Losing to Alabama by 17 would have been frustrating and disappointing for Florida State by itself. Losing quarterback Deondre Francois makes Saturday a lot worse, given the impact it will have on the rest of the Seminoles' season.
No. 1 Alabama beat No. 3 Florida State 24-7 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in the biggest opening game ever, based on preseason AP rankings. With Bama in control with 5:41 left, Florida State faced a third-and-four at its own 31-yard line. The next play may permanently altered the Seminoles' plans for this season: Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison chased down Francois from behind, and the standout sophomore quarterback injured his knee when brought to the ground.
Francois put no weight on his left leg coming off the field. After being examined in Florida State's medical tent, he used crutches to walk to a cart, which he rode to the locker room. Afterward, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters he could not yet delve into specifics, other than to say that true freshman James Blackman -- who replaced Francois at the end of the game -- would be the probable starter if Francois is out.
On Sunday, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Francois injured his patella tendon, which will require surgery. After one game, his season is reportedly finished.
Emotional, Francois exits the field on a medical cart pic.twitter.com/NzNYiFhWXO- Brendan Sonnone (@BSonnone) September 3, 2017
It's the second year in a row that a star Seminoles player has been lost for the season in September. Last year, safety Derwin James suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2. Francois was the top returning player on the Florida State offense and one of the biggest reasons for the Seminoles' playoff expectations. He completed 58.8 percent for 3,350 yards, 20 TDs and seven picks last year in leading them to the Orange Bowl as a freshman.
Before the injury on Saturday, he completed 19 of 33 passes for 210 yards, one TD and two INTs. The teams were relatively even statistically except for the mistakes: Francois' interceptions, a blocked punt and a fumbled kick return, all coming in the second half to allow Alabama to pull away and make the win look dominant.
Cam Akers led the Seminoles with 10 carries for 30 yards on the ground. With Francois out, Florida State may play with a true freshman-dominated backfield featuring Akers, the No. 1 running back recruit in the class of 2017, and Blackman, who was rated the No. 16 pro-style quarterback by the 247Sports composite rankings.
The Seminoles play a tough schedule filled with strong defenses, including Miami on Sept. 16 and N.C. State on Sept. 23. (They host Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday.) Louisville, Clemson and Florida are among the other big games on the schedule.
Francois was one of the biggest certainties on the roster before Saturday, but now quarterback, unfortunately, becomes the biggest question of Florida State's season, putting any possible playoff hopes, at 0-1, in even greater doubt.