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No. 1 Alabama takes on No. 3 Florida State in marquee opener

August 31, 2017

No. 3 Florida State (10-3 in 2016) vs. No. 1 Alabama (14-1) in Atlanta, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (ABC)

Line: Alabama by 7.

Series record: Alabama leads 2-1-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

This is the first opening-game matchup of top-three teams since the AP started compiling preseason rankings in 1950. The loser will hardly be eliminated from the national title chase. The winner will likely be No. 1 next week.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida State’s offensive line versus Alabama’s defensive line. Led by preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference center Alec Eberle, the Seminoles blockers are trying to rebound after allowing 36 sacks last season. The Crimson Tide had to replace three first-round NFL draft picks on defense, including DE Jonathan Allen. DL Josh Frazier could get a start opposite onetime top recruit Da’Shawn Hand since Raekwon Davis is recovering from a gunshot wound to his right leg.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Florida State: QB Deondre Francois passed for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. He ran for 526 yards not counting those 36 sacks.

Alabama: RB Bo Scarbrough tries to pick up where he left off last season — on a huge roll. He or Damien Harris could get the start, and both are capable of big games. But Scarbrough is a 6-foot-2, 235-pound bulldozer with a huge upside.

FACTS & FIGURES

Previous AP Top-five openers: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 UCLA in 1986, No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 4 Penn State in 1983 and No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 5 North Carolina in 1982. ... The teams will play in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. ... Nick Saban is 10-0 in season openers at Alabama; Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher is 7-0. ... Fisher, a former offensive coordinator under Saban, is 9-1 against Southeastern Conference teams with the Seminoles. ... Alabama is 25-7 against Top 10 teams since the start of the 2008 season. FSU is 17-10 against ranked teams under Fisher. ... Alabama had to replace seven defensive players drafted in the first four rounds. ... The Seminoles have won eight consecutive neutral-site openers. Bama is 7-0 in season-opening games in domed stadiums, including a 52-6 win over USC last season.

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