Saban, Fisher open College Football Season with a Bang

Saban, Fisher open College Football Season with a Bang

JIM WORKMAN


It is being called the best season opener in college football history.

When Alabama and Florida State square off Saturday, Sept. 2 in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Dome for the 2017 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, it will have all the hype equal to any National Championship game in recent memory.

What a way to jump start the NCAA football season.

Alabama has won more college football games than anyone over the past seven years. FSU is second. The Crimson Tide and Seminoles may be - and probably should be, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country when they meet.

The two coaches have quite a history together too. 

Fisher, 51, and Saban, 65, both grew up in North Central West Virginia, in Clarksburg and Fairmont respectively.

But they had never met until Fisher was Saban's first hire at LSU. 

They won 48 games together over five years at LSU, including the 2003 national championship.

When Saban left LSU for the Miami Dolphins, Fisher stayed behind and remained as offensive coordinator for Les Miles until an opportunity opened to move to FSU, where he would become a head coach in waiting until Bobby Bowden retired following the 2009 season.

Of course, each has added significant hardware to their trophy cases since.

Saban won more championships for Alabama in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015. 

Fisher and the Seminoles claimed the national title in 2013.

But on to the newest, biggest task at hand. There’s always room for more crystal footballs on the mantel.

Fisher said the 2017 season opening game, “…is going to be good.”

Jimbo Fisher, a West Virginia native, returned to the state to aid in flood recovery efforts in 2016. Photo by JIM WORKMAN

Jimbo Fisher, a West Virginia native, returned to the state to aid in flood recovery efforts in 2016. Photo by JIM WORKMAN

Understatement, anyone?

“It's going to be good for the (FSU) program and it's one of the things you can test yourself,” he said. “They're going to test themselves with us. You find out where your team is at early in the season. We've played -- I mean, whether it's Pitt, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, who knew we'd both be top three teams or whatever the heck it is, five, ten, whatever. We didn't know that at the time (of scheduling).”

"I knew (Alabama) would have a great program,” Fisher added. “Every opponent is different. Of course, Alabama has been better than any of the ones we've ever played. They've been tremendous.” 

Saban heaped praise on Fisher and the ‘Noles as well.

"Florida State is built like an SEC team, you know, like our teams,” he said. “You think of Florida State, you think of fast, explosive players which they have a lot of, but they are also a big, physical, play great defense, tough, you know, team. And I think it's probably Jimbo's experience in this league that sort of why he built his team that way. And that's certainly the kind of team that they have this year.

"Florida State probably has as many good players returning as anybody in college football. So, we have a tremendous amount of respect for the league. And we played the two top teams in that league, or will play, have played, and will play, and that's very challenging."

While it may be a rare head-to-head matchup on the gridiron, make no mistake - Alabama and Florida State duke it out in the living rooms of the nation’s top football recruits every season.

"We recruit against the ACC all of the time,” Saban said. “I mean, I think everybody tries to recruit the best players. We all try to recruit the best players in the Southeast. And Florida State and Clemson are probably two of the leading teams in the ACC, and they both do an outstanding job of recruiting. And we end up recruiting a lot of the same players. So, there's a lot of competition from that standpoint."

One huge game note to remember: Saban has never lost to a former assistant.

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