College football: Florida State excited for opening clash with fellow powerhouse Alabama
TALLAHASSEE -- With rivalry games against Miami and Florida, as well as contests against defending national champion Clemson and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Louisville's Lamar Jackson, one would think adding a matchup with preseason No. 1 Alabama to the schedule would be a source of anxiety for a team with national title aspirations.
For No. 3 Florida State, however, it's cause only for excitement. The Seminoles had their annual Media Day on Sunday and the Aug. 2 opener in Atlanta against college football's most dominant program was a big topic of conversation for both players and coaches.
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Several FSU players shared their coach's enthusiasm for the big game, perhaps none more than junior safety Derwin James, who missed much of last season due to injury.
"There's no way better (to open the season)," he said. "I didn't get to play last year and now opening up with the best team in the country, you couldn't ask for anything better."
Sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois went so far as to call it a "blessing" to kick off 2017 against a school that has won four of the last eight national championships.
"What better way to open up the season than with the best team in the nation for the past couple of years," he said. "They're well-coached, they've got a very stout defense; it will be a challenge for us to open up the season. This is why I came to Florida State. These are the moments guys like me pray for. I can really set my legacy off with a game against Bama."
In a season in which expectations are the highest for the program since the 2014 season when FSU was seeking a second straight national championship, the game will provide an early indication of just how serious of a contender the Seminoles are for the College Football Playoff.
But Fisher warned against putting too much emphasis on a single game, even one against an opponent as formidable as Alabama, with so many other potential stumbling blocks remaining on the Seminoles' schedule.
"They are a very good football team, but we can't get caught up in a one-game deal," he said. "We play Miami, N.C. State, we go down to Wake (Forest) who plays great defense, we go into conference play. We've still got Florida, Louisville, Clemson, all our conference opponents. I think our division and this conference is as good as anyone in America."
Fisher said that experience in high pressure, high stakes games makes Florida State more comfortable with all of the hype and attention that accompanies games such as this.
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"We're used to playing in big games, used to those environments and we'll play in another one (against Alabama)," he said. "But the hype goes away and fundamentals win. We're very unique in that we've got two big-time rivals in Florida and Miami, and at the same time we've got a big conference rival in Clemson, and Louisville is emerging. These kinds of games allow kids to be in that atmosphere so you understand how to play in them.
"Understanding all the hoopla that goes with it is important. At the end of the day, all that hype goes away, all those cheers go away. That doesn't mean you can't be emotional, but are you prepared to play? That's the key component."
FSU players seemed pretty confident they would be ready to play and play well when the moment arrives, with sophomore offensive guard Landon Dickerson saying he believes the competition he faces in practice will be tougher than what he will see on the other side of the line for Alabama.
"I think honestly we probably have a better defensive line than they have," he said. "I'm competing against (FSU defensive linemen) every day for the next month, so I'm not terribly concerned about Alabama. I do embrace (the challenge) because I believe that we have the athleticism and the ability to beat this team. If we keep going on the course we're on now, we have a really good chance to beat them."
The game will be something of a reunion for several members of the FSU coaching staff, with four assistants -- Brad Lawing, Clint Trickett, Lawrence Dawsey, and Bill Miller -- all having worked under Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban at one point in their careers. Fisher, who was Saban's offensive coordinator for five seasons at LSU, said familiarity with the opposing coach can be a benefit heading into a game like this, though not always.
"Can be good, can be bad," he said. "What I mean by that is you get a tendency, and every team has tendencies (of) when they do things, when they want to do things. Alright, so you've got them all down, now what do you do when he breaks that tendency? Because that's what creates a lot of big plays, when guys change.
"You understand conceptually how he thinks and what he does, but guess what, that's been a while. I don't think the same I did in everything when I coached with him. I know this, they will play very hard, be very well prepared, and they're going to be ready to play. That's the constant you know."
This article is written by Dustin Kent from The News Herald, Panama City, Fla. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.