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Penn State vs. Alabama Preview

Posted by Joe Chuba on 09/09 at 02:03 PM

Steve Jones has some notes on the 14th game of the Penn State - Alabama series.

A very young football team heads to Tuscaloosa Saturday night to face top ranked Alabama. 
How young?  Well, there are nine fifth year seniors and two fourth year seniors.
Rob Bolden got off to a very good start.  The touchdown pass to Brett Brackett showed what he is capable of.  He looked off the receiver to his left and came back to Bracket over the middle.  He has a strong arm and excellent footwork.  He also has poise which he will need every ounce of Saturday night. 
The running game took some time to find a gear.  They will need to find that gear from the opening kickoff to make a difference.  The line did a great job protecting Bolden in the opener.
With the exception of one play the defense played very well.  Many have felt this is the strong point of the team entering the season and they will have to be on their game down there. 
Special teams got off to a great start.  Chaz Powell returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.  Anthony Fera was a great weapon on kickoffs getting four touchbacks in eight tries.  Collin Wagner was three for three in field goals including a career long from 49 yards out.
As for Alabama…well…there aren’t many teams in America that can lose the Heisman Trophy winner and feel very comfortable with their running game.  With Mark Ingram out Trent Richardson stepped in and ran well enough to make the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Redshirt freshman Eddie Lacy ran for 113 yards and couple of touchdowns. 
Quarterback Greg McElroy has not lost as a starting quarterback since the 8th grade.  He backed up Chase Daniel in high school but when he got his chance he won.  At Alabama many have felt they have won in spite of him.  But…he engineered a late drive to beat Auburn and he was the MVP of the SEC title game win over Florida.  The BCS title game against Texas was not his finest quarterback hour but they won it.  In the opener he was brilliant going 13 for 16 or 218 yards and a touchdown. 
The top target is one of the best in the nation…Julio Jones.  He opened with six catches for 93 yards and a great touchdown catch.  He is far from the only target with Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks poised to have big seasons.
The Alabama defense can run at every position.  They play a 3-4 and they will be tested with Marcel Dareus sitting out because of a suspension.  The stats from the opener are odd.  C.J. Mosley led them in tackles but he was deep on depth chart and made many of those in the fourth quarter.  Alabama forced 8 three and outs in the 12 drives by San Jose State.
The secondary is dramatically different.  Six of the eight players on the two deep have changed since the end of spring practice.  Safety Mark Baron is still there and one of the best in the nation.
Alabama had to replace both of its kickers.  Cade Foster hit both of his field goals and punter Cody Mandell hit two punts of better than 50 yards.
It is one of those moments you circle a couple of years in advance…now the time is upon us to see exactly what each team has.

Some interesting notes on the history of the series:
Alabama leads 8-5, but Penn State won the last meeting in 1990 9-0. 
The teams have genearlly been evenly matched, only 4 games have been won by more than 10 points.
In the 13 meetings at least one team has been ranked in 11 of those meetings, 8 times both teams have been ranked.
Perhaps the most memorable and historic meeting was in the 1979 Sugar Bowl when #1 Alabama met #2 Penn State for the national title.  The Crimson Tide made a remarkable goal-line stand to hold the score 14-7 and won the championship.
Penn State got it’s revenge in 1983 when the unranked Nittany Lions stuffed the #3 Crimson Tide on a 4th a goal from the 2. 

{name} Author: Joe Chuba
Bio: Sports Producer for WPSU-TV

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