Each game is listed in a week-by-week basis. Included are each teams’ 2016 record and bowl game results.
1. Florida State (10-3) [Orange Bowl: Won 33-32 vs Michigan]
Neutral Site (Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, GA)
Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles will start the season as the favorites to win the ACC over Clemson with the defending champs losing Deshaun Watson. The 2017-18 version of the Garnet and Gold will once again feature talented quarterback, Deondre Francois.
After a phenomenal 2016 season as a redshirt-freshman, Francois will be looking to add a nationally televised victory to his already growing Heisman campaign. He completed 68.8% of his throws for 3350 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven picks last year while adding 198 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. However, superstar running back and Heisman candidate, Dalvin Cook, will no longer be available to keep defenses honest.
A second-round pick in this year’s draft, Cook amassed over 1700 yards on 288 rushes in addition to making 33 catches for 488 yards. In total, Cook accounted for 20 of the team’s touchdowns in 2016 and over 48 touchdowns in his career. His replacement is expected to come in the form of a five-star true freshman, Cam Akers – a former high school quarterback.
Akers, 5’11” and 213 lbs., comes from Clinton, Mississippi, and has already been touted as a sure-fire star and future pro. During the Seminoles’ spring game, he ran for 87 yards and a fumble, but drew stark reviews for his performance.
As for deep-threats, Minkah Fitzpatrick and company will be faced with a shroud of mystery as the top two pass-catchers, Travis Rudolph and Dalvin Cook, will now be suiting up on Sundays. The tandem of junior Nyqwan Murray and sophomore Auden Tate look to be the leaders of the receiving corps, but beyond that is unknown. Though they do not have the same hype as Akers, true-freshmen receivers D.J. Matthews and Tamorrion Terry will both likely be asked to take on a role in Jimbo Fisher’s offense this season.
Defensively, the loss of Demarcus Walker is what will hurt the ‘Noles the most, but don’t expect their defensive line to be an Achilles’ heel. Walker made 67 total tackles in 2016 – 19.5 for a loss and 16.0 sacks – before being drafted 51st overall to the Denver Broncos. However, Florida State is still primed to give Alabama’s new-look offensive line a handful.
Rising-sophomore Brian Burns put on a clinic in 2016 at defensive end, despite playing in only eight games. He had just 23 tackles on the year, but 9.5 of those were for a loss including 8.5 sacks. At 6-5 and a slim 218 pounds, Burns has the size and athleticism to be not just one of the ACC’s most dangerous defensive players, but one of the best in the nation.
Additionally, getting 6’3″ junior Derwin James healthy again will help to shore up the problems that plagued Seminoles in the secondary last year. The strong safety was second on the team in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks in 2015 – as a true-freshman no less – before injuring his knee and only being able to play in two games during the 2016 campaign.
This game could be the highest ranked Week One match-up of all time. In what looks to be an incredibly exciting game, Alabama will need to play at 100% if they want to avoid an early season falter. With similarly talented players on both sides, the coaching battle between Saban and Fisher may end up deciding the victor.