Several marquee games highlight college football’s opening weekend, but No. 1 Alabama versus No. 3 Florida State is in a class of its own. The Tide and Seminoles will square off in Atlanta on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in a possible playoff preview.
Phil Savage expects a close, low-scoring game.
“I’m thinking in the 20s, maybe even the high-teens,” the longtime NFL executive and current Alabama radio analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Yes, there are playmakers on both sides of the ball in terms of FSU’s offense and Alabama’s offense, guys that can take it to the house. That’s probably what it comes down to: if a guy can take it out of the gate, take it the distance. It’ll be a field-position game, and J.K. Scott, the punter for Alabama, is one of the best in the country.”
Savage, the author of 4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama’s Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, believes the outcome may hinge on FSU’s ability to slow Alabama’s front seven.
“I think the key for Florida State is their offensive line,” Savage said. “Last year, they were 108th in the county in sacks allowed, and (Deondre) Francois was really knocked around a bunch last season. So they’ve tried to improve that part of their team, I’m sure in the offseason, so if given time to throw, Francois can spin it.”
Indeed, Francois, a redshirt sophomore, threw for 3,350 yards, 20 touchdowns, and seven interceptions last season. He also ran for five touchdowns.
“He’s a tough customer,” Savage said. “I think that’s the part of the game, at least on that side of the ball, to really focus on. Florida State’s offensive line, can they be effective at all against the Bama defensive front?”
Alabama fans, meanwhile, hope to see growth from sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, who accounted for 36 touchdowns (23 passing, 13 rushing) and nine interceptions as a freshman.
“He was super successful last year as a dual-threat quarterback under Lane Kiffin,” Savage said. “I think everyone is looking to see him take a big step toward as a pocket passer under the new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, but I think the reality is that with FSU bringing back nine starters on defense and all that speed, I think both defenses are going to somewhat control the action. I think it’ll be somewhat of a disjointed kind of game because I just can’t find that many holes in either defense where the two offenses are just going to go up and down the field. So I think it’ll be a lower-scoring kind of game.”