Alabama at Penn State
The old college try goes only so far.
Joe Paterno gave a rousing speech at the pep rally the night before the Alabama game, the stadium seating was adjusted and tweaked a bit to make it even louder, and the student section was going bananas.
The crowd was into it, Penn State appeared to be fired up, and during the opening drive, everything appeared to be working perfectly as Robert Bolden played like a calm, cool quarterback leading the way to a grinding, 16-play drive that took up half the first quarter.
And Penn State came up with a field goal.
All the excitement and all the emotion of college football, and sports, quickly gets squished against a smart, ultra-talented team that knows how to weather the storm on the road and play up to its capabilities. Alabama methodically took what it could against the swarming Penn State defense, while the D allowed fewer than 200 yards the rest of the way after the opening drive, and 71 of those yards came during a garbage time scoring drive at the end of the game.
Penn State is good, and it might have a good enough defense to lead the way to a spot in the Big Ten title game if everything breaks right, but Alabama could be special.
AJ McCarron didn't throw any picks, Trent Richardson 111 yards and two touchdowns, and the Tide defense was swarming, aggressive, and a step too fast for the Nittany Lions. No, this might not look like a world-beater, national title team quite yet – McCarron has to be a bit better – but the Tide showed that it has the mettle to throw emotion aside and get the job done.
And Penn State showed just how far it has to go before it really and truly is among the elite of the elite again. Once the talent matches the emotion and the effort, Penn State will be back.
Who needs offense with a D this good?
It looks as if the Alabama offense, particularly the passing game, is going to get as much time as it needs this fall to mesh; the ‘Bama D is going to make sure of it. On paper, the Penn State offense versus that Crimson Tide defense appeared to be a mismatch. On film, it's going to look the same way. The Nittany Lions, wrought with uncertainty at quarterback and along the offensive line, never stood much of a chance. They were kept out of the end zone when it mattered most, scoring their lone, meaningless touchdown with a couple minutes left in a 27-11 blowout. Will anyone score 20 points on the Tide this fall? The front seven is stout against the run, and the secondary closes on the ball about as quickly as any group in America.
The Alabama offense has yet to click during the first two games of 2011, yet no one in Tuscaloosa is panicking. Not even close. As long as Nick Saban's defense continues to bury the opposition with a blend of speed, physicality and fundamentals, the program knows it might only take a touchdown or two per game to remain undefeated and in the hunt for a national championship.
By Matt Zemek
Are there more than five or six people in the United States of America who are the slightest bit surprised by what transpired in Happy Valley… and of those six people, how many of them experienced a sense of surprise because Alabama actually scored as many as 20 points?
There really shouldn't be one soul – not even the truest Blue and White Penn State diehard – who should be wide-eyed in shock after the Crimson Tide rolled into Beaver Stadium and suffocated PSU's offense. The Nittany Lions have no weapons, and while lacking ammunition, they don't even possess the heft up front to win pure slugfests. Alabama's offense was hardly electrifying, but as long as the Tide didn't commit multiple turnovers, they weren't about to be threatened. Penn State wasn't going to score more than 10 points while this contest remained competitive. Today's total turned out to be just three points.
Alabama has a very strong defense, and it is not premature to say that the Tide own the kind of mix/composition/personality they possessed in their 2009 national title season. What we don't know yet is if Bama's offense will be able to do its part and produce in the clutch against the likes of LSU and Arkansas. We'll just have to wait a few weeks to find out, won't we?
By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
A two-quarterback system on the road for the first time in a hostile environment? Meh...no problem for Alabama.
Get used to this Alabama fans, because this is the way a lot of your games are going to look. With Trent Richardson toting the rock and a defense that is comparable to the 2009 Alabama defense that won the national championship, Alabama doesn't have to get fancy on offense. As a matter of fact, the Tide could probably walk up to the line of scrimmage and give the opposing defense the play and still be successful.
AJ McCarron took control of the Alabama quarterback race with a stat line that would make Trent Dilfer proud - 19-for-31, 163 yards, one touchdown, and most importantly, zero interceptions. But it wasn't the quarterback position that decided the game, it was Trent Richardson's 111 yards and two touchdowns, and a defense that allowed only 251 yards and forced three turnovers.
This is the kind of team that can actually lure a smile out of Alabama head coach Nick Saban. No tricks, no razzle dazzle. Just line up, punch the other guy in the mouth, and do it relentlessly.
In my mind, LSU is the best team in the country, but Alabama isn't far behind. Add a very solid Arkansas and powerful offenses at Auburn and Mississippi State to the mix, and the SEC West is in store for a fantastic season. Fasten your seat belts.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter: @RussMitchellCFB
On its first possession of the game, Penn State got four first downs on a 16 play, 54 yard drive that ended in a field goal and put the Nittany Lions up 3-0.
Unfortunately for State, they needed three timeouts to do it.
With no timeouts left, Penn State got only one more first down in the first half. In fact, the Lions only had five first downs from that opening drive until scoring a meaningless touchdown with 1:53 left to play. In between, the Tide ran off 27 straight points.
Instead, State had three turnovers during that span - two fumbles and an interception - which led to 14 Alabama points.
Tide RB Trent Richardson showed the strong pulse missing against Kent State, while backup Eddie Lacey added 85 yards on 11 carries, if the bulk came late against a tired PSU defense.
A.J. McCarron got all the snaps and was, well, ok. However, given the Tide's top shelf defense, all that's needed for Bama to succeed is steady, mistake free offense. Leave the spectacular to Saban's offense.
McCarron was exactly that on Saturday in Beaver Stadium - proficient. 19/31 passing for 163 yards and a touchdown. But more importantly, no interceptions. As a whole, the Tide offense didn't turn over the ball once.
It's difficult to take much out of this game - PSU is clearly rebuilding and was outmatched on both sides of the ball, let alone on the sideline in terms of coaching and depth. However, one thing did come out of this game...
Bama has found its quarterback.