2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 2 - Alabama at Penn State
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Sept. 10 Alabama 27 ... at Penn State 11
CFN Analysis: Alabama remained calm and cool in the emotion of the start against Penn State, and once it settled down, and once the defense started to dial it up a bit, the game was over. The offense was hardly impressive, but it did enough to get the job done with Trent Richardson pounding away for a workmanlike 111 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, while AJ McCarron had an effective 19-of-31,163-yard, one score game. The D gave up a long early drive, and a long garbage time drive, and nothing in between, and while the pass rush was just okay, there wasn't anywhere for the Nittany Lion skill players to go. After last week's problems holding on to the ball, going without a turnover against a defense as good as Penn State's is impressive.
Penn State did what it could, and despite completing 11-of-29 passes for 144 yards with a pick, Rob Bolden wasn't bad; he just didn't have anywhere to go against the swarming Tide D. Matt McGloin was a disaster, completing 1-of-10 throws for no yards, and at this point, the battle should be over; it's time to develop Bolden. He needs the time and the reps, and he needs to be the starter without looking over his shoulder. No one is going to do much against Alabama this year, but unlike last season's game, Bolden at least looked like he belonged on the field. Defensively, Michael Mauti was fantastic with 13 tackles and thre broken up passes, but there wasn't any pass rush from the front four.
(AP) STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- AJ McCarron was poised and efficient in a rare trip to Big Ten country for No. 3 Alabama, throwing for 163 yards and a touchdown as the Crimson Tide beat No. 23 Penn State 27-11 on Saturday.
Alabama completed a sweep of the home-and-home series between the two storied programs with a methodical and smothering performance reminiscent of last year's 24-3 win in Tuscaloosa.
Both teams came into the second week of the season with unsettled quarterback issues. At Alabama (2-0), those appear to be settled.
Playing in front of the largest crowd ever to see an Alabama football game, McCarron was 19 for 31 with no turnovers and a 5-yard touchdown pass through traffic to Michael Williams in the first quarter.
McCarron started the Tide's first game against Kent State but had to share the job with Phillip Sims. This week he was on his own. He gave coach Nick Saban no reason to make a change until the game was out of reach.
For Penn State, Nittany Lions (1-1) fans might be wondering if either Robert Bolden or Matt McGloin are the answer. They combined to go 12 for 39 for 144 yards.
With Penn State's Joe Paterno coaching from a box way above the field at Beaver Stadium -- nursing pelvic and leg injuries from a collision with a player -- there was only one two-time national champion coach on the floor of the stadium.
Saban paced up and down the Crimson Tide's sideline with his headset on, stopping to watch the action with his hands on his hips or knees, before going back to stalking.
At 59 years old, Saban has 131 victories, 271 behind Paterno's major college record. Saban will never catch up to the 84-year-old JoePa on that list, but he's got a team capable of getting him a third national title this season.
Trent Richardson was workmanlike with 26 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns, including a 13-yarder with 6:14 left in the fourth that made it 27-3 and cleared much of the 107,846 at Beaver Stadium -- save the ones in Crimson shirts.
Led by defensive backs Dre Kirkpatrick and Robert Lester, the Tide defense held Penn State to 251 yards.
At one point in the third quarter, Alabama nearly intercepted five straight Penn State passes. The first two thrown by Bolden were called picks on the field, but did not stand up to video review. Lester couldn't quite keep either from touching the ground. On the next series, McGloin relieved and Alabama defenders got a piece of all three of his throws.
Alabama finally did get an interception that stood on Penn State's next possession when free safety Mark Barron ranged to the sideline and leaped high to get Bolden's underthrown pass.
Alabama improved to 10-5 against Penn State and snapped the Nittany Lions' 23-game winning streak in nonconference home games.
Penn State used 16 plays, three timeouts and half the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead on the game's first possession, thanks to Evan Lewis' 43-yard field goal.
With the help of a faked punt and a kind spot, Alabama grabbed the lead late in the first quarter.
On fourth-and-less than a yard, Alabama snapped to upback Brad Smelley out of punt formation. The tight end plunged into the line and Penn State thought it had the ball back at the Crimson Tide 39. A measurement gave Alabama a first down by the nose of the ball, much to the dismay of most of the crowd.
With a second chance McCarron completed four passes, the last from 5 yards out to Williams.
Another long Alabama drive ended with Jason Shelley's 22-yard field goal in the second quarter. He added an 18-yarder in the third quarter to make it 20-3.
Penn State avoided another game without a touchdown against Alabama when Silas Redd scored from the 1 with 1:53 left in the game and Bolden ran in a 2-point conversion.
Alabama's trip to Happy Valley marked just the third time since 1981 that any SEC team had played at a Big Ten Stadium. The last time Alabama played at Penn State -- 1989 -- the Nittany Lions were still an independent.
Alabama (1-0) at Penn State (1-0) Sept.
10, 3:30, ABC
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Here's The Deal … If you're expecting points, and if you're hoping for a wild shootout, look elsewhere. Not only do Penn State and Alabama have two of the nation's best defenses, but historically, these two teams don't score when they play each other.
Alabama won last year 24-3 in a game that wasn't even that close. Penn State won 9-0 in 1990, Bama won 17-16 in 1989, 8-3 in 1988, and 24-13 in 1987. The two teams played several classics in the mid-1980s that had national title implications, and of course, the 1979 Sugar Bowl, a 14-7 Tide win for the national title, is known for one of the greatest goal line stands in college football history.
