The initial shock and sting from Florida State’s Orange Bowl debacle were still fresh when Seminoles coach Mike Norvell tried to add perspective to a 13-1 season.
“It’s a special group,” Norvell said after the loss to Georgia. “It’s a group that will be remembered.”
The temptation is to view 2023 FSU as a season of what-ifs. What if star quarterback Jordan Travis hadn’t broken his leg against North Alabama? Would the ‘Noles have made the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2014?
What if the playoff selection committee hadn’t snubbed the Travis-less ‘Noles in favor of Alabama? Would FSU have found a way to win a semifinal and advance to Monday’s national title game?
What if the dozen-plus contributors who skipped the Orange Bowl had been willing and able to play? Could the Seminoles have somehow secured the third perfect season in program history?
The answers are unknowable and, to some degree, unimportant. This team should be remembered for what it did accomplish, not what it never had the chance to. It should be remembered as the team that completed FSU’s slow climb back to national prominence.
Regardless of whether No. 1 Michigan or No. 2 Washington wins Monday, FSU’s success was an unavoidable, integral story of the 2023 season. When was the last time you could say that?
Travis finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting — the best finish by a Seminoles player since Jameis Winston won it a decade ago. No team defended the actual Heisman winner, LSU’s Jayden Daniels, better than FSU did in a season-opening 21-point triumph that built national championship expectations.
From there, the Seminoles ended a seven-game losing streak to Clemson with an overtime triumph in Death Valley. They pulled away for an 18-point victory over a top-20 Duke team, beat Miami for the third year in a row, rallied at Florida in a duel of backup quarterbacks and used a third-string quarterback to win their first ACC championship in nine years. Those feats will be enough to give FSU its highest finish in the polls since at least 2016 (eighth).
“(From) now until forever they’re going to walk into Doak Campbell Stadium, they’re going to see the 2023 ACC Championship and they’re going to know they were 13-0 and unconquered throughout that time,” Norvell said.
They were not, of course, unconquered after 13-0. The 60-point loss to Georgia remains the biggest blowout FSU has ever suffered. The ignominy is an inescapable part of this team’s story, but it isn’t a defining part of its legacy — a legacy that won’t become fully apparent for years.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
This cycle’s top-10 recruiting class wasn’t a direct byproduct of the 13-0 start, but the victories had a role in keeping it together. It’s also impossible to ignore the legal drama around the school as it explores an exit from the ACC. Though Travis and Norvell work on the field and not in court, their victories reestablished FSU as a premier brand (which won’t hurt if/when the Seminoles enter conference free agency).
Those possibilities get to the heart of how 2023 Florida State should be remembered — beyond any win, loss, moment or player.
This was the group that brought the Seminoles back to national relevance.
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.