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Jumbo Package: Alabama-Florida State Previews and Predictions

It’s finally here, and everybody has a take.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Alabama
Christian Miller will be counted on to lead the young pass rushers.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday-before-game-day, everyone. Needless to say, Alabama-Florida State is the college football topic du jour, and everybody has a take. We’ll start with your previews from the major outlets:

Florida State must prevent Alabama from establishing its run game, and they have the talent and experience to do just that. They need to make quarterback Jalen Hurts win the game through the air. That matchup definitely favors Florida State, though safety Trey Marshall will miss the first half of the game because of a targeting penalty from the 2016 season.

Still, if Alabama sticks to what it does best — relying on its run game and dominant front seven — the Tide should walk away with the first victory in Mercedes-Benz Stadium history.

"So the question for me is: Can Bama pressure Deondre Francois, and can Francois find some new playmakers? Cause now that Dalvin Cook is gone, and all of his receivers from last year, we’re going to see a new wave of athletes start to emerge in Tallahassee," Herbstreit said. "And everybody’s excited to see Cam Akers, their young freshman phenom, true freshman tailback that they have. But they’re going to have to also find some wide receivers if they want to really challenge not only Alabama, but if they want to make a challenge and try to make some noise to try to get into the ACC Championship and ultimately into the playoff. But they lost a lot of production. (Nyqwan) Murray, No. 8, is their top go-to wide receiver. He’ll have to be out there making plays himself."

Scarborough: The blending of pro and spread concepts could work out really well ... or it could have growing pains. Alabama's running game, regardless, will be spectacular. What I worry about if I'm a Tide fan is the defense. Granted, they'll still be one of the best in the conference, but I think they take a step back from where they've been the past two years. You can't lose A'Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Jonathan Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson, Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams and Reuben Foster from the front seven and stay on par. That just doesn't happen. And the secondary, while it's anchored by two good ones in Ronnie Harrison and Minkah Fitzpatrick, has some questions about what they'll look like against four- and five-wide receiver sets.

Alabama drastically changes games when its defense rattles opposing quarterbacks and forces them into mistakes. Francois didn't do that as a redshirt freshman last year, and he won't as a sophomore. The Seminoles will score in the high 20s, put more pressure on Hurts than he's used to and keep it tight all the way throughout. Alabama has struggled with field goals during fall camp, and it'll cost the Crimson Tide the victory against the Seminoles. Pick: Florida State (+7)

When the Tide lost the national title game last winter, there was simply an equally talented team in their path. Against Ole Miss in ’15, the defense faltered worse than it had in years, and against the same Rebels in ’14, it may have rested too easy on a 14–3 halftime lead. In the Sugar Bowl to end the ’14 season, Cardale Jones and Ohio State edged Alabama by a touchdown in a high-scoring game en route to the Buckeyes’ national title. There was the Kick-Six in ’13 against Auburn and a high-flying Oklahoma offense a few weeks later in the Sugar Bowl. In ’12, there was Johnny Manziel. In ’11, Alabama came up on the short end of one of the greatest defensive battles in history in a 9–6 loss to LSU.

And that’s the list. There’s no through line, no hidden key.

The most exciting, and nerve-wracking, aspect of opening week is the unknown. As Nick Saban always says, every new team must forge its own identity. Many a “can’t miss” championship-caliber squad with all the returning starters has disappointed. Having the best team on paper is important, but it’s only the first step. Injury luck, consistency in effort, leadership, and even the bounce of the ball can be the difference between glory and pain.

This is what has made Saban and Alabama unique. The Tide lose elite talent to the NFL every single season, yet seemingly manage to “reload.” The reason is, obviously, the seven consecutive recruiting championships. When guys like Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson leave campus, the Tide aren’t hoping some kid works out. No, they simply run blue chip after blue chip out there during camp in a kind of Battle Royale that has no wrong answers. Before a man will be entrusted with a starting role, he must prove himself as a consistent competitor with the aforementioned intangibles. Who will it be? 2014 four-star Christian Miller? 2015 four-star Anfernee Jennings? One of the vaunted 2016 four/five stars Terrell Lewis, Ben Davis, or Mack Wilson? Ballyhooed true freshmen LaBryan Ray or Dylan Moses?

Most all of those players will see the field in those two slots this season. Miller, Jennings, and Lewis saw the most action of the bunch last season and managed to grab the top three spots in the OLB rotation. They will indeed have to prove themselves on the field, but the odds are in their favor.

