Joe Moore Award Big Ugly Spotlight Game Review – Week 1: Florida State vs Alabama
In what was regarded as possibly the biggest opening game in the history of collegiate football, two of the most powerful football programs in the country, both historically and recently, met in a game filled with National Championship implications.
A matchup of two recruiting juggernauts, there was no shortage of talent on the field at any position. While both teams feature possible top five or even top three defensive fronts nationally, Alabama’s offensive line has been much more effective the past few seasons. While theoretically both teams have talented offensive lines, at least from a recruiting point of view, Florida State has been much less effective at keeping its quarterback upright.
Let’s take a look at each team from a scheme and personnel perspective up front:
Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles run a Pro-Style offense under Jimbo Fisher, attacking all levels of the field in the pass game. Additionally, they run multiple styles of run concepts with both gap and zone blocking schemes up front. Using mostly 5 and 6 man slide protection schemes, they also utilize a lot of half and full rollouts, taking advantage of their quarterback’s ability to throw on the run, but also easing some of the stress on their offensive line.
LT Derrick Kelly II – RS JR 6’5’’ 323 pounds
LG Landon Dickerson – RS SO 6’5’’ 310 pounds
C Alec Eberle – RS JR 6’4’’ 294 pounds
RG Cole Minshew – RS SO 6’5’’ 338 pounds
RT Rick Leonard – SR 6’7’’ 306 pounds
While this unit doesn’t lack recruiting clout, it’s a pretty inexperienced line all together. All five linemen have started games prior to the opener, but none have played a full season. Kelly, Dickerson and Eberle have all started parts of seasons and had them cut short because of injury. Minshew started the last few games of 2016, and Leonard is a former defensive end. The Florida State offense is an electric unit, but the offensive line over the past few seasons hasn’t been a part of that.
How They Can Succeed
Against a stout Alabama defensive line, Florida State will need to be able to carve out some success in the run game in order to keep the Crimson Tide defense honest and prevent them from pinning their ears back and setting their sights on their quarterback.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama has slowly shifted from a Pro-Style, gap scheme power offense to a more modern, spread offense that still utilizes gap concept while incorporating more zone schemes. While the Crimson Tide have gotten more multiple on offense, the basis of their offense is still their ability to bully opponents with power up the middle of their line as well as utilizing big, bruising runners. In pass protection they’re pretty standard, with mostly half-line and full-line slide protections.
LT Jonah Williams – RS SO 6’5’’ 301 pounds
LG Ross Pierschbacher – RS JR 6’4’’ 303 pounds
C Bradley Bozeman – 6’5’’ 314 pounds
RG Lester Cotton – 6’4’’ 324 pounds
RT Matt Womack – 6’7’’ 324 pounds
Looking to replace Cam Robinson from the 2016 unit, Williams, a second-Team AP All-SEC in 2016 moves over to left tackle from the right side. Ross Pierschbacher is a three-year starter, who was also second-Team All-SEC in 2016. Bozeman started at center in 2016, while Cotton saw time at both guard spots. Womack saw reserve duty in nine games a year ago.
How They Can Succeed
Against one of the few defensive lines in the country who can possibly boast the same amount of talent as its own, Alabama’s offensive line will need to show that they can run the ball and protect their quarterback. If the Crimson Tide can control the tempo of the game by running the football, it will set up their play-action game, as well as take attention off of their quarterback.
Good vs Good
Alabama LT Jonah Williams vs Florida State EDGE Josh Sweat. Williams will have some big shoes to fill, taking over for Cam Robinson against the Seminoles’ best rusher. Both of these players are likely future high draft picks, and if Sweat can get the best of Williams, Florida State could be primed to win this game.
In a battle of defensive heavyweights, Alabama eventually came out victorious. Florida State was never really able to muster any substantial drives after its touchdown in the first quarter. The only other threatening drive for the Seminoles was at the end of the first half, which ended up without points.
Alabama’s continuous body shots to the Seminoles’ defense, which was put in poor positions time and time again by their offense and other turnovers, were too much to overcome, and Alabama came away with a 24-7 victory.
Florida State’s offensive line struggled to protect their quarterback, and he was eventually knocked out of the game, and unfortunately for the season because of a torn ACL. Aside from a few chunk run plays in the first half, they struggled to cover up the Crimson Tide defense. On the flip side, Alabama’s run game seemed to become more and more effective as the game wore on.
Plays of Note
Late in the 3rd quarter, following a Florida State turnover, Alabama running back Damien Harris (#34) was able to score on a split zone run. A textbook backside Deuce block by Lester Cotton (#66) and Matt Womack (#77), along with a kickout block by the crossing tight end, allowed Harris a cutback lane into the end zone, putting the game essentially out of reach for the offensively inept Seminoles. Make sure to watch tight end Irv Smith Jr. (#82), who punishes his defender, putting the exclamation point on the play.
With just under 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Florida State’s left guard, Landon Dickerson (#69), missed a blitzing safety that eventually chased down the FSU quarterback and sacked him, resulting in his injury. FSU was in a half-slide protection, while the safety isn’t by rule the offensive line’s responsibility, Dickerson struggled to process the blitz mid-play, resulting in a sack. This was effectively the end of the game, as the Seminoles just handed the ball off the rest of the game with a true freshman in at quarterback.
After Alabama regained possession following the injury, the aforementioned body blows throughout the game clearly wore on the defensive front of the Seminoles. A simple Power play to the right, along with an excellent job by left guard Ross Pierschbacher (#71) to find work at the second level, resulted in a statement run for the Crimson Tide. While FSU was unable to dig out the tough yards on the ground for most of the game, plays like this allowed Alabama to stay ahead of the chains and dictate the offensive tempo.
While Florida State was game for most of this contest, the Alabama attrition eventually wore down the Seminoles’ defense. As has been the case in Tuscaloosa since Nick Saban took over, the Crimson Tide imposed their will on the opposition, and gained a marquee win against a national powerhouse.