Alabama vs. Florida State kicks off the 2017 college football season and Bobby Bowden wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I prefer to open up with a higher-ranked team,” the former Florida State coach said in an exclusive interview Thursday on SEC Country’s Alabama Podcast with Ryan Fowler. “If you win you’re going to go to No. 1. If you lose you still have a chance to win the national championship.
“A coach knows when he plays somebody, I don’t care how bad there supposed to be, they can still upset you. But you can’t get those kids to believe that.”
That won’t be a problem when Alabama and Florida State play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Sept. 2 at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Kickoff is 8 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on ABC.
The Crimson Tide is No. 1 in the Amway Coaches Poll released by USA Today, and Florida State is No. 3.
“When you open with Alabama or Florida State, your boys are going to be ready to play,” Bowden said. “It couldn’t be a better matchup. It’s the making of a great game.”
Bowden expects Alabama will be favored — “but you better watch out. … I wouldn’t be surprised if Florida State eeks it out somehow.”
It’s a tough call for Bowden, major college football’s winningest coach with a 377-129-4 career record, according to the NCAA. He was born in Birmingham but spent 34 seasons as Florida State’s head coach.
“I have to say I’m from Florida State because I coached there,” Bowden said. “Of course, I was raised on Alabama football my whole life.”
So it’s no surprise that he considers legendary former Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant “the best ever.” But he added that Nick Saban, who has won four national championships in 10 season at Alabama, could end up the best ever.
“I think right now he’s No. 2,” Bowden said. “I didn’t think anybody could approach Coach Bryant. I still think Coach Bryant’s the best ever. Nick might be on a collision course with him.”
Bowden said his successor, Jimbo Fisher, might be on a collision course with Saban.
“Saban has been the sheriff in town for the last 10 years. Is it time for another sheriff?” Bowden said, referring to Fisher.
None of Saban’s former assistants have defeated Saban as a head coach, but Fisher arguably has the closest thing to bragging rights. He was Bowden’s offensive coordinator when FSU beat Alabama 21-14 in Jacksonville in 2007. It was Saban’s first season with the Crimson Tide.
Alabama was No. 22 in the Associated Press poll that week while FSU was unranked. Neither ended the season in the top 25.
This time it could be No. 1 vs. No. 2 when the Associated Press Top 25 is released on Monday.
All the better, Bowden said: “Might as well find out what you’ve got.”
Contributing: Christopher Walsh