Florida State at Pitt
Start: 3:30 pm
Where: Acrisure Stadium (68,400), Pittsburgh
Records: Florida State (8-0, 6-0 ACC); Pitt (2-6, 1-3 ACC)
Rankings: Florida State is the No. 4 seed
Coaches: Pat Narduzzi is 64-47 in his ninth year at Pitt, 64-47 overall. Mike Norvell is 26-16 in his fourth year at Florida State, 64-31 overall.
Previous meeting: Pitt 41, Florida State 17 in 2020
TV: ESPN (Mark Jones, play-by-play; Louis Riddick, analysis; Quint Kessenich, sideline reporter)
Radio: 93.7 FM. (Bill Hillgrove, play-by-play; Pat Bostick, analysis; Larry Richert, sideline reporter, Dorin Dickerson, sideline reporter). SiriusXM Channel 380. Online: 937thefan.radio.com
Note: Pitt is coming off a 58-7 loss at Notre Dame. Florida State is coming off a 41-16 win over Wake Forest. … Norvell was an assistant coach at Pitt in 2011. … Florida State last played in Pittsburgh in 2013, the year the Seminoles won the national championship. … Pitt last defeated a Top 4 team at home on Nov. 24, 2017 when freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett led the Panthers to a 24-14 upset of 10-0, No. 2 Miami.
The Line: Florida State is a 21.5-point favorite
Prediction: Florida State, 41-13
It’s Will Graves
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH – Patrick Payton remembers one of the first questions when he arrived in Tallahassee in 2021. The answer, basically.
“They asked me ‘What do you want to win at Florida State?'” the redshirt sophomore defensive lineman said. “And I said, ‘I’m just trying to be a part of bringing Florida State back.’
The fourth-ranked Seminoles are close.
Florida State (8-0, 6-0 ACC) can clinch a spot in the ACC tournament for the first time in nine years with a win at Pittsburgh (2-6, 1-3) on Saturday. The Seminoles were also fourth in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, though Payton doesn’t care about that part of the equation.
“It (doesn’t matter) who’s ranked right now, because whoever’s ranked … right now can lose,” Payton said.
That’s something Florida State hasn’t done in over a year. The Seminoles’ 14-game winning streak spanning three games into the 2022 season briefly snapped head coach Mike Norvell’s streak since his arrival in December 2019.
Florida State is on a roll now and looks to be on a roll in the next few weeks. After early threats from Boston College and Clemson, the Seminoles have found a starting point. Each of their last four wins have come by at least 18 points, including last week’s 41-16 demolition of Wake Forest.
“Our guys, they do a good job of taking ownership (of) mistakes that happen (early in the year),” Norvell said. “That’s what we’ve been doing for years, and when you get to November, that’s when you want to play your best football.”
If Florida State can do it, the Seminoles will have a chance to make the CFP for the first time since Oregon blew it in the semifinals of the first CFP in 2014.
One of college football’s undisputed leaders has struggled, including four straight losing seasons from 2018-2021. But those days seem to be over. Behind senior quarterback Jordan Travis and a defense that seems to be hitting, the swagger has returned to Florida State under Norvell.
“That’s why I’m here,” said Jeremiah Byers, who transferred to UTEP last winter. “I knew this team was special from last year and I just wanted to be a part of something that’s about families, that cares about kids and I want to win.”
Pitt finds itself at the other end of the spectrum just two years removed from the ACC title. The Panthers are off to a rough start since coach Pat Narduzzi arrived in December 2014 and fell apart in the second half of a 58-7 loss to No. 12 Notre Dame last week.
Narduzzi drew criticism from both inside and outside the program for questioning how the game’s talent was depleted. He apologized to his players the next day, stressing to the kids he drafted that he still had their backs and saying “my boys are my boys.”
How the Panthers come out against the Seminoles could be an indicator of whether Narduzzi still has interest in the room. Last week aside, Pitt has made a habit of playing tough opponents during Narduzzi’s tenure, including an upset of Louisville on Oct. 14.
Now comes the toughest test for the Panthers in more ways than one.
Travis enters Saturday two walks shy of tying Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for second on the school’s all-time list. Winston threw 65 touchdowns for the Seminoles in 2013-14. Travis is 63 over the course of his long career and has had multiple hits in 15 straight games.
“The guy never makes mistakes,” Narduzzi said of Travis. “And they are confident. The boy also plays with swagger. He can run, he looks like a throwback, just an obsession. They play with imagination and passion. “
Sticking with VEILLEUX
While Travis has been in Tallahassee, Pitt has seen a revolving door of variations since Kenny Pickett’s 2021 success.
Kedon Slovis gave way to Nick Patti gave way to Phil Jurkovec gave way to Christian Veilleux. A sophomore transfer from Penn State, Veilleux will make his fourth consecutive start after taking over for the inactive Jurkovec. Veilleux threw four interceptions against the Irish last Saturday, a stretch that has been a learning curve.
“He’s a great leader and he takes a lot of time and effort to prepare,” said Cignetti, the Pitt coordinator. “When he decided to come here in January, it was for a trip. He knows he has three years of eligibility, and it’s not about where he was in January but where he wants to go in those three years. “