Florida State vs. Alabama: Offense Comparison

Kickoff between Florida State and Alabama is only five days away. It’s almost unbelievable how fast this game has seemed to sneak up on us as both teams undergo final preparations leading up to Saturday.

It’s no secret how big this match up is for each school. FSU is looking to cement themselves as National Championship contenders while the Crimson Tide look to rebound after falling in the Championship game back in January. Is there a better way to start a season and to build some early momentum than by defeating a top-3 opponent? Not like this.

The offenses are going to play a huge part in who comes away with a victory on Saturday night. Each team possesses one of the most talented defenses in the country and that lands the pressure squarely on the shoulders of each offense. The offense who is able to make the most plays against the talent in front of them will give their side the best chance to pull this one out.


FSU: Deondre Francois, JJ Cosentino, Bailey Hockman, James Blackman

`Bama: Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones

Advantage: FSU

Florida State and Alabama both return quarterbacks who look to build on positive freshman seasons. FSU’s Francois passed for 3,350 yards while connecting on 20 TD’s to just 7 INT’s. He showed outstanding poise despite having a porous offensive line for much of the season. Francois took 34 sacks last season and many of them ended up being brutal hits. However, the young QB continued to lead the offense despite nagging injuries from the beatings he was routinely taking on game days.

Francois would go on to drive the Seminoles to four fourth quarter rallies and two near-rallies that fell short against North Carolina and Clemson. Now, entering his second season as the `Noles signal caller, he knows he needs to become more of a vocal leader. After Dalvin Cook’s early departure to the NFL, Francois is the clear face of this offense entering the 2017 season. The run game behind him is relatively untested and has little collegiate experience. FSU may need to rely on their experienced passing game early if they are unable to generate anything on the ground. Francois has a great arm and has been working on his accuracy over the offseason. It’s time for him to be the man on this offense. 

Jalen Hurts led the Crimson Tide to a National Championship appearance last season. He finished the year with 2,780 passing yards with 19 TD’s to 9 INT’s. Hurts is also a threat on the ground as he finished the 2016 season with 954 rushing yards. The knock on Hurts is his accuracy and that was on full display as Alabama fell to Clemson in the title game. Hurts would finish the first loss of his collegiate career by going 13-31 for 131 yards and a TD.

It is important for Florida State to contain Hurts’s legs. He is a gamebreaker in the open field and was able to bail Alabama out of multiple sticky situations with his ability to scramble.
Force him to beat you with his arm instead of his proven legs. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has also mentioned the possibility of playing Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa was a five-star recruit in the 2017 class and has been solid for the Crimson Tide since enrolling early. He could be a candidate for a few trick plays. FSU needs to make sure to do their due diligence on him as well.

Running Backs:

FSU: Jacques Patrick, Cam Akers, Amir Rasul, Ryan Green, Khalan Laborn, Zaquandre White, Deonte Sheffield

`Bama: Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, Brian Robinson Jr.,

Advantage: `Bama

The Seminoles lost perhaps the best running back in school when Dalvin Cook declared early for the 2017 NFL Draft. Now, they’ll try to replace him, if that’s even possible, with a committee of talented players. Jacques Patrick will start the 2017 season as the new starting running back. Patrick has tallied 664 rushing yards in two seasons as the primary backup to Cook. Behind him, none of the other tailbacks have had extensive experience at this level. Five-star freshman Cam Akers and rising sophomore Amir Rasul should push Patrick for snaps. Laborn and White both project to be future college contributors. It’s clear that the future is bright for FSU at running back.

Alabama returns Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. The rising juniors and bruising runners finished 2016 with 271 rushes for 1849 yards and 13 TD’s on the ground. Scarbrough became more effective for the Crimson Tide as the season progressed and was in the midst of a solid championship game before suffering a leg injury. He would miss the rest of the contest and Alabama would go on suffer their first loss all year. Scarbrough and Harris are at the head of a talented tailback group. The Crimson Tide signed 5* Najee Harris and 4* Brian Robinson to bolster their depth.

While Alabama may have the advantage in week one, the Seminoles may have the more consistent running back group as the seasons progresses.

Tight Ends

FSU: Ryan Izzo, Mavin Saunders, Tre’ McKitty, Naseir Upshur, Alex Marshall

`Bama: Miller Forristall, Irv Smith Jr., Major Tennison, Kedrick James

Advantage: FSU

Florida State returns Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders at tight end in 2017. Izzo has drawn the majority of snaps since earning the job in 2015 and has made 21 starts over that time. Saunders has also made 5 starts since 2015. The two combined for 29 receptions and 409 yards in 2016-17. FSU also added McKitty and Marshall via the 2017 recruiting class. McKitty has received some rave reviews during practice and could earn early snaps. Former 4* Naseir Upshur is a backup for the Seminoles.

