Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida State's Alabama attitude: 'They have to play us, too'

TALLAHASSEE — It looks like the biggest game this side of the one for the College Football Championship. The goal is to reach Atlanta. Florida State and Alabama will begin there, with a bang.

The Seminoles against the Death Star.

Jimbo Fisher against his old boss, Nick Saban.

There has got to be an easier way to begin a season than against the Crimson Tide (8 p.m., Sept. 2, ABC), ranked No. 1 in the coaches preseason poll. But go talk to the No. 3 Seminoles.

"They gotta play us, too," FSU safety Derwin James said.

That is the pose Florida State struck at media day Sunday, and it seems real enough.

Never mind that Saban's program has opened the last five season by crushing nonconference opponents Michigan (pre-Harbaugh), Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin and USC by a combined score of 196-70. Last season, the Tide pulverized USC, 52-6.

That's what FSU is up against.

"They've got to play us, too," Fisher said.

He went on:

"We're the two winningest teams in America the last seven years. We're the two winningest programs in America, bar none. That's what you want to see. Everybody wants to see the best play the best. Whether we turn out that way will depend on the season. I think it's a great opportunity. It's also a great challenge. That's what life is. That's what ball is."

The Seminoles, after the complete embarrassment at Louisville, the shocker against North Carolina, and the late loss to Clemson, rallied for a 10-3 season, including a fabulous come-from-behind Orange Bowl win over Michigan. Something to build on. And, last season at least, Alabama couldn't beat Clemson, either.

Not that a loss to Alabama in the opener would completely destroy FSU's season. Nor would a win over Alabama guarantee anything down the road. But hype is hype, and there will be copious amounts of it before this opener.

"It's a blessing to play Alabama," FSU quarterback Deondre Francois said. "These are moments that guys like me pray for. I could really set my legacy off with a game against 'Bama."

Be careful what you pray for.

"I love hype," said the ebullient James, a preseason All-American, "We play the champs (Clemson) and the defending champs (Alabama) and the SEC runner-up (Florida). We play Miami and Louisville. We're playing everyone. I love it. We're all hungry."

Then again ...

"You can't make mistakes against Alabama," James said. "They'll make you pay. You got to come out from the start. If you don't, you'll be looking up at 21-0."

I think FSU will make this a real game. I don't think they'll go in scared or in over their heads.

But call me at halftime just the same.

"Listen, hype goes away. Fundamentals win," Fisher said. "Hype games are more for the fans than us. All games are important to us. We don't take any game lightly. At the same time, I understand all the hoopla that goes with it. At the end of the day, all those cheers before a game, all that hype goes away. It doesn't mean you can't be emotional, but are you prepared to play? That's got to be the key component."

"These games are why we came to Florida State," FSU receiver Auden Tate said.

Death Star, on its way.

"We're by far not where we want to be, but no one is at this time of year," Fisher said. "It's the daily process, being prepared to go into the things, like taking a test or a class. It's no different. You've got to read every chapter. You can't bypass Chapter One to get to Chapter Four."

It's one heck of a Chapter One.

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly

Here's to the winners

Most wins by an active coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 2010:

1. Nick Saban, Alabama – 86

2. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State 78

3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson – 76

4. Chris Petersen, Washington/Boise State – 70

5. Urban Meyer, Ohio State – 69

Florida State's Alabama attitude: 'They have to play us, too' 08/07/17 [Last modified: Monday, August 7, 2017 12:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Sorry, Nebraska, Scott Frost appears interested in staying at UCF

    Scott Frost has UCF undefeated with an important game at Navy next. [Getty Images]
  2. Tampa Bay Downs full of high-paying races this season


    OLDSMAR — Tampa Bay Downs is green like never before.

  3. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  4. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.