Can these two recapture the magic of two decades ago? If the two defenses play as expected, and if the two offenses struggle as much as they did in Week One, it's possible.
This year, the showdown of superpower names will either be a speed bump for Alabama before dealing with the SEC season, or it'll be a program-changer for the Nittany Lions. Either way, getting points will be like pulling teeth.
Penn State hasn't exactly gotten stale under Joe Paterno – even though the Urban Meyer countdown clock is on – but the program could really, really, really use a big, splashy win against a superior team. There's been a little bit of luck against Ohio State, but the last win was in 2008, and the 2010 Capital One Bowl win over LSU was great, but after a listless 7-6 season, and with so many problems and concerns on offense, somehow getting by, arguably, the nation's best team, no matter how it happens, could end up being Paterno's biggest and most important win since the 2006 Orange Bowl.
There have been some huge victories since then to propel the Nittany Lions to big seasons, but a win over the Tide might put the national title on the table again for the first time in a long time. With Temple, Eastern Michigan, and Indiana up next, followed up by home dates against Iowa and Purdue to kick off a run of four home games in five weeks, a shocking upset over the Tide could translate into a tremendous start. If Penn State is good enough to beat Alabama, it's good enough to start the year 9-0 before closing against Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.
Alabama already is in the national title chase, and while it doesn't need to make any sort of a statement to stay in the top three of the rankings, any sort of a close call could send up warning flares. Penn State has a defense, but its offense doesn't have nearly enough firepower or nearly enough talent to do much against the Tide defense without getting a slew of big breaks. With North Texas up next before kicking off SEC play with Arkansas and a trip to Florida, if all goes according to plan, this might be nothing more than a very big, very interesting tune-up game before the real season starts in a few weeks.
Why Alabama Might Win: It's time to come out and say it, and it's time to stop sugar coating it: the Penn State quarterbacks are awful.
Rob Bolden has the skills and he has the upside and talent, but when given a shot against Indiana State – with one of the worst defenses in the FCS – he only completed 6-of-12 passes for 37 yards and did nothing to push the ball down the field. Matt McGloin had his moments when thrown into the fire last year, but he started to look like a walk-on late in the year - with a five-pick game against Florida – and was just okay last week completing 6-of-8 passes for 77 yards.
Alabama could eat these two alive.
Over the years under Nick Saban, the 3-4 defensive alignment has been a killer against the run but it isn't built to come up with a slew of quarterback sacks. That changed a bit last week against Kent State with four sacks, several pressures, and big play after big play, while allowing -9 yards rushing total. The Tide turned the dogs loose, and the Golden Flashes didn't go anywhere. Penn State isn't Kent State, but the offensive line played like it belonged in the MAC against Indiana State, giving up three sacks and not doing giving the quarterbacks enough time to work.
Penn State isn't going to run the ball like it did against the Sycamores, and the passing game was wildly inefficient against an awful secondary, so it'll be next to impossible to generate any points unless …
Why Penn State Might Win: … the turnovers start to flow. Beating 2011 Alabama wouldn't exactly be like stopping 1986 Miami, but it'll take a similar defensive effort and takeaway after takeaway after takeaway to make it happen. Alabama might have beaten Kent State 48-7 and was never threatened, but the quarterbacks combined for just one touchdown pass and four interceptions, while the running game lost one fumble. The running game was okay, but not great, and the passing game wasn't explosive, and now the O could have even bigger problems against a Penn State defense that's not getting a ton of national respect. At least not yet.
After dealing with a ton of key injuries last year, the Nittany Lion defense comes back loaded, aggressive, and with a big-time attitude. There aren't any bulletin board quotes coming out of this group, but there was a slow burn already starting this offseason that Alabama's defense is getting all the press and all the respect coming into this matchup.
It's not like the defense completely shut down Indiana State last week, but all the yards and the lone touchdown came late when all the dogs were called off. Kent State has a strong run defense, but if Bama couldn't crank out big yards last week, it's not going to get the running game going against a frothing-at-the-mouth Penn State defense that knows the game falls on its shoulders.
What To Watch Out For: Alabama running back Trent Richardson ran for three touchdowns against KSU, but he only ran for 37 yards on 13 carries and was held in check. This week, the Penn State defense is going to tee off to stop him and the running game until the Tide quarterbacks prove they can play.
AJ McCarron completed 14-of-23 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions. Super-talent Phillip Sims didn't run well and completed just half his passes for 73 yards and two picks. That was fine against Kent State, but with the Bama defense likely to be a brick wall, the quarterbacks can't afford to give the ball away. It's possible to still win again with another five turnover game, but it'll be very, very scary if the Nittany Lions are given opportunity after opportunity.
Both teams are going to need production out of their big-play running backs. Penn State's Silas Redd put the game away last week with 104 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 8.7 yards per carry, and while the offense will spread the work around, he needs a little room to move to loosen up the Bama D. On the other side, while Richardson sputtered and struggled, Eddie Lacy was terrific with 76 yards on just three catches, to go along with 58 rushing yards and a score on eight carries.
What Will Happen: The first team to score wins? Penn State will come out fired up and will get the crowd in the game with two early stops, and then the rain will come. It won't exactly be Alabama-Michigan State in the 2011 Capital One Bowl, but the Penn State offense will have the same sort of day, helped out only because the defense will keep the game from getting out of hand in the first half. This is where Alabama turns the volume to 11, and after all the attention and love given to LSU after its win over Oregon, this is where the big statement comes.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 31 … Penn State 9
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Alabama -10 O/U: 42
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