Alabama is very green to open the season at tight end. The Crimson Tide lost multiyear starter O.J. Howard to the NFL after their loss in the national championship. Howard amassed 595 yards and 3 TD’s on 45 catches last year. The most experienced tight end currently on Alabama’s roster is Miller Forristall, who caught 5 passes for 73 yards last season as a freshman.

Wide Receivers

FSU: Nyqwan Murray, Auden Tate, Keith Gavin, George Campbell, Malique Jackson, Jared Jackson, DJ Mathews, Tamorrion Terry

`Bama: Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster, Cam Sims, Derek Kief, Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, Henry Ruggs, Chadarius Townsend, Tyrell Shavers

Advantage: FSU

Florida State and Alabama both are trying to replace key contributors at wide receiver as the teams enter 2017. The Seminoles lost Kermit Whitfield and Jesus Wilson to graduation after the conclusion of last season. Travis Rudolph elected to declare early for the NFL Draft and is now battling to keep his career alive as an undrafted free agent for the New York Giants. Alabama and Hurts lose ArDarius Stewart as well as Gehrig Dieter.

However, both teams are still extremely talented at wide receiver, but unproven. The Seminoles will look to Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate to take on bigger roles in 2017 after solid sophomore seasons. The junior duo combined to catch 52 passes for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016. The two should only add to those numbers as they consistently enter the starting lineup in 2017. The `Noles also have Keith Gavin and George Campbell waiting in the wings. Gavin showed off his big play potential with a 66 yard kickoff return in the Orange Bowl that helped FSU earn a victory over Michigan. Campbell has been oft injured since signing with FSU in 2015 but he’s remained healthy throughout fall camp and could become a contributor this season. Tamorrion Terry has also received some praise from Jimbo Fisher for his performance during Fall Camp. It’s crucial for the Seminoles to stay healthy at wide receiver

Alabama returns All-American Calvin Ridley. Ridley was Hurt’s top target in 2016-17 and finished the year with 72 catches for 769 yards and 7 TD’s. The Crimson Tide could start veterans Robert Foster and Cam Sims at receiver or could elect to go with some of the young talent they signed in 2017. Without a doubt, Alabama signed the most talented receiver class during the 2017 signing period. Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, Henry Ruggs, Chadarius Townsend, and Tyrell Shavers are all talented enough to crack the rotation and contribute.

Offensive Line:

FSU: Rick Leonard, Cole Minshew, Alec Eberle, Landon Dickerson, Derrick Kelly, Josh Ball, David Robbins, Brock Ruble, Mike Arnold, Abdul Bello,

`Bama: Alex Leatherwood, Lester Cotton, Bradley Bozeman, Ross Pierschbacher, Jonah Williams, Scott Lashley, Dallas Warmack, Deonte Brown, Matt Womack

Advantage: `Bama

Florida State and Alabama both enter this contest with some questions along their offensive lines. The Seminoles lost starters Rod Johnson and Kareem Are to the NFL and now look to improve up front after allowing 36 sacks last season.

Alec Eberle is finally healthy at center after playing with two torn hip labrums last season. You have to wonder if the pain is what caused him to consistently struggle in 2016. Landon Dickerson is also back at full strength after fully recovering from ACL surgery. Minshew has been banged up in camp and throughout his career at FSU, he’ll look to stay healthy and build on a positive ending to last season that saw him start three games. Rick Leonard has locked down the right tackle job after splitting time with Brock Ruble last season. Finally, Derrick Kelly has earned the starting left tackle spot after competing with Jauan Williams and Josh Ball throughout Fall Camp. Fisher and mostly given positive reviews of the offensive line during camp but will they look that way against Alabama’s front?

FSU has an elite defense of their own, but performing in practice and performing during a game are different. Hopefully the `Noles will take a step forward on the offensive line this season, if not, could Rick Trickett finally find himself on the hot seat?

Alabama lost starting left tackle Cam Robinson to the NFL but returns experienced players who saw time in the national championship last season. Bradley Bozeman locked down the center spot every game for the Crimson Tide last year. Jonah Williams was the starting right tackle last year and has transitioned to the left side to take over Robinson’s former spot. Cotton and Pierschbacher are both rising juniors who have plenty of experience alongside the interior. Alex Leatherwood was one of the top offensive tackles in the 2017 class and he has earned the right tackle role. Both teams have talented offensive lines. But who’s going to stop and protect their quarterback better? Recent history tell us Alabama.

Dustin Lewis
Lead writer for NoleGameday. Majoring in Editing, Writing, and Media at Florida State University. Staff Writer for the FSView and contributor for Celtics Hub.

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