Full Steam Ahead: Why this offensive success isn't surprising but it is sustainable.

The Florida State offense has been on fire so far this season averaging 37.5 points per game and over 500 yards per game. But how sustainable is this level of success? Let me explain why this isn’t exactly a surprise and why I feel it’s sustainable for the rest of the season.

First let’s look back to something I made a case for in the preseason as to why this isn’t exactly a surprise. Norvell has been a good offensive coach in the past with solid production to prove it. However, he hasn’t had the same level of success during his time at FSU, obviously. But, do we think he all the sudden forgot how to coach? I don’t.

In my view, Norvell didn’t have the pieces to run his typical offense due to deficiencies up front and out wide. However, he is good at playing to his teams’ strengths, so they leaned on the run game because it’s what they did best. Now he has enough pieces to do so and we’re seeing the difference it makes.

To provide context to what I’m saying I took Norvell’s career averages on offense as a sole offensive coordinator or head coach (8 seasons between ASU & Memphis) and looked at where they would have finished at the end of last season. All you’ll see below, those averages would have finished top 25 in multiple categories. It’s not like Norvell had a roster loaded with 5 stars at Arizona State or Memphis to get those numbers either. However, the roster he inherited had the pieces he needed missing as we sad previously. Here’s a graphic to help illustrate what I mean by all of this.

Mike Norvell's career average stats vs 2021 prior to FSU infographic
Mike Norvell's career average stats vs 2021 prior to FSU infographic

This offense has been fun to watch but just how good is it and how sustainable is this success? In my opinion, not only is it sustainable but also just getting started and here’s why.

First, let touch on a few thoughts on the personnel. Jordan Travis has been playing lights out this season which is a huge part of the offensive success. He looks cool, calm, and collected running this offense and hasn’t even used his legs much this season outside of avoiding pressure. Jordan Travis is currently the second highest graded power 5 quarterback according to Pro Football Focus through four wees of the season which speaks to the level he is playing at.

Also keep in mind some of the play makers in this offense don’t have a lot of time in this system being transfers. A lot of them were also somewhat inexperienced prior to landing at FSU. The more time and experience they get on the field and in the system the better they will get.

We could also see Winston Wright added to the mix at some point too. He was my X factor for this season because he was a target with proven production and if he can return that adds another weapon to the arsenal.

However, even in his absence FSU currently has the number 1 highest graded receiving core according to Pro Football Focus. When Norvell says this is an offense built for playmakers…that means he needs playmakers which he simply didn’t have enough of. Now that the talent is there to run an offense similar to what he wants the success is on track with what we expected when he was hired, not what we saw with the team he inherited.

Of course they have to keep up the success or this means nothing but now we’ll get into more of why I think that will be the case. Let’s look at how they have performed so far and the competition they still have ahead.

FSU vs the competition so far

Let’s take a look at the FSU offensive stats so far this season.

Those numbers look good but let’s go 1 step further.

Let’s look at the defenses FSU has faced so far, how they performed against them and the defenses still ahead. FSU has already faced the highest ranked defense on their schedule so far (LSU) and there’s currently only 1 Top 30 defense left on the schedule (NCST 13th).

Here’s a look at the FBS opponents’ total defenses through week 4 (yards allowed vs FSU yards against them)

So far, FSU has outgained their opponents’ average yards allowed by over 100 yards per game. FSU has also outscored each team average points allowed per game by multiple scores too.

FSU FBS opponent average points allowed per game.

LSU: 14.25 – FSU 24 (+9.75)

UL: 20.75 – FSU 35 (+14.25)

BC: 27.5 – FSU 44 (+16.5)

I know it’s only been 4 games, but they have produced at a high level whoever they faced. If they can keep up this pace, the defenses they have left on the schedule aren’t exactly night and day from what they have seen so far. I know it’s not as simple as total defense rankings as much as how they matchup, but it paints a pretty good picture.

Looking ahead

Now that we’ve seen how FSU performed against the competition so far this season, let’s look ahead at the defenses remaining on the schedule:

It’s worth nothing that NCST allowed over 350 yards against the FBS teams they faced. Their average looks good because they held 2 bad teams to around 150 yards.

The point is there will be challenges, but there’s not a defense left on the schedule that looks “dominant”. This makes me think if they have performed the way they have, with the potential to get better, this is very sustainable given the similar level of competition going forward.

Like I said, matchups mean everything, and you still must block a talented defensive line against Clemson and NC State. The other thing I like is that FSU has a multi-dimensional offense. Load the box to stop the run? Jordan can pick you apart. Back off to stop the pass and the ground game can run all over you. FSU also has multiple weapons at receiver and running back so they don’t have to rely on one guy having a good game to have success on offense.

Wrapping up

Nothing is guaranteed in football and FSU needs to stay as healthy as possible. However, given what we’ve seen far and knowing what is left to face I have no reason to believe this level of production isn’t sustainable which makes you excited for the rest of the season! If FSU can maintain this level of success and the defense plays well, we could be looking at a special season and now is the time for FSU to prove itself with three ranked teams on the horizon. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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