Nick Saban and Alabama have fared pretty well in season-openers. They beat USC 52-6 in 2016, Wisconsin 35-17 in 2015, West Virginia 33-23 in 2014, Virginia Tech 35-10 in 2013, and Michigan 41-14 in 2012, just to go back five years.
Well, despite that dominance, Alabama might not get the W in its opener against No. 3 Florida State this Saturday in Atlanta. In fact, the Tide might not come close.
“This time, they may get their (butt) kicked,” Fox Sports play-by-play voice Tim Brando said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “This time, it could be a whooping on the other end. It could be. I’m not sure that Alabama defensively is what they’ve been up front. I think there’s some serious questions about their front seven, at least in terms of where they’ve been. Don’t get me wrong: I gave you the headline. I didn’t say it would happen. I said it may happen.”
Florida State went 10-3 last season and ended the year with five straight wins, including victories over Florida and Michigan. The Seminoles have a great defense and a darn good quarterback under center.
“Deondre Francois is exactly the prototype quarterback you have to have to kick Alabama’s you-know-what,” Brando said. “He’s the guy. He’s a younger version of Deshaun Watson. I don’t know if he’ll morph into Deshaun Watson, but he certainly has the requisite tools of Deshaun Watson. Here’s the bottom line. If Florida State’s offensive line is what it was a year ago, then you’re going to see what you’ve seen the last few years with these Alabama games at the start of the season: They’re going to kick Florida State’s you-know-what. It’ll be another ass-whopping. I actually think Florida State defensively is maybe in a better spot than Alabama is. Florida State’s got a salty defense that has shored up the weaknesses they had a year ago. Florida State athletically is, in my opinion, as close to on par with Alabama as just about any team out there.
“So this game could go in a lot of different directions,” Brando continued, “but the way Saban historically coaches these games, these first games, is to not allow his offense to screw it up for his defense. In other words, do it conservatively. So I think it’s going to be defensive game where it’s 6-3 at halftime and then we see what can happen in the third and fourth quarter. If you score 21 points in this game, you win. I think the loser is going to be under 20 in this game. I think both defenses with dictate tempo, dictate pace of play, I think Saban is going to go very slowly with Hurts and coach it very conservatively, and it’ll be up to either Francois making plays or the Alabama defense doing what they always do: scoring a touchdown or two to be the difference in the game. That’s what I see.”
Kickoff is at 8 p.m. ET.