It was hailed as the greatest season opener in the history of college football. All that meant was Alabama had even more reason to be up for the occasion.
If you haven’t gotten used to Alabama performing on the big stage and playing their best when the lights are their brightest, then you have been spending your fall Saturdays doing something other than watching college football. On Saturday night, No. 1 Alabama clocked in at the brand new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, brought their lunch pail with them and then took No. 3 Florida State’s lunch money anyway before clocking out with the best win of the weekend any team could claim. It was business as usual for the Crimson Tide, and a year after coming up short of winning back-to-back national titles, Alabama set the tone for what many expect will be another march back to the national championship game.
The formula for success at Alabama has been a model of consistency for the Tide under Saban. Recruit, develop, perform. No matter how many players Alabama is faced with replacing on an annual basis, they have put together a true assembly line of talent through the recruiting pipelines, which now extend anywhere and everywhere Alabama wishes. The bar has long been set high for Alabama because the program has come to not accept finishing in second place or simply having a chance to win a championship. No other program understands what it takes to be the best week in and week out the way Alabama does, and that much was crystal clear on Saturday night.
Everything about Alabama’s mammoth season-opening win was what you would expect from a Nick Saban team. It begins with a defense that is relentless in shutting down all room to make plays, brings pressure in the backfield, and tightens up in the moments it needs the most.
You come at the King you best not miss pic.twitter.com/dVFw8HeQmn
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 3, 2017
Alabama held Florida State to 250 yards of total offense and limited the ACC preseason favorites to four third-down conversions on 13 attempts. No longer with Dalvin Cook running the football, Florida State’s running game was a lost cause against the Alabama defensive front. Cam Akers may be a promising running back for the Seminoles, but he was held to 30 yards on 10 carries on a night the team strung together 40 rushing yards against Alabama. And Deondre Francois, before leaving the game with a serious-looking knee injury, was picked off twice and completed 19 of 33 pass attempts. When a guy who was shot last week is making sacks against the No. 3 team in the country, you know Alabama is on another level.
No matter how much talent Florida State has, Alabama proved it can gobble up any offense if it establishes dominance in the trenches. Florida State’s offensive line was one of the fair question marks for the Noles this season, and Alabama exploited it just as planned.
The good news for Florida State is they don’t have to face Alabama again unless they cross paths in the postseason. But Alabama is already focused on their next objective toward achieving perfection because nothing less than perfection is acceptable in Tuscaloosa.
Is Alabama invincible? Of course not. But the lesson learned Saturday night is essentially the same lesson we have learned time and time again; if you’re going to beat Alabama, then you must be a perfect or darn-near perfect game. On Saturday night, Florida State may have given Alabama their best shot, but it was still far from perfect and the Seminoles lost by 17. And this was the third-ranked team in the nation coming up as short as they did.
Saban: "It took everything we had in all facets of the game."
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) September 3, 2017
Alabama turned the game in their favor, somewhat ironically, one special teams gaffes by Florida State. Both programs have been haunted by special teams miscues in their respective pasts, but Florida State had back-to-back special teams errors at the worst possible time against the one team you can not make such mistakes against. A blocked punt by Alabama running back Damien Harris teed the ball up at the six-yard line, but Alabama had to settle for a field goal to push their lead to 13-7. On the ensuing kickoff, Florida State’s Keith Gavin fumbled away the ball and Alabama once again took over deep in the Florida State end, this time from the 11. As fate would have it, Alabama handed the ball to Harris, who ran 11 yards to the end zone on the first play of the drive.
Ball game, with a fourth quarter still to be played.
Alabama intercepted Florida State on the next two Seminoles possessions and forced a pair of three-and-outs, thus shutting the door on their highly-respected opponent in the season opener.
Good luck, Fresno State. You get the next crack at Alabama next week.