The “Greatest Opener of All Time” pits top ranked Alabama against third ranked Florida State in Atlanta on September 3rd. The Crimson Tide and Seminoles have been two of college football’s premiere programs over the last decade. The two schools have combined for five national championships and eight conference titles since 2008. The storylines are plentiful for this game. The coaches are larger than life and both teams are filled with NFL caliber talent. The winner leaves this game in the driver seat for the College Football Playoff.
Alabama almost went wire to wire as the nation’s top team. The Crimson Tide finished the regular season unbeaten behind an opportunistic defense and the arm and legs of true freshman quarterback, Jalen Hurts. Outside of a thrilling victory in Oxford against Ole Miss, Alabama won every game by 10 or more points. Alabama then cruised by Florida in the SEC Championship Game in rout to the Tide’s third straight College Football Playoff berth. Alabama made easy work of Washington, beating the Huskies 24-7 in the Peach Bowl. Then, in one of college football’s greatest games, Alabama came two seconds away from repeating as National Champion, but Deshaun Watson’s touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow gave Clemson a 35-31 win.
Florida State also broke in a new signal caller in redshirt freshman quarterback, Deondre Francois. After an epic comeback win against Ole Miss in Orlando in week one, the Seminoles lost superstar safety, Derwin James, for the year to a torn meniscus in week two. Florida State was then blown out by Louisville the following week. The Seminoles’ ACC and College Football Playoff aspirations were dashed by a stunning loss to North Carolina in week five. Florida State suffered its third and final loss of the season to Clemson in week nine. The Seminoles were able to salvage their season by beating rival Florida to close out the regular season. Florida State then beat Michigan in the Orange bowl for its 10th win of the year.
Alabama – Florida State Preview
Alabama Wins If…
On offense Alabama needs to lean heavily on its running game. Steady doses of Bo Scarbrough and company should wear down a Florida State defense that is thin at linebacker. Designed quarterback runs with Jalen Hurts should keep Florida State’s athletic ends at home and open up holes on the inside. In the passing game, the Tide should use Calvin Ridley’s superior route running to its advantage against the Seminole secondary.
As for the Crimson Tide defense, Alabama should focus on pressuring Francois. The Seminoles’ signal caller took an absolute beating last year. Alabama has the depth and talent up front to make Francois’s day miserable. Florida State’s inexperience at receiver and Alabama’s talented secondary could lead to coverage sacks for the Crimson Tide defensive line.
Florida State Wins If…
The key to beating Alabama’s defense is balance. The Seminoles’ offensive line must open up running lanes for Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers. Using Francois’s talent as a runner yields the potential for big gains on the ground when done correctly. In the passing game, Francois has to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Timing routes and well timed screens will take Alabama’s aggressive front seven out of the picture. Winning the pace of the game will eventually open up opportunities in the intermediate and deep passing games as fatigue gets the best of Alabama’s defensive line.
When Florida State is on defense, the Seminoles need to make Hurts beat them with his arm. The Crimson Tide offense struggled last year when it abandoned the running game and threw the ball downfield more. The Seminoles will need senior defensive tackle, Derrick Nnadi’s massive frame to clog running lanes. If the Crimson Tide is forced into third and long scenarios, then the speed that Florida State has on the edge can take over the game.
The “Greatest Opener of All Time” should definitely live up to its hype. This game will be an epic matchup between to of college football’s best coaches and strongest teams. Look for Alabama to get the upper hand early. However, as both teams start to figure each other out, Jimbo Fisher’s halftime adjustments should bring the Seminoles back within striking distance. The winner of this game may very well be whichever team has the ball last.
FSU – 24 BAMA – 20