The SP+ and Norvell – What Can FSU Expect Based Off of Previous Results

Mike Norvell came to Florida State from Memphis with the tag of being a developer, detail-oriented, and a guy who has teams that are able to compete with anyone they play. Bill Connelly’s evaluation system has emerged as one of the best in the nation when it comes to ranking and evaluating teams while also being a strong predictive statistic. We look at how Norvell’s teams have done with him as the head man – if the trends continue at FSU the turn around will be quick.

Football Outsiders says Connelly’s S&P+ rankings are a college football rating system derived from both play-by-play and drive data from all 800+ of a season’s FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). The components for SP+ reflect the components of four of what Bill Connelly has deemed the Five Factors of college football: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives. (A fifth factor, turnovers, is informed marginally by sack rates, the only quality-based statistic that has a consistent relationship with turnover margins.)

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Yes, when Coach Norvell took over the Memphis program they had turned the tide under Justin Fuente after a few down years with Larry Porter as their coach. What cannot be argued is how Coach Norvell took that program to the next level which resulted in the best season in the program’s history. Under Fuente’s 4 year tenure as the Tigers coach, they were 26-23. Under Norvell, in the same time frame, the Tigers were 38-16.

Looking at the SP+ rankings for each season there is a trend – Norvell’s teams exceed expectations. Some of the results are eye-opening.




Record: 8-5

Preseason Projected SP+: 78th

Season Ending SP+: 49th


The 2016 season was highlighted by the nation’s top special teams unit according to the SP+. Much wasn’t expected of a team coming off of 9 wins under a new regime but Norvell and his staff were able to beat the expected finish by 37%.




Record: 10-3

Preseason Projected SP+: 61st

Season Ending SP+: 42nd


The 2017 season resulted in the Tigers second double-digit winning season. The team was led by one of the nation’s best offenses which the SP+ had as the 17th best overall. Another year of blowing away expectations by 31%.




Record: 8-6

Preseason Projected SP+: 42nd

Season Ending SP+: 36th


A step back record-wise after a season where Coach Norvell was working with some new coaches. Nonetheless, the offense continued to improve, resulting in the 14th best offensive unit in the nation according to the SP+. The 14% beat over expectations was the worst in his 4-year stint at Memphis.




Record: 12-2

Preseason Projected SP+: 26th

Season Ending SP+: 17th


Unequivocally the best season in Memphis history highlighted by a top 20 offense and defense in the SP+. Both units finished 17th. While the SP+ had higher expectations coming into the season as a fringe top 25 team they finished the season as one of the best teams in the country for 2019. A 35% beat was a great way to finish his time at Memphis.

So what does this all mean? Well, first, it is proof that Coach Norvell and his teams are better than expected and that they get results. Three of Norvell’s four years say at least a 31% beat and an average of 29%.

Florida State has finished the same 4-year time frame as the 6th, 9th, 71st, and 58th best teams according to the SP+. You do not need the SP+ to know that Willie Taggart’s time at FSU was a bust, but man, does the rankings make it hurt more. A 75% fall from 18th in the preseason in 2018 and a 52% fall from 28th in the preseason to 58th show that Taggart was not the right man for the job.

Back to Coach Norvell. If the trend continues, FSU will see an on-field turn around quickly. The preseason SP+ for 2020 just came out and Connelly thinks FSU will bounce back after the worst season BBB (Before Bobby Bowden) and finish as a fringe top-25 team (26th is FSU’s preseason ranking in the SP+). If FSU gets the results Norvell had at Memphis, FSU is looking at a 9 or 10 win season in 2020 and a possible top 15 finish.

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