Alabama vs. Florida State - Overall Outlook Of The Atlanta Showdown
There is no bigger season opener in college football than Alabama vs. Florida State which will take place on September 2, 2017, at the brand new Mercedes-Benz-Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the next 7 days, BamaInsider.com and Warchant.com will preview the #ATLShowdown with a seven-part series. Today is segment one, which is the overall outlook of each team. (Scroll down for the video feature and article)
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What must Alabama do to be successful against Florida State?
Establish the run. Whether it’s 6-foot-2, 232 pound Bo Scarbrough, 5-foot-11, 216 pound Damien Harris, or even true freshman 6-foot-2, 227 pound Najee Harris, Alabama needs to control the tempo of the game and it starts with sustaining drives and keeping the Florida State Defense on the field. During the 2016 season, Alabama averaged 245.0-yards per game rushing which ranked 12th in the Nation. Alabama returns Harris who ran for 1,037-yards, Scarbrough who ran for 812-yards, and Joshua Jacobs who ran for 567-yards, that is 2,416-yards and 17 touchdowns of experience returning for the 2017 season. Last season Alabama averaged 30:56 of time of possession, if they win the TOP in this game, they likely leave Atlanta 1-0 on the season.
What must Florida State do to be successful against Alabama?
First, the passing game will need to click, and that means doing a better job of protecting quarterback Deondre Francois. Teams that have done well against Alabama have thrown the ball effectively. In the three games where the Tide defense struggled in 2016 (Ole Miss, Arkansas and Clemson), each starting quarterback threw for 400 or more yards. In the other 12 games when Alabama and the defense dominated, opposing offenses averaged just 132 passing yards a game. The offensive line is a big question for FSU, and it must give Francois time to find his receivers.
Also, Florida State must avoid giving up easy scores. Alabama thrives on scoring in unconventional ways. The Tide scored an amazing 11 defensive touchdowns and 15 overall non-offensive touchdowns in 2016. This game is too evenly matched for the Seminoles to give up an easy defensive or special-teams score.
What could adversely impact Alabama's chances in this game?
Turnovers and the kicking game. In a game of this magnitude, especially on primetime and on opening weekend, the juices are going to be flowing. During the 2016 season, Alabama was fifth in the Nation in turnovers gained. Alabama’s defense recovered 13 fumbles and forced 16 interceptions. Alabama over the last several years has been known for their playmaking defensive abilities and turnovers usually lead to touchdowns.
The kicking game is a bit of a concern as Alabama was 3 for 6 during their spring game and will enter the summer season with a kicking battle between Andy Papanastos and Joseph Bulovas. Papanastos missed both of his attempts during the spring game and Bulovas has yet to see a college football game being he’s a true freshman.
What could most adversely impact FSU’s chances in this game?
If the offensive line gets consistently manhandled. Without at least some protection for Francois, the passing game will be severely limited, and FSU will be in big trouble. If Alabama is able to consistently get pressure in the backfield, it will increase the chances of FSU turnovers and big plays by the Tide defense.
How important is this opener to Alabama
Under Head Coach Nick Saban, Alabama is 10-0 in season openers. This game is on primetime tv, everyone will be watching two storied programs at the new Atlanta Falcons Football Stadium, and it’s another opportunity for Saban to flex his muscle to the world of college football. Uncommitted five-star recruits will be dialed into this game and when they see Alabama run onto the field and match up against another power, you have to think Saban wants to send an opening season message that the Alabama Dynasty is far from being done.
If Alabama is able to beat a high caliber team such as Florida State in the opener, the win could give them the opening season momentum they need to cruise through a very favorable schedule.
How important is this opener to FSU?
Any time you are playing in what likely will be a top-two or top-three matchup, it’s an important game. However, a loss in the opener, especially a close one, probably wouldn't derail FSU’s goals for 2017. If the ‘Noles can roll through the other 11 regular-season games and win the conference title, chances are extremely high that they’ll be in the playoffs either way. However, a setback against Alabama will leave little wiggle room, as a second loss might be difficult to overcome in the eyes of the Playoff Committee.
Tomorrow we preview the Alabama passing game against the Florida State pass defense.
Alabama vs. Florida State
Saturday, September 2, 7 PM
The Line: -5 1/2 Alabama