Nick Saban is, apparently, tired of hearing about his team’s weak schedule. On Thursday, it was announced that Alabama and Florida State would play a home-and-home series during the 2025 and 2026 seasons. For the first time, the series will be played in Tallahassee with the first matchup slated for August 30, 2025 before returning to Tuscaloosa on September 19, 2026. With the agreement between the schools reached, Alabama now has home-and-home series set against Texas, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Virginia Teach in the coming years in addition to neutral site games against USC and Miami. Florida State adds Alabama to a future schedule that will include Florida and, in 2026, Notre Dame.
Historically speaking, this series is a bit of an oddity. Considering Alabama and FSU have been playing college football since 1892 and 1902, respectively, the teams have a fairly brief history. The schools played each other three times between 1965 and 1974, resulting in two Alabama wins bookending a 1967 tie declared to be “beyond any question at all, one of the greatest football games ever played anywhere.” 33 years passed before the schools would meet again. Florida State took home its first victory against the Tide in 2007, and the programs have met once more since then, playing the first collegiate game in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017.
Though the series is rare, it has had a strong draw for viewers, particularly in 2017. The opening weekend matchup, played between a no. 1 Alabama squad and no. 3 Florida State, ended up being one of the most watched opening day games ever. The game drew in 12.5 million viewers, 1.4 million more than the previous record holder. For context, this year’s highest rated game had only 6.8 million viewers, and the New Year’s Six bowl games averaged about 15.4 million viewers in 2018. Now, obviously, much of this was due to the circumstances surrounding the game. It is incredibly rare for two teams ranked that high to play each other in the first week of the season, so this matchup was more intriguing than most regular season games. Still, that level of viewership is incredibly rare, especially that early in the season. It’s unlikely that future games between the programs will even come close to those numbers, but it seems like the rarity of the matchup combined with the programs’ strong fan bases will bump up viewership in the future.
The agreement was certainly part of a concerted effort to bolster the nonconference schedules of both programs, especially Alabama’s. While most of the Power Five schools play nine conference games, the SEC and ACC only play eight. The schools, then, are required to schedule four nonconference games. While Alabama has perennially proved to be one of the best teams in the country, each year, a major knock against its resume are these games. In each season since 2014, the beginning of the current playoff system, Alabama has scheduled just one nonconference Power Five opponent. Only three of those six teams were ranked at the time of their matchup, and all of the games were held at a neutral site. In 2019, the Crimson Tide have, so far, beaten all non conference opponents by a combined score of 153-17.
But, as evidenced by the surging number of Alabama’s big-name non conference opponents in the coming years, there has been a push by the program to increase its level of nonconference play. Saban himself has advocated for Power Five schools to exclusively compete against other Power Five schools during the season. The announcement Thursday proves again that the program is concerned with increasing their strength of schedule in the coming years. And why wouldn’t it be? Year in and year out, the Crimson Tide have proven to be one of the best programs in college football, but with the exclusion of conference champions each year, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee has proven that a team’s strength of schedule is one of the most important facets of its resume.
Florida State, on the other hand, has had a stronger nonconference slate than Alabama over the last few years. Regardless, the Seminoles’ schedule has had its fair share of less-than-stellar nonconference opponents. Granted, these games have, at times, proven to be a challenge (a 45-44 overtime win against UL-Monroe this year is evidence enough). Still, Florida State has been to the College Football Playoff, and as recently as 2017 been ranked in the top three. The program can afford a stronger schedule, and it seems to acknowledge this as evidenced by the announcement today.