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FSU Respects, Ready For, Alabama

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The Seminoles have a quiet focus on their upcoming showdown with Alabama.

Every pre-season is filled with anticipation and excitement at Florida State, but, even for one of college football's power program's, this summer has been a little different. The Seminoles meet Alabama in week one, taking center stage in what will be the first-ever football game in Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Likely a top three pairing, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game will have a national championship game-feel in early September; the Seminoles and Crimson Tide have won two of the last three.

Florida State has significant momentum heading into this fall, bolstered by a throttling of rival Florida and a thrilling victory over Michigan in the Orange Bowl to finish the year. The Seminoles, having played Ole Miss to open 2016 and Oklahoma State to kick off 2014, are no stranger to starting with a tough non-conference test; this, though, is a bit different; Alabama has won 26 of its last 27 games, the lone defeat in than span coming with one second to play.

The nation will be watching when these two powers meet for just the second time since 1974. Back in 2007, then Bobby Bowden-led Florida State topped Alabama 21-14 in Jacksonville in Nick Saban's first year.

"I scheduled it, so I'd better be ready for it," Jimbo Fisher acknowledged.

A champion won't be crowned the night of September 2nd, but a statement, in front of a primetime audience, will be made. 

"I think it's a great opportunity. I think it's what college football is about. You get to walk in that atmosphere and environment, the two-winningest teams in college football in the last seven years. I think it's great for our league, I think it's great for college football," Fisher continued. "I think we find out where we're at.

Given recent history, the season opener is a dream matchup. The Seminoles are 78-17 since 2010, when Fisher took over, while the Crimson Tide are 86-11 in that span. Fisher has won 81.5% of his games at Florida State, while Saban has won 86.9% of his contests at Alabama and 78.2% overall. When Saban was head coach at LSU, Fisher was his very successful offensive coordinator.  

Fisher enters the fall with great appreciation for his opponent. 

"Nick is one of the great football coaches in this country and one of the greatest of all time. I believe that," Fisher stated. "They have a tremendous program, tremendous players, well-prepared, how they're built from big physical guys to fast dynamic guys."

The ultra-talented Seminoles will face a team that just led the nation in scoring defense and total defense, ranked in the top 15 in scoring offense, paced college football in sacks, forced the fifth-most turnovers in the country and ranked number one with a astonishing 15 non-offensive touchdowns.

Led by reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Hurts at quarterback and star defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Crimson Tide will almost certainly begin the season atop the national polls.

"They've got everything, so we're going to have to really have our 'A' game and be ready to play," Fisher added.  

Florida State will counter with perhaps Fisher's most-talented team to date, the 2013 national title squad included. Quarterback Deondre Francois and all-everything safety Derwin James headline a roster built for a championship run. The Seminoles have won six straight games against the SEC, including 45-34 versus Ole Miss and 31-13 against Florida this past fall. There is no challenge for which Florida State isn't ready.

There is a quiet focus on the upcoming showdown with Alabama.

"A lot of attention, a lot of questions about that," Francois nodded. "We're just working hard, excited for that game."

Games like the upcoming bout between the Seminoles and Crimson Tide only add to the drama of the countdown to the start of the season. Florida State, both ready and respectful, will soon take the field a calm and confident bunch.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports