TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The buzz surrounding the Mike Norvell Era at Florida State has been steadily building since his arrival in December, and, as of Wednesday morning, FSU fans can officially start to daydream about how Year 1 under Norvell is going to play out.
The ACC on Wednesday released its 2020 football schedule, which confirmed what those around Tallahassee have suspected for some time – that the Seminoles will play a schedule laden with challenges but also with several opportunities to make some noise under their new head coach.
The Seminoles will face a national finalist, three teams that finished in the final AP Top 25 and six teams that played in a bowl game.
They’ll also play just one game at Doak Campbell Stadium in the season’s first five weeks and head north to play on a Thursday for the first time in six years.
WATCH: Layne and Tim break down the schedule
But the Seminoles also won’t play on the road in consecutive weeks, they’ll enjoy an open date before opening their ACC slate at North Carolina State, and a late-season Thursday game will mean a few extra days to prepare for the regular-season finale against Florida.
Here are the highlights.
Starting in the spotlight: Florida State fans and the college football world won’t have to wait long to see what kind of team Norvell has put together.
As expected, all eyes will be on the Seminoles in Week 1, when they play West Virginia (Sept. 5) in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
FSU will be making its second appearance in the annual contest, having played Alabama in 2017 in what was the first ever college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Seminoles are also set to face West Virginia for the first time since saying goodbye to the legendary Bobby Bowden in 2009. And how’s this for a sign? Florida State hired Bowden from West Virginia prior to the 1976 season, and his first game as the Seminoles’ head coach was against Memphis State, which would later become the University of Memphis in 1990.
Forty-four years later, FSU hired Norvell from Memphis, and his first game will be against West Virginia.
Of more current concern is this: Florida State will be looking to win its season opener for the first time since 2016. The Seminoles haven’t dropped four consecutive openers since … 1976.
West Virginia will be looking to bounce back from a 5-7 campaign that ended without a bowl game for the first time since 2013.
Norvell’s Doak Debut to follow: A week later, Norvell will run through the tunnel at Doak Campbell Stadium for the first time when FSU hosts FCS Samford (Sept. 12).
He’ll be the second FSU head coach to make his home debut against the Bulldogs, as well as the third consecutive head coach to play Samford in his first year at the helm.
A visit to a new place … with redemption on the line: Get those “States I’ve visited” coffee mugs ready for Florida State’s visit to Boise State (Sept. 19).
In addition to playing their first game in Idaho and their first regular-season game in the Mountain time zone since 2007 (Colorado), the return leg of FSU’s home-and-home series with the Broncos will provide the Seminoles with a prime opportunity to show that things are indeed different this year.
FSU’s game against Boise State last season turned out to be one to forget, and the Broncos are coming off a 12-2 season.
By the time it’s finished, the Seminoles will have played three games and will then have an open date to either press forward or regroup.
Crucial Atlantic Division stretch follows: While those first three weeks will garner plenty of attention, there’s a case to be made that FSU’s season will be defined by the month that follows.
Because after their open week, the Seminoles will play four consecutive games against their fiercest ACC Atlantic Division opponents: at North Carolina State (Oct.3), Clemson (Oct. 10), Wake Forest (Oct. 17) and at Louisville (Oct. 24).
The Seminoles, of course, are looking to reclaim a place of national prominence, but they won’t do that without first asserting themselves in their own division. Clemson has been one of the top programs in college football over the past several seasons, but FSU can take a big step in the right direction by beating some of the other teams in the division.
Since the start of the 2017 season, the Seminoles have a combined record of 8-7 against NC State, Wake Forest, Louisville, Boston College and Syracuse.
Rare visitor on Halloween: The last time Pittsburgh played at Doak Campbell Stadium, senior quarterback Dan Marino threw for a pair of touchdowns in a victory for the Panthers on Sept. 19, 1982.
Nearly 40 years later, Pitt will finally make a return trip – its first as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference – on October 31.
In more recent – and friendly – history for FSU, the game will mark the Seminoles’ first against the Panthers since opening the 2013 season in Pittsburgh.
The Seminoles have historically been tough to beat on Halloween, too. They’re 8-1 all-time on the holiday and haven’t lost a Halloween game since 1959.
Rivalries, Thursday game highlight home stretch: FSU’s first chance to reestablish the college football hierarchy in the sunshine state will come on November 7, when they visit Miami in hopes of snapping a three-game skid to the Hurricanes.
A few weeks later, they’ll look to avoid a three-game skid to the Florida Gators, who visit Tallahassee on November 28.
In between, the Seminoles will close their conference slate at home against Boston College (Nov. 14) and on the road at Syracuse (Nov. 19), where they’ll play their first Thursday game in the regular season since 2014.
That comes a year after playing nothing but Saturday games in 2019, but that’s something of a rarity. Before that, FSU had played at least one mid-week, regular-season game in every year since 2003 – nine Thursdays, eight Mondays and four Fridays.