Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida State Seminoles Expert Betting Picks and Predictions
Alabama Crimson Tide at Florida State Seminoles, Saturday Sept. 2, 8 p.m. ET
The stakes just don't get any higher than this in September. The first- and third-ranked teams in the country are supposed to cruise through September, remaining unblemished into conference play. Instead, by meeting up here, we can be certain that one of them will have a losing record barely after the season has begun.
A loss won't be fatal to the very real playoff hopes of either team, but it does mean that their margin for error will be reduced essentially to nothing. They will have to be perfect the rest of the way and then hope everything else falls their way. The winner, on the other hand, will have all sorts of momentum, along with the knowledge that they have already played, and won, their toughest game until January.
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These are two exceptional programs pushing all their chips to the center of the table on a neutral field before Labor Day. Fans and bettors had better appreciate how special this is.
Alabama at Florida State Betting Storylines
You can't talk about this game without talking about the quarterbacks. There are striking similarities. Jalen Hurts took over the helm for Alabama in the second game of the season, and he didn't look back, coming very close to a national title as a true freshman. He was dangerous on his feet, and he had a great running game to work with, but he'll need to be dramatically better on longer passes this year if the team wants to make it back to the promised land. With a new, much-less-volatile offensive coordinator there is a good chance we will see improvement.
We'll need to, though, because Hurts will be facing a Florida State secondary that is so good it's almost unfair. Deondre Francois was a redshirt freshman last year, so though he had one more year of experience attending college than Hurts he was just as raw when it came to game experience. He won the starting job when Sean Maguire was hurt in the summer. He was ACC rookie of the year last year, and that was despite playing behind an offensive line that was far from the strength of the team.
Both guys should take a solid step forward this year, but it's very reasonable to assume that the quarterback who is more ready to make progress out of the gate will lead his team to the win. The pressure will be massive for these players, but that's nothing new for a starter at a school like this.
We also need to talk about the coaches. This is a battle of the titans. Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher are the only two active coaches with winning records against the Top 25. Think about that for a second. Neither guy has ever lost a season opener, so history will be made here. And the guys are far from strangers. Fisher served as Saban's offensive coordinator and QB coach for four years at LSU. When Saban left for the Dolphins, Fisher stayed at LSU to work for Les Miles. In 2006 Fisher interviewed at Alabama and was offered the job, but the board of trustees vetoed the contract. Saban took the job, and though he offered Fisher a role, FIsher obviously couldn't take it. They won a national title together and have five more between them since, but this is the first time they have met as opposing head coaches. This one's going to be personal and a whole lot of fun.
That Florida State offensive line we talked about earlier is a major concern in what is generally a pretty evenly-matched game. The Seminoles should have a better line than last year, but it still isn't certain to be good. And even if it is, it's going to be in for a very stout test against a defensive line from Alabama that is going to be as relentless and ruthless as ever. This is going to be a defining matchup and a big advantage for the Tide.
Alabama at Florida State Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Alabama favored by 7.5 and is now widely available at the key number of 7. It has flirted with 6.5 at times. About 60 percent of bets have come in on the Tide, so the line movement suggests that sharp money is slightly tilted towards the Seminoles. The total opened at 49 and has flirted with as high as 50. It isn't likely to swing significantly.
Alabama is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games overall. The "over" has gone 20-6-1 in their last 27 neutral-site games. The over is 4-0-1 in their last five against the SEC, but the "under" is 4-1 in their last five nonconference games. Florida State is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 against the SEC but just 2-5 ATS in their last seven neutral-site games. The under is 20-7 in Florida State's last 27 against the SEC. Florida State is 9-1 straight up against the SEC.
Alabama at Florida State Predictions and Picks
Alabama is the better team. I don't have much doubt in that. This game is going to be a defensive battle, though, and Florida State isn't going to be surprised by how Saban thinks or what Alabama does. A full touchdown is a lot to give a quality team on a neutral field, so I don't see an alternative to taking the Seminoles - especially if it can be found at 7.5.
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