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Tide vs. Noles: Week 1 Matchup Preview

The college football year is right around the corner, less than a week away and yet another year we’re talking about the Alabama Crimson Tide. If you recall last season, the Tide suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Clemson Tigers in the finals seconds of the National Championship game at the hands of quarterback Deshaun Watson. Fast forward eight months after losing that game, three months after sending a school record ten players to the NFL in April’s Draft, the Tide have replenished their losses with just more top recruits and possible NFL talent; something Nick Saban seems to have a never-ending supply of. They’re right where they were last year, number one in the preseason poll. Nick Saban is 9-0 vs. his former predecessors, which Jimbo Fisher will have his first crack at after coaching under Saban at LSU from 00-04. The others haven’t fared very well against Saban coached teams. But this might be the best chance Fisher or any of those coaches ever had because of the talent that is on the Seminole Roster, especially the defense.

Key factors

Derwin James

Safety Derwin James will undoubtedly be the heart of this Seminole defense in 2017. And come Saturday he will have a tough road to travel as he and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden will have to contain who some believe to be the nation’s top wide receiver, Calvin Ridley. It’ll be interesting to see how early Fisher implements Safety help to whoever is lined up against Ridley. Both James and Ridley were ranked number one at their respected positions coming out of high school in 2015 and now both of are at the top of a lot of preseason mock drafts and many believe to be locks to be first round picks come April.

Fisher and defensive coordinator Charles Kelly have plugged James in at linebacker at times in the past. So, Ridley might not be the only obstacle that James will have to figure out come Saturday night. Along with having one of college football’s best pass catchers, The Tide have several top-rated recruits in the backfield as well in Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough, and Najee Harris. All five-star athletes, something Nick Saban teams seem to consist of, year after year. Derwin will unquestionably be a key factor in Saturday night’s game, but he’s going to have a bevy of tasks to complete for the Seminoles to win.

Jalen Hurts

The Tide, usually not known for their quarterbacks, might’ve found a gem in Jalen Hurts. The four-star recruit from Channelview, Texas led the Crimson Tide to the national championship game, at just 18-years-old. Now, there were certainly hiccups on that travel, most of which occurred in the second half of the season. But, Hurts did throw for over 2,700 yards and 23 touchdowns and was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. If you recollect too that National Championship eight months ago, you’ll remember that Hurts should’ve won the Tide the National Championship Game with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left on the clock. It was the Saban defense that gave the game back to the Clemson Tigers in the final seconds. At just 18-years-old Hurts won Alabama the game, well should’ve. Everybody is anxious to see what a 19-year-old Hurts is capable of. Hurts will have his work cut out for him as he may be facing the toughest secondary on the schedule as James and McFadden await him.

Josh Sweat

If the Seminoles want to win this game, they’re going to have to get consistent pressure on Hurts and disrupt the Tide’s pass protection, which isn’t an easy task for any team as Saban always has a stout line. But it starts with defensive end Josh Sweat. If Sweat can get to Hurts in the backfield and make him uncomfortable in the pocket and make him force throws that he doesn’t necessarily want to make. This is going to make the secondary’s job a whole lot easier, especially for McFadden and James. With the nation’s sack leader Damarcus Walker being drafted, the Seminole pass rush is going to revolve around Sweat, especially this game. Saturday will certainly tell us if he’s up for that job.

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Defensive Back Minkah Fitzpatrick to put it quite simply is the Tide’s Swiss Army knife, coming out of high school he was a top recruited safety, but, last season he was all over the field. Literally, he lined up all over the field, playing in the slot, lining up at corner and safety. This is something that could throw sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois for a loop because No. 29 is going to be someone the Seminoles and Francois are going to be someone they want to avoid, especially with this young offense. With Travis Rudolph and Dalvin Cook both leaving from the NFL, this Seminole offense is filled with question marks and unknowns and no go to guy. With no go to guy, Fitzpatrick could be lined up all over the field and could give Fisher and the rest of the Seminole offense serious migraines if they don’t find a way to game plan around him for a good chunk of the game.

Title Game Preview?

Usually, when a team loses a game this early, their playoff chances are usually put to rest right then and there, that may not be the case on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The ramifications of this game could have very minimal effect on January’s playoff, even with one loss on their record, both teams could still be the favorite to win their conference. Fisher and Saban could surely meet again this season with it all on the line. All eyes will be on both as college football kicks off Saturday, something both of these coaches are probably used to by now.

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Cory Hughes

Growing up in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts, Cory grew up with a love of football. But believe it or not, it did not start because of Tom Brady or Bill Belichick. It started with guys like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs. He's probably the only person in the New England area that doesn't have a Tom Brady jersey in his closet. As an adolescent Cory played every sport that was available to him. He was the starting Defensive End on his Pop Warner A Team and had with sacks. Cory was also the starting center for his middle school basketball team that won a league championship with an undefeated season. However, after not growing more than two inches in high school, he decided to drop basketball and pick up wrestling. His sophomore year while wrestling, MMA started to grow and the big fight everybody was talking about was Quentin 'Rampage' Jackson vs. Chuck Liddell. Watching Jackson's slams, he was hooked to MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Not long after he started training in that as well. In just over two years he got his blue belt in martial arts. So it's a great mix of sports that he loves and that eventually sparked his interest in sports journalism.

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