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Alabama’s Toughest Game Could Be The First One

If you want to know how Alabama will fare in 2017, look no further than the all important first game. It will tell all you need to know.

Will this really tell you all you need to know about the 2017 Tide team? (Photo-Larry Burton)

Alabama’s Toughest Game Could Be The First One

By: Larry Burton

Give Nick Saban enough time and he’ll find a scheme to beat you. A whole spring and summer is a lot of time and that won’t bode well for Florida State when they meet Alabama in Atlanta for the first game of the season on September 2nd.

Since arriving at Alabama in 2007 and having input in scheduling, Nick Saban has shown a penchant for wanting to open the season with a tough opening game instead of a cupcake. His reasoning is two fold. First of all it gives the team an incentive to work toward during the long hot summer and secondly, it allows Saban to identify weak spots in his team that would never show in playing a pushover and allows him the rest of the early season to correct them.

And so far so good as since 2008 Alabama is not only undefeated in early season big games, they have won them by a combined score of 314 to 118. That’s an average winning score of 35-13 against teams that were nationally ranked. That’s pretty impressive to be sure.

But history aside, there’s an old saying that goes, “Every record is meant to be broken.” and Florida State certainly knows this as well as anyone.

Since Jimbo Fisher became head coach in 2010 Florida State has only had 3 early season tough games and their record is 2-1. In 2016 they defeated what many folks thought would be a tough Ole Miss team 45-34, but Ole Miss ended up with a losing season and may not have fit that role, but being an SEC team, let’s count it anyway. In 2014 they defeated a Oklahoma State team 37-31 that ended up only winning seven games. Their loss in early season big games was their second game of the season in 2010, coach Fisher’s first, to Oklahoma in a 47-17 rout.

So while Florida State may not have the history of big games early in the season and certainly not the same level of success as Alabama, to be blatantly common sense, those players are gone and those games won’t matter to these two teams this year.

This Florida State team is one that many have picked to be in contention for a college football playoff spot in the coming year. With Clemson losing so many key players, especially their stellar quarterback Deshaun Watson, most feel that Florida State may be poised to take back the ACC. That is all you really know when you consider the Seminole’s “worthiness” to have a shot in winning this game.

Things that could work in Florida State’s favor is an ongoing battle for the starting quarterback job at Alabama, an Alabama secondary that has proven to be the weak link in Alabama’s big losses and lastly a new offensive coordinator / quarterback combination that may cause problems.

Certainly looking down the other teams on the early part of the schedule that include Fresno State, Colorado State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, Florida State is certainly the most impressive team in that early schedule and may end the season ranked higher than any other team Alabama may play. Therefore this first big game will show both teams what they can expect for the season.

An Alabama struggle, whether it be a close win or a loss could spell trouble later against teams that many feel will be improved this season such as LSU and Auburn.

The same could be said about Florida State, but any win would vault the Seminoles to the number one position and be a launching point for the rest of their season. Even a close loss would mean good things for Florida State as no other team on their schedule will pose as big a threat as Alabama. But a big loss could mean a struggle for Florida State later in the schedule when they meet up with Miami, Louisville, Clemson and Florida.

But let’s get one thing out in the open right now, this early in the pre-season. This is the year that Alabama coaches were pointing to as far back as a year ago that would be the one where the Tide would be most likely to win it all. The main reason for that is schedule. After Florida State, the rest of the schedule is against teams not up to snuff to really challenge the Tide.

So if Alabama wins this game in an easy fashion, rush out and make a bet on Alabama to win it all, there isn’t anyone else that may challenge them.

Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at



Larry Burton is a member of the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and was the most read SEC and Alabama football writer during his time at Bleacher Report. He has been credentialed by all the major bowls and the University of Alabama. Larry provides some of the best insight in the business through his "Larry's Lowdown" segment with TDA.

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