A Title Game Preview?

Saturday Spotlight

(3) Florida State Seminoles at (1) Alabama Crimson Tide

Florida State: I remember during the summer, I was asked who my top five coaches were in the nation. Of course, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer were the first two that came to mind right away and rightfully so because all they do is win football games. My third guy, I had on the list was Jimbo Fisher. Since taking over for the legend Bobby Bowden, he has a record of 78-17, a national title appearance and victory, three ACC conference titles and three division titles. That’s very impressive. The last two seasons, the Seminoles were considered to be “rebuilding” but you tell me when having programs who are rebuilding still get to bowl games and most importantly, win ten games? In the last two seasons, they have a combined record of 20-6. This is one team I’m looking forward to seeing play this year and I truly feel they can get back to the playoffs and the national championship. Everything is there. Deondre Francois is back for another full year as the team’s quarterback. He’s tough, has that one year of experience underneath his belt and he’s also good enough to make the guys around him better. With Dalvin Cook now in the NFL, Cam Akers is now the team’s number one option at running back. As a defense, coordinator Charles Kelly is about to create a possible monster and if everyone can stay healthy on that back end of the defense, there won’t be any need for a discussion on who’s the best secondary in the country because it’s going to be Florida State especially with safety Derwin James back on the field after missing a majority of the season with a knee injury. Although DeMarcus Walker is gone, they will have no issues at all getting to the quarterback especially with guys such as Brian Burns, Josh Sweat, and Derrick Nnadi forming the corps for one of the nation’s better lines. The starting linebacking trio of Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Jacob Pugh, and leading tackler Matthew Thomas is back, too. Everything is there for them to make noise this year, now let’s see if they can put it all together.

Alabama: The last time we saw them in a meaningful game, it was Monday, January 9th, 2017 in Tampa Bay, Florida. The national championship against Clemson for the second straight year and with a win, Nick Saban and the University of Alabama would win its fifth title and second in a row. It didn’t pan out that way. Eight months later, here they are ready to get back to business and redeem themselves after losing a heartbreaker to the Clemson Tigers. They enter the year as the projected favorite once again to win it all and they enter the season loaded all across the board. Quarterback Jalen Hurts comes back with a full year of experience, they have a loaded duo of running backs in Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris and one of, if not, the best offensive line in college football and a defense which had to retool itself after losing a large chunk of last year’s unit to the NFL and that was the best defense Nick Saban had since taking the job in Tuscaloosa. In 2016, they recorded 54 sacks, so it’s safe to say that they like to rush the passer and hit the quarterback, right? Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter who’s on the field for them on that side of the football. They always find a way to be mentioned as a top five defense in the nation and what they lost the year before, they always find a way to replace it. This year, I see Nick Saban’s crew playing with a serious chip on their shoulder this year after being defeated in the title game in January. The road to redemption will begin on Saturday night in Atlanta against a Florida State team looking to begin its run.

Florida State Player To Watch: Tarvarus McFadden– The safety group of Derwin James, Nate Andrews, Trey Marshall and Ermon Lane is definitely one to watch. Let’s not forget about Tarvarus McFadden. He’s a 6’2, 198-pound corner who’s an interception machine. He keeps one eye on the receiver and one on the quarterback and has the skillset to lure a quarterback into throwing the ball sooner than he makes a play on it. His job will be to try and shut down Calvin Ridley.

Alabama Player To Watch: Jalen Hurts– We saw what he was capable of doing when he was inserted as the team’s starting quarterback last year. He made the most of the opportunity. With two stud running backs in Scarbrough and Harris, a play-making receiver in Ridley, Hurts is the catalyst for this offense. Now with a full year under his belt, how has he improved during the off-season as a passer? We’ll find out.

Final Analysis: I truly believe we’re looking at a potential preview of the national championship here. Eyes will be on both quarterbacks. This is also a battle of two of the best coaches in the nation squaring off. It’s key that Florida State keeps Francois protected because he can’t keep taking unnecessary hits like he did last year or it will be a long game. I’d also exploit the Tide’s weakness which has been mobile quarterbacks so I’d get Francois moving in space. For Alabama, establishing the running game is a must. 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.

Prediction: Alabama 35 Florida State 31.