Unknowns aside, prognostication is half the fun of college football fandom. So, what will happen on Saturday? The Tide will follow the script. Expect a somewhat conservative start from both teams as the coordinators feel each other out a bit. Yes, it will be tempting for Brian Daboll to try and exploit Florida State’s backup safety early before the starter returns in the second half, but early risks aren’t really in Saban’s DNA. The Tide will lean on its running game and front seven, which should be able to outclass the Florida State offensive line.

Make no mistake, Florida State has plenty of talent on the defensive side as well, and their depth has improved. Also, with the Tide running out a new starter at CB and Deondre Francois’ penchant for throwing it deep, expect to see the Seminoles hit a big play or two. Still, Alabama should be able to do more against a Florida State front seven, that has struggled mightily against running QBs, than Florida State can do to Alabama’s. Look for Jalen Hurts to run for 80 of Alabama’s 250 rushing yards on the day and punctuate a clock-killing drive with a late rushing TD to seal a hard-fought victory. Let’s call it 31-20.

That’s merely my prediction, of course. What’s yours?

Vote and tell us in the comments.

“You never know for sure until they get in a game and do it in a game, but from a practice standpoint, the consistency has been very good,” Saban said at Baumhower’s Victory Grille. “JK (Scott) has had an outstanding fall camp as a punter.

“The holding-kicking situation has really developed a lot of consistency in the last month of the season. Andy (Pappanastos) has done a nice job, and JK has kicked off really well.”

Well, this is encouraging news. Hope for the best.

"Tua's done really well," Saban said. "He's a very effective passer. He's a bright guy. He learns quickly. He's good enough with his feet that he can make plays with his feet and run some of the plays that require the quarterback to move in the pocket and to use his feet. And he's a very accurate passer, and he's a quick decision maker and gets the ball out of his hand quickly and is very accurate. I think Tua has a really, really bright future, and it's going to be important for us sometime in these first three games to get Tua a significant amount of playing time so that he gains experience and knowledge so that if something does happen to Jalen that he's going to be more ready to go out there and play."

Can’t wait to see Tua get a little taste, just to see what he does against live competition.

“Really fast guy who runs really fast routes and he’s really taken his blocking to a new level,” Hentges said of Smith. “We are really excited with the progress he’s made and the contribution he’s going to be able to make for us is going to be very important for the whole tight end group.

“I really have seen a guy who has really came into his own especially this offseason and this spring and this fall camp. So, I am really excited for how he’s developed and excited to play with him.”

Smith has been generating quite a bit of buzz in camp and may well be Alabama’s secret weapon in the passing game. With linebackers selling out on the running game, the middle area is there for the taking.

The family of starting nickelback Tony Brown has been displaced by the storm, coach Nick Saban said on his weekly radio show Thursday. They live in the ravaged town of Beaumont, Texas.

Their street, Saban said, was flooded.

"I don't think it got in their house but they lost water and power and all that," Saban said.

Brown's father, however, is not in good health. The local shelter wasn't going to work, given those circumstances.

"So we're actually helicoptering him to a hotel in College Station," Saban said.

Saban continues to show just how evil he is. It’s no wonder why his former players revere him the way they do. It isn’t just about the rings.

Coach can be funny sometimes too:

Just don’t “pull a Harbaugh” with any sleepovers, Coach. Not that you would.

If Saban hadn’t removed him, does he think Alabama would have won?

“I do,” Kiffin said. “It’s no disrespect to Steve. No matter who it was, you’ve been there all year long. You’ve been there for the quarterback. You’re all he knew. You were undefeated together. We’ve won [26] straight games together. You feel like, okay, it’s different. As great as Sark is, it’s just different. Again, if it had been 14 points either way . . . when it’s one play here or there, you think if those guys had the person they were used to, it would have made a difference.”

Ah, Lane. Sometimes you just gotta say, “no comment.” You know?

That’s about it for today. Have a great opening weekend.

Roll Tide!


What we be the result of the Alabama-FSU game?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Jimbo’s fishing for answers, Tide roll by 14+
    (314 votes)
  • 37%
    Alabama covers, wins by 8-13
    (306 votes)
  • 13%
    FSU makes it tough, Tide by 1-7
    (112 votes)
  • 10%
    FSU pulls the upset (FLAGGED!)
    (89 votes)
821 votes total Vote Now