve had over the last four years, because like I said, through that journey sometimes you have to go through what you need to prove you can get through.

Well, we can get through a lot of things. We can get through a lot of challenges. We can get through a lot of adversity that’s thrown at us. I believe in these players. That’s what gives me such great confidence, because I watch them every single day.

It’s not just on the field. Everybody can get excited about 13 wins or whatever, 19 straight wins that these guys have been able to take those steps. I also watch them in the classroom. We’ve got a football team that has over 3.0 team GPA. That is best ever in program history.

There are challenges that they embrace and a lot of things that they don’t necessarily like to do, but they’re willing to do it because they want to uphold the standard of what Florida State deserves. They love and care about each other, and I think you see that in how they play.

We push them, and I’m not going to stop pushing them because I believe in where they can go and I believe all that they can accomplish.

Q. LT, why do you feel like you guys should make the playoff? Does it anger you that people are talking about you not making it?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: Honestly, I feel like we go out there and work every day, you know what I’m saying? We play for each other. We are a close-knit team. I feel like we haven’t lost a game yet, so we’re proving our point and showing what we can do. That’s how I feel, honestly.

Q. Your resume is incredible, obviously, but what would you say to the committee if they were saying, hey, that team that you had tonight is not the team that won all those games? How do you put that together with such a big part of your offense missing?

MIKE NORVELL: We just beat a top-15 team with a true freshman quarterback. Like that doesn’t matter. I don’t care perspective what people think. We win. We win. You know what, if we get the opportunity to go play in the national semifinal, it’s going to be a challenge. I believe in this team. I believe in what they can do. I believe in who they are. You know what, they showed up every single week and done it.

So I don’t really care about what everybody else’s opinions are. I know who I coach, and I know we get the opportunity, they’re going to go fight for everything they get because they’ve been doing it the last four years, and whatever the next opportunity is, I promise you they’re going to show up.

Q. LT, Coach talks a lot about adversity, that the running back room has faced adversity throughout this entire year, an example being the Clemson game. How motivated has this team been, the running back room playing with a chip on its shoulder to just have that game, and you really had that game tonight.

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: Yes, sir. All of us together, we’re just pushing each other. We feed off each other’s energy. We’re really just playing our part. Like Coach Atkins says, we’re on fries, you know. We’re doing our part. We had a big part today so we had a big role. We had to step up to the plate.

Q. LT, Coach is really amped right now. Was there any extra emphasis on physicality today for you guys? There’s been a lot of talk about the injuries. Was there any extra motivation to come out and make a statement?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: That’s every day. Early in the morning, 6:00 in the morning, you know what I’m saying? Ready.