He may not be on the Florida State sideline Tuesday when the Seminoles face Arizona State in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Tx., but it will be new coach Mike Norvell’s first opportunity to judge the scale of the rebuild he faces in restoring one of college football’s most storied teams to national prominence.
How to Watch
When: Tuesday, Dec. 31
Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Norvell was hired earlier this month from Memphis after guiding the Tigers to a 12-1 record and American Athletic Conference title this season, which earned them a spot in the Cotton Bowl. The 38-year-old Norvell, who went 38-15 in his four seasons in the Mid-South, did not win a bowl game in his previous three seasons and was not around for Memphis’ loss to Penn State in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday since he is building his new staff in Tallahassee.
While he goes about that task, the Seminoles (6-6) will be led by interim coach Odell Haggins, who took over when Willie Taggart was fired in November after less than two seasons in which he posted a 9-12 record. Florida State has won two of its three games under Haggins, who will be part of Norvell’s staff going forward and continue his run with the Seminoles that dates back to 1994.
This will be Haggins’ second bowl game as interim coach for the Seminoles, having guided them to a 42-13 victory over Southern Mississippi in 2017 after Jimbo Fisher departed for Texas A&M. Florida State is looking to avoid back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since a four-year run from 1973-76 that preceded 41 straight winning seasons.
Florida State will be without a key component on both sides of the ball for this game. Running back Cam Akers and cornerback Stanford Samuels have both declared for the draft and opted to skip the game. A two-time 1,000-yard rusher, Akers finished with a career-best 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns. Samuels totaled eight interceptions over 37 games in three seasons.
Arizona State (7-5) is bowling for the second time in as many seasons under coach Herm Edwards, who looks to notch his first postseason victory. The Sun Devils, who are in a bowl game for the eighth time in nine seasons, have not had an eight-win season since going 10-3 in 2014.
The Sun Devils will also be missing important cogs in their offense as 1,000-yard rusher Eno Benjamin and 1,000-yard receiver Brandon Aiyuk are also bypassing this game to prepare for the NFL Draft. That puts the offensive burden on freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels, who threw for 2,748 yards and 17 touchdowns with only two interceptions in 310 attempts.
Benjamin’s absence could loom large considering no other Sun Devils running back on the roster has more than 50 yards, and Daniels was the team's second-leading rusher with 319. He still will have a deep threat in Frank Darby. Eight of Darby's 28 catches went for touchdowns and he averaged 21.3 yards per reception.
Florida State leads the all-time series 3-1, but Arizona State’s lone win came in the 1971 Fiesta Bowl. The teams have not met since a 52-44 Seminoles victory in Tempe in 1984.