Alabama vs. Florida State: Way Too Early BCS Championship Preview
Now that Oregon has knocked itself out of the national championship picture—likely prompting student interns at Alabama to spend most of Thursday night and Friday morning deleting Ducks game film—the 2013 BCS title race just got a little less cluttered.
While there's still a lot that can happen, as it stands now we'll have Alabama and Florida State meeting each other in the Vizio BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif. That is, unless more craziness occurs between now and when the title-game pairing is announced in four weeks.
So how, exactly, do Alabama (8-0) and Florida State (8-0) match up? Click through the slideshow and take a look.
Jameis Winston vs. Alabama's Secondary
Jameis Winston is this year's Johnny Manziel but without the flippant personality and scandalous off-field issues. The redshirt freshman has taken the nation by storm and is firmly entrenched in the Heisman Trophy race.
But how will he do against a ball-hawking secondary like Alabama?
The Crimson Tide have allowed just six passing touchdowns in eight games, and five of those came from Manziel and Texas A&M way back in mid-September. The other was a meaningless second-half score by Kentucky last month when the game was already in hand at 31-0.
Opposing quarterbacks have completed less than 50 percent of their passes against Alabama and while the Tide only have eight interceptions, they give such a small window for quarterbacks to throw into that the pickoffs are almost inconsequential.
Winston has 24 TD passes and six interceptions, and actually had what could be considered his "worst" game in last week's pounding of unbeaten Miami (Fla.) because he was picked off twice with just one TD. The kid hasn't played like you'd expect from a first-year quarterback, but he also hasn't had to worry about his receivers being blanketed like Seminole wideouts will be by 'Bama's defensive backs.
Advantage: Alabama's secondary
A.J. McCarron vs. Florida State Secondary
Florida State has the second-best passing defense in FBS at 158.5 yards per game, which is a major accomplishment considering how often the Seminoles' opponents have been way behind this year and forced to throw. FSU has picked off 12 passes out of 235 attempts, a better-than-five-percent interception rate.
A.J. McCarron isn't scared, though. You don't get to be a three-year starter at quarterback for Alabama by getting intimidated by tough defenses.
Granted, McCarron hasn't been challenged this season by any secondary, as most of his incompletions have either been on drops or balls he's thrown away because the route wasn't there. The senior doesn't force his throws, which is why he only has three interceptions in 209 attempts this season and only 11 picks in 899 career passes.
Florida State's secondary is heavily aided by a pass rush that has 19 sacks, thus causing opposing QBs to hurry their throws, often leading to mistakes. McCarron has yet to show he can be easily flustered.
Advantage: A.J. McCarron
'Bama Running Game vs. FSU Front 7
T.J. Yeldon is the de facto workhorse of Alabama's running game, though he's only rushed 115 times in eight games, mostly because he's sitting out much of the second half of the many Crimson Tide blowouts.
But Yeldon isn't 'Bama's only rushing weapon; Kenyan Drake is just as good, if not better, and has that extra bit of flash that is extra devastating for opposing defenses after having to deal with Yeldon's shifty nature on other snaps.
Florida State has allowed 129.1 yards per game on the ground, with teams sticking with the run most weeks. The Seminoles are facing an average of 37.9 rushers per game, but even with that volume they're only yielding 3.4 yards per carry and four touchdowns.
FSU Running Game vs. 'Bama Front 7
Florida State has a multi-back rotation, like Alabama, with Devonta Freeman getting the bulk of the carries and doing the heavy lifting, while Karlos Williams or James Wilder Jr. comes in to mix things up. It's hard to key on one guy, because no single player averages more than 14 carries per game.
But Alabama has only allowed three rushing touchdowns all season, and teams are averaging just 101.9 yards per carry against a Crimson Tide front seven that usually provides no room to run up the middle. And those big boys are fast, too, making the edge runs go almost nowhere.
'Bama's biggest rushing challenge has probably come from Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who scampered for 98 yards. That could mean Jameis Winston could break free for a couple big runs, especially if the Tide are blanketing the receivers as they do so well.
Advantage: Florida State run game
It's a student vs. master matchup, as Florida State's Jimbo Fisher spent four years working for Alabama's Nick Saban during Saban's time at LSU.
Fisher is in his fourth season as FSU's head coach, returning the Seminoles to the pinnacle of college football after they had fallen back into the pack during the latter stages of the Bobby Bowden era. With an amazing set of recruiting classes and a staff that gets the most out of the players, Fisher looks to have a bright future in Tallahassee.
Getting the 'Noles into the BCS title game this quickly is probably a surprise to many outside the program, but there's a reason Bowden brought Fisher on in 2007 as the "coach-in-waiting" and why Fisher turned down an offer by Saban to join him at Alabama.
Saban, though, is hands down the best coach in college football. He's led the Crimson Tide to three of the last four BCS championships, including the last two, while he added a fourth title back at LSU. As long as he stays in college, he's an overwhelming winner.
But Saban hasn't won just because he has good players; his schemes and game plans find a way to exploit even the smallest weaknesses of opponents, making the resulting games look effortless. Alabama rarely looks like they're trying hard as they roll all over someone.
This game would pit two great coaching minds, but it's hard to top Saban, especially on such a big stage.
Advantage: Nick Saban
As happy as Florida State was to see Oregon lose to Stanford, odds are the Alabama contingency was even more pleased.
The Tide match up so much better with the Seminoles than with the Ducks, simply because Alabama's personnel and schemes are more attuned to dealing with less-gimmicky approaches. Nick Saban has complained about the downside of the spread offense, but that's more because it would be harder for his team to defend it than what Florida State will bring to the table.
Add in the experience factor of the Tide's many veterans who have already been through this championship process before, and it's easy to see that Alabama has a distinct advantage against Florida State.
Prediction: Alabama 27, Florida State 17