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Two national championship contenders kick off the season in one of the most anticipated openers of all-time when top-ranked Alabama faces third-ranked Florida State on Saturday at Atlanta. The Crimson Tide have won four national titles under Nick Saban and Florida State has claimed one under Jimbo Fisher and both squads are forecasted to be in the title hunt this season.
Alabama lost 35-31 to Clemson on a last-second touchdown in last season's College Football Playoff title game and Saturday's contest -- the first football game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium -- is billed as perhaps the biggest opener in college history. "There is probably more hype because we've had longer to talk about it as a season opener. That has a lot to do with it in my opinion," Fisher told reporters. "But it's the first time two top-three teams have played to open up a season, so I understand where that comes from." Meanwhile, Saban is eager to put last season behind him and focus on the 2017 campaign. "The identity of this team is going to be created by what this team does, not what happened last year, not what happened on the last play of the game," Saban told reporters. "None of that is going to matter to how this team develops their identity and their ability to conquer adversity."
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC.
LINE HISTORY: The losing team from the 2017 FBS Championship game opened as 7.5-point, but bettors brought that number down almost immediately to 6.5 and the line has come back up a bit to an even 7. The total hit the betting board at 49 and is up a half-point to 49.5. Follow the complete line history here.
WEATHER REPORT: Dome.
WHAT SHARPS SAY: 'These are two of the best teams in the nation, so it is a shame that one will have a loss after the first week. I currently have both squads in my Top 3 rankings. The pointspread has been sitting steady on the key number (-7) with very little movement so far. Florida State should improve on defense with 9 returning starters after allowing 25.0 points per game last season. Alabama is younger with only 5 returning defensive starters, but they will likely just reload and still be dominant after allowing only 13.0 points per game last season when they also returned five starters. Both defenses will be tested on Saturday night against offenses that averaged 35.1 ppg (FSU) and 38.8 ppg (Bama) last season.' - Covers Expert Steve Merril.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: 'The FSU-Bama matchup is easily our biggest handle of Week 1 college football. It’s drawing the interest of seemingly every square bettor, and some of the sharp contingent. The pros are siding with Florida State for now, but they really like the under. We have 75 percent of the tickets on the over, but 65 percent of the money on the under. The public likes the Tide to cover.' - Scott Cooley of BookMaker.eu
Alabama - RB Bo Scarbrough (Probable, Leg), WR Robert Foster (Probable, Back), RB Najee Harris (Probable, Hamstring), RB Joshua Jacobs (Questionable, Hamstring), WR Cam Sims (Questionable, Shoulder), DL Raekwon Davis (Out Indefinitely, Leg), LB Keith Holcombe (Out Indefinitely, Shoulder)
Florida State - LB Matthew Thomas (Probable, Academics), DB Trey Marshall (Probable, Suspension), OL Brady Scott (Out Indefinitely, Foot), WR Da’Vante Phillips (Out Indefinitely, Suspension), WR George Campbell (Out Indefinitely, abdominal).
ABOUT ALABAMA (2016: 14-1 SU, 10-5 ATS, 7-8 O/U): Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts stood out last season as an all-around force as he passed for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns and added 954 yards and 13 scores on the ground. Senior wideout Calvin Ridley (72 catches in 2016) is etching his name in the Crimson Tide record books and ranks fourth in school history with 161 receptions. The defense lost a lot of star power, but preseason first-team All-American Minkah Fitzpatrick - a junior strong safety - is back after intercepting six passes last season, while sophomore defensive end Raekwon Davis is doubtful after being shot in his right leg last Sunday.
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (2016: 10-3, 8-4 ATS, 6-8 O/U): Sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois will be looking to take a step forward after a stellar 2016 in which he passed for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. The big issue is replacing all-everything back Dalvin Cook and junior Jacques Patrick (350 rushing yards last season) will get the first crack. Sophomore free safety Derwin James is healthy after playing just two games last season due to a knee injury, but senior linebacker Matthew Thomas (77 tackles) is in jeopardy of missing the game after not practicing the past three weeks.
TRENDS (Dating back to last season):
* Alabama is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games overall.
* Florida State is 4-0 ATS in its last four games overall.
* Over is 4-0-1 in Alabama's last five games vs. ACC opponents.
* Over is 6-0 in Florida State's last six neutral site games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The chalk Crimson Tide are getting 54 percent of the action from Covers users and the Over is getting 59 percent of the totals wagers. View full consensus data for this matchup here.
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