Today, we will take a look at Penn State’s second game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. On September 10th 2011, Alabama will bring a 1-0 record to Beaver Stadium and possibly a Top-5 Ranking as well. Last year Alabama dominated Penn State in Tuscaloosa with a 24-3 win over a very young Lion team. We traveled to the game and experienced an amazing game atmosphere and football culture that very much resembles that of Penn State. We do hope that Penn State fans treat the Alabama fans as well as they treated us. It was a refreshing day in Tuscaloosa to see fans want to talk football with you and tell you how excited they were for us to be there as opposed to getting heckled and harassed at other Big Ten schools. (included in the post will be some of our pictures from Tuscaloosa) It is only February, but if you aren’t already excited for this game, it’s about time you begin your countdown. In fact let me start it for you. There are 205 days (as of February 17th) until kickoff or about 4,925 hours (depending on when kickoff is specifically). Let’s get to the game.
Alabama is not going to be the same team they were last year. Big name players have left including all SEC QB Greg McElroy, Heisman winner Mark Ingram and wide receiver Julio Jones to name a few. Unfortunately for Penn State the one man who pummeled the Lions in Tuscaloosa will return, Trent Richardson. Last year, Richardson carried the ball 22 times for 144 yards and a TD against a young defense. Richardson was absolutely electric. It seemed as if he couldn’t be tackled at times, dragging players an extra 5-10 yards after contact. Penn State can expect much of the same this year, but with the experience of a season under the belt and the bad taste left in their mouths after that game, Penn State will have a better performance against the run.
Alabama will be limited offensively with a new QB. They will turn to Richardson frequently. If Penn State can contain Richardson and force the Tide into a third and seven or third and six situation, the inexperience of a new QB could be exposed against a strong Penn State secondary. I expect A.J. McCarron to get the start, but if things go sour Phillip Sims should see some time as well. Alabama’s defense will be strong once again. The key will be to keep them on the field and Richardson off of it. If Penn State can move the ball and control the game with Silas Redd at TB, the Alabama defense will get tired.
For Penn State, this game is going to have to be won as a team. There is no one player who will dominate in their position like Richardson did last year against Penn State. This will have to be all offensive players clicking and playing as one. The biggest component of that will be the offensive line. We know Penn State has great receivers, running backs and quarterbacks who can execute the plays. The question is on the offensive line. The line will need to gel quickly in the Indiana State game and not lose confidence against Alabama. If the Alabama front four control the line and put pressure on Bolden or McGloin, it could be a long night for Penn State offensively. Penn State also CANNOT try to make this a ground battle. Jay Paterno and Galen Hall need to call a unique game that will keep Alabama guessing.
Last season against big time competition we saw McGloin crumble in high-pressure situations. Examples: Ohio State second half, Michigan State first half and Florida second half. Alabama will be the first high-pressure situation for whomever leads this team at QB. They absolutely cannot afford a melt down in the second half again. Nick Saban will expose you for every penny you are worth and sloppy execution will doom the lions.
X-Factors: In this game there will be three X Factors.
1. Field Position: Last year Alabama was given presents inside the Penn State 20 yard line which gave them easy scoring opportunities off of turnovers. Which ever team wins the field position battle will win this game hands down. Both teams will execute and defenses that are given a short field to protect will be overwhelmed by the pressure to protect it. Anthony Fera will have to have a huge night punting and the return game of Devon Smith and Justin Brown will have to find success.
2. Experience: Last year Alabama played against a true freshman quarterback, a defense that was mainly comprised of first year starting sophomores and a team that was completely overwhelmed by their opponent. All of that has changed. Penn State will be hungry this year especially after the loss in the Outback Bowl. A win at home against Alabama will do wonders for their confidence early on next season. We all know Joe doesn’t want to have his last game against Alabama be a loss.
3. The crowd: This game will very likely be a 6:30 pm start (Notre Dame 2007) or an 8 pm start like last year’s game. It will also be a full stadium white out. If it is not I will be shocked. Alabama has not played at a Big Ten home game since the 1989 season against Penn State at Beaver Stadium. Alabama won 17-16. They have only met Big Ten teams in Tuscaloosa or in Bowl games since then. I expect the environment to match that of the Notre Dame game from 2007.
Alabama – 23
Penn State – 27
I think Penn State builds an unexpected lead only to see it disappear by Trent Richardson in the third quarter. Alabama will hold a 23-20 lead in the fourth until a costly turnover and good return puts Penn State in scoring position deep in Alabama territory with under 5 minutes to play. Silas Redd tumbles in for the score and the lead. Penn State’s defense then holds Alabama on the final drive of the game for the victory.
Next up: September 17, 2011 – At Temple
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Check out Part I of our Break down (Indiana State…Click)