This Saturday, Florida State and Alabama will face off in what could be the game of year, as the #3 Seminoles take on the #1 Crimson Tide in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The Tide are favored by seven points in this one, but it should be one of the best opening weekend games in recent memory. This game could also serve as a national championship preview, with both squads expected to make the College Football Playoff.
Much more is riding on this game for Florida State, as they look to prove that they can hang with the very best, while everybody figures ‘Bama can. Despite Alabama being the favorite, an upset on Saturday wouldn’t be the most shocking thing in the world, but what are keys to making sure Florida State comes out on top?
- The main key for the Seminoles in this one is to establish the running game. While Alabama has a vaunted front-seven, I don’t think quarterback Deondre Francois (below) is going to be getting much help out of his new cast of receivers. Gone are Travis Rudolph and Dalvin Cook, who were last year’s top two receiving threats, as Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate are thrust into the spotlight.
The two combined for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns last year as sophomores.
As for the running backs, Florida State has a pair of solid options in Jacques Patrick, who for four touchdowns a year ago backing up Dalvin Cook, and Cam Akers, a true freshman from Mississippi. Akers was a five star recruit and top running back prospect coming out of high school, and will likely split carries with Patrick. Not to be forgotten, however, is the running ability of Deondre Francois. While Francois is certainly more comfortable from the pocket, getting him involved in the running game, as well as moving out of the pocket on passing downs, could be enough to keep Alabama’s defensive line off balance.
2. Key number two is to contain quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts had an outstanding freshman season for the Tide, leading them to the national championship game. However, this Seminoles defense is the best he’s faced, hands down.
The Seminoles are a defensive juggernaut, led by star safety Derwin James (pictured), who missed most of last season with a knee injury. Now back and completely healthy, James might be the best player in the entire country. Expect to see James line up all over the field for Jimbo Fisher’s defense. Also in the defensive backfield for the Seminoles is corner Tavarus McFadden, who had eight interceptions a year ago. While those two may be able to take over the passing game, containing Hurts starts with the defensive line, which is deep and fast, despite losing Demarcus Walker.
Former five-star recruit Josh Sweat (above) is the headliner for this group, and he’ll have to be a disruptive force in order to prevent Jalen Hurts from scrambling. Sweat and his fellow pass-rushers need to make sure they don’t get too far up the field when trying to get to Hurts so running lanes don’t open up. The linebacking corps, led by three seniors will likely be spying Hurts often.
Hurts is quite an improviser when a play breaks down, much like Russell Wilson, so keeping him contained within the pocket and not allowing him to pick up yards and first downs on rollouts and busted plays will be huge.
3. The final key for Florida State is to win the field position battle. This will likely be a low scoring affair with two dominant defenses. Big plays will be few and far between for both sides, which could lead to a lot of punts and bad field positioning. Giving Deondre Francois and a shaky offensive line good field position might be the only way to put up points on the Crimson Tide on Saturday.
Getting good field position also means you have done a good job of keeping your defense fresh, which is crucial in the latter stages of what should be a great game. This game could very well be won or lost on the final drive or two, and giving your offense a shorter field in crunch time could make all the difference in leapfrogging over #2 Ohio State, or be forced to win-out, with a monumental game at Clemson later in the year.
If Florida State can execute these keys to the game, they should be able to knock off Alabama. And if they do beat the Tide, who can stop them?
Cover Photo via Orlando Sentinel
Other Media via Tomohawk Nation and Noles 247