Alabama Football: Key matchups against Florida State

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Deshaun Watson
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Deshaun Watson /

Talent abounds in the Alabama football vs. Florida State contest. Let’s look at a couple of key matchups some fans will overlook.

The Alabama football game against Florida State will feature some of the highest profile players in college football. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, Jalen Hurts and Bo Scarbrough are Crimson Tide marquee names. For the Seminoles, it is Derwin James, Tavares McFadden, Derrick Nnadi and Deondre Francois.

For weeks, the pregame debate has revolved around skill players from the two teams.

  • Can Calvin Ridley get separation from Tavares McFadden?
  • Will Derwin James snare one or more of Jalen Hurts’ throws?
  • Can Minkah pull off a pick-six against Deondre Francois?
  • Will Derwin James take on Bo Scarbrough in the box?
  • Can the Tide’s corners handle the tall and physical FSU wideouts?

Each of these questions accurately portends a matchup with game-deciding potential. Many dozen pundits will offer their takes in the hours leading up to kickoff.

Our take is slightly different. We pose two more matchup questions and argue the game’s outcome will be influenced more the by these two, than the five listed above.

  • Can Brad Bozeman handle Seminole nose-tackle, Derrick Nnadi?
  • Can FSU center, Ben Eberle hold his on with Da’Ron Payne without help from a second FSU offensive lineman?

If you are fortunate to be in Mercedes-Benz Stadium tonight, focus your binoculars on the four key players in the two matchups. It will be a little harder to follow these interior battles on television. The camera so quickly narrows the view to a small radius around the ball.

Why these four non-skill players?

Our first answer is that two of them are among the three best players on each team. At least Pro Football Focus (PFF) makes that claim based upon grades of 2016 player performance.

Although Da’Ron Payne is not on the PFF list, Payne’s Alabama football roles and Nnadi’s roles will be the same. Both will be expected to push the pocket, to clog the middle and attract double-teams. If either one does his job far better than the other, that player’s team is likely to win.

@PFF_College has done a great job documenting Bozeman and Nnadi as two of college football’s top interior players. We expect Bozeman to deny Nnadi any penetration. Can Bozeman knock Nnadi back from the LOS without help? We only know the outcome will be key for Alabama football and FSU.

We strongly doubt Ben Eberle can block Da’Ron Payne without help from another Nole. If Eberle can, it will be a huge boost to the FSU offense.

Next: All the details and sources to follow the game.

Check in with us after college football’s biggest opening game in many seasons. We will recap, analyze and offer our insights for the 24 hour period allowable per Nick Saban edict.