#3 Florida State Seminoles vs #1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Saturday, September 2, 2017, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: ABC
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, Georgia
Opening Line: Alabama -7 1/2
Current Line: Alabama -7 (-115)
Opening Total: 53
Current Total: 50 1/2
Opening Money Line: Alabama -260 / Florida State +215
Current Money Line: Alabama -275 / Florida State +235
For the first time, the #1 team in the pre-season poll takes on a team ranked as high as #3 in the opening game of the season. The Alabama Crimson Tide are #1 and the Florida State Seminoles are #3 as they meet in Atlanta Saturday night. The two teams could conceivably meet on this same field to end the season as Mercedes-Benz Stadium will also host the National Championship game. Alabama leads the series 2-1-1 against Florida State. The Seminoles won the last meeting 21-14 in 2007 in Jacksonville. That was the first season at Alabama for Nick Saban.
Florida State is coached by Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles went 10-3 last year and 5-3 in the ACC. FSU won five straight games to close out the season including a thrilling 33-32 win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl. The Seminoles were 8-4 ATS and the total was 6-6 last year.
Alabama went 14-1 last year and 8-0 in the SEC under Nick Saban. The one loss was to Clemson 35-31 in the College Football Championship game. Alabama was 10-5 ATS and the total was 7-8 last season.
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Florida State outscored teams 35-25 last season. The Seminoles averaged 466 yards per game on offense including 264 passing and 202 rushing yards per game. On defense, FSU allowed 349 yards per game including 221 passing and 128 rushing yards. The Seminoles were +3 in turnovers with 23 takeaways. Florida State averaged 73 penalty yards per game and opponents averaged 59 per game. The Seminoles were 77/174 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents were 69/198. FSU forced 51 sacks and allowed 36 last season. The Seminoles were 55/57 scoring in the red zone with 44 touchdowns, and opponents were 36/45 with 26 touchdowns.
Quarterback Deondre Francois threw for 3,350 yards with 20 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, plus 198 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. He is back to lead the offense. J.J. Cosentino is the back-up.
Running back Dalvin Cook is now with the Minnesota Vikings. He rushed for 1,765 yards with 19 touchdowns, and had 33 catches for 488 yards and a touchdown. Jacques Patrick takes over as the feature back after he had 61 carries for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. Freshman Cam Akers is the back-up. Fullback Johnathan Vickers will also get some carries.
Receiver Travis Rudolph is now with the New York Giants. He had 56 catches for 840 yards and 7 touchdowns. Nyqwan Taylor had 27 catches for 441 yards and 5 touchdowns. Auden Tate had 25 catches for 409 yards and 6 touchdowns. Keith Gavin will also start at receiver. Tight end Ryan Izzo had 19 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown.
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Alabama outscored teams 38-13 last season. The Crimson Tide averaged 455 yards per game on offense including 210 passing and 245 rushing yards. Alabama is allowing 262 yards per game on defense including 198 passing and 64 rushing. The Crimson Tide are +9 in turnovers with 29 takeaways. Alabama averaged 44 penalty yards per game and opponents averaged 31 per game. The Crimson Tide were 101/225 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents were 77/260. Alabama forced 54 sacks and allowed 24 last season. The Crimson Tide were 58/65 scoring in the red zone with 40 touchdowns, and opponents were 21/25 with 12 touchdowns.
Since A.J. McCarran graduated several seasons ago, it has been a parade of one and done quarterbacks for the Tide. That will change this year with the return of sophomore Jalen Hurts who had a sensational freshman year last season. Hurts completed 62.9% of his passes for 2,780 yards with 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Hurts looks to cut down on the interceptions in 2017. He also rushed for 954 yards on 191 carries with 13 touchdowns. Last year, Hurts entered the season in a three way battle for the starting quarterback job with Blake Barnett and Cooper Bateman. Both have transferred to Pac 12 schools, Barnett to Arizona State and Bateman to Utah. There is no experience behind Hurts. True freshmen Tuo Tagovailoa and Mac Jones will compete for the back-up job. Walk-on Montana Murphy is the only other quarterback on the roster.
The running backs might be the deepest and most talented unit in the country. Damien Harris rushed for 1,040 yards on 145 carries with 2 touchdowns, plus he had 14 catches and 2 touchdowns. He returns as does explosive Bo Scarbrough who rushed for 812 yards on 125 carries with 11 touchdowns, plus four catches. Scarbrough is probable with a leg injury. He needs to stay healthy as he battled nagging injuries all year last season. Josh Jacobs returns as well after rushing for 564 yards on 86 carries with 4 touchdowns. He is questionable with a hamstring injury. He also had 14 catches for 166 yards. Of course, Hurts is basically like a fourth running back. He was second on the team in rushing last year.
The Crimson Tide lose three of their top four receivers from last year to the NFL. ArDarius Stewart is now with the New York Jets, after he made 54 catches for 864 yards with 8 touchdowns, along with 68 rushing yards. Calvin Ridley is back though and will be the go to receiver after making 72 catches for 769 yards and 7 touchdowns. Tight end O.J. Howard (45 catches, 595 yards and 3 touchdowns) and receiver Gehrig Dieter (15 catches, 214 yards and 4 touchdowns) are both with NFL teams now, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs respectively. Seniors Cam Sims and Robert Foster are talented but never really got a chance to shine in their careers as they were lost in the shuffle behind a lot of talent. Sims is questionable with a shoulder injury. Foster is probable with a back injury. True freshman Jerry Jeudy is a five star recruit. Sophomore Miller Forristall takes over as tight end for Howard.
Alabama is 7-3 ATS overall. Florida State is 4-0 ATS in non-conference games and overall, 4-1 on grass, 7-3 against SEC teams, and 2-5 in neutral site games.
Alabama has some key injuries at running back and receiver. Still, the defense, should be able to slow down the Seminoles enough to win a close game. FSU will struggle to move the ball against the front seven for Alabama.