No one really wants Alabama.
“We want Bama” is still a reliable laughline because people can easily see the absurdity. To get Alabama is to lose — with a few exceptions. Florida State will get Alabama in the season opener at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium as 7.5-point underdogs, a spread that could expand as the game nears.
Sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois will have his hands full against a stable of NFL-ready talent. The Seminoles defense will face an equally tall challenge with a Jalen Hurts-led offense expected to be one of the best Crimson Tide units in several years.
There is rational reason for hope. Florida State was one of three teams in the top 10 of S&P+ on both sides of the ball in 2016. The other two played in the national title game. They have playmakers of the highest quality in Josh Sweat, Derrick Nnadi, Derwin James, and Matthew Thomas. Francois has some game experience to his name now, though he must improve on a 58 percent completion percentage.
There are a longer list of rational reasons of despair. Look no further than what Alabama has done to USC (52-6), Wisconsin (35-17), and Michigan (41-14) in opening night blockbusters at neutral sites. Add having his squad ready to go to the mountain of evidence sealing Nick Saban’s Hall of Fame credentials.
Under different circumstances, this matchup would be a win-win for Florida State. There’s the opportunity to score the season’s biggest victory. There’s also the opportunity to secure a quality loss and boost the trusty ol’ strength of schedule. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, this year’s schedule is extraordinarily difficult. The strength of schedule would be fine without the Alabama data point. With it, it’s a murderers’ row.
There’s a September home date with rival Miami and November trips to Clemson and Florida. All three of these teams are carrying Top-10 expectations of their own. One would be hard-pressed to find a more difficult schedule.
Under normal circumstances, hanging tough with Alabama would not be a season-ender. Under these circumstances, it could portend trouble. Rebounding to beat Clemson and win the ACC title does not guarantee a spot in the College Football Playoff. A stumble against the Hurricanes or Gators could leave FSU at 11-2 and rooting for chaos across the nation.
An optimist could cling to hope that having two acceptable losses will tip scales in their favor. A realist would admit the selection committee is a fickle beast and predicting their decisions is a fool’s errand.
Predicting how things will shake out is equally frivolous, but I’ll venture a guess anyway. They have the talent to hang with Alabama, especially if they can win the turnover battle. They have the talent to hang with Clemson, even on the road.
In the end, though, it feels as if we’re looking at Playoff-caliber team that will end up on the outside looking in, wondering what could have been. That, of course, all changes if they pull an upset the first week.
Want them or not, FSU has Bama. Best to make the most of it.