NCAA Week Two: Penn State vs. Alabama

Freshmen QB Robert Bolden faces a tough test. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

PSU: 2010 record – 1-0
BAMA: 2010 record – 1-0
Spread: Alabama by 12.5
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium
When: Saturday, 7:00 PM on ESPN
Last time met: Oct. 27, 1990 – Penn State beat Alabama in a defensive game 9-0.  Craig Fayak kicked three field goals in the victory.  Neither team was ranked in the AP Top 25 that season.
Last Week: The Nittany Lions opened up the season with a 44-14 win over Youngstown State.  Alabama easily beat San Jose State 48-3 in Tuscaloosa. 

Best case scenario: The Nittany Lions get off to a great start and Robert Bolden marches them down the field for an opening touchdown.  The true freshmen signal caller passes for about 250 yards and a few touchdowns.  Brett Brackett keeps his great play going and has 75 receiving yards and a touchdown.  The defense shuts down Mark Ingram (if he plays) along with the rest of the Crimson Tide offense. 

Worst case scenario: It’s a beat down on the road.  Ingram actually plays and has a few touchdowns.  Bolden struggles throwing a few interceptions and gets sacked a few times. 

Opposing player to watch – WR Julio Jones: Jones is one of the best wide receivers in college football and is likely a top pick in the draft this offseason.  Senior quarterback Greg McElroy will be looking Jones’ way quite a bit throughout the game.  Jones has tremendous athleticism and has some of the best hands in football.  His amazing one-handed catch was seen on highlight reels all over the nation.  Penn State defensive backs will have to work to shut down Jones.  Their job will be a lot easier if Mark Ingram isn’t able to play. 

Offenses: Penn State looked good last week with Bolden at the helm against Youngstown State.  Bolden looked solid and made very few mistakes.  His favorite target easily was Brett Brackett who had a career day with 98 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Derek Moye was also very successful turning in five catches for 61 yards.  Evan Royster never seemed to get going and only rushed for 40 yards.  Stephon Green added a touchdown for the Nittany Lions and seemed to pick up right where he left off in 2009.  Freshmen Silas Redd also showed a bit of a burst in mop-up duty in the fourth quarter.  Bolden’s game will coming down to how the offense performs around him.  His receivers having big games again will go a long way in possibly upending the defending National Champions. 

When you think Alabama, you think Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram.  However Ingram may be out due to left-knee surgery.  Just because Ingram is out does not mean the Crimson Tide have no running game.  Backup Eddie Lacy looked very good against San Jose State, rushing for 111 yards.  Again it was against San Jose State but the Nittany Lions still need to account for the run game.  Julio Jones is a big target for Greg McElroy and McElroy will be looking his way often.  McElroy led Alabama to a national title last season and looks to have picked up right where he left off.  If McElroy is able to find Jones, it may be a long night for Penn State. 

Advantage: Alabama has the edge for experience and overall talent. 

Defenses: The Nittany Lions lost a few starters on defense last season.  But Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore lead the pass rush and will look to make McElroy uncomfortable.  The leadership once again comes from the linebacking core.  Nate Stupar, Bani Gbadyu, and Chris Colasanti.  All three being seniors, they will look to the Crimson Tide running game and help to avoid the tight ends getting open downfield.  It will be a tough task for a defense that doesn’t have as much experience together. 

The Crimson Tide took a big blow last week when it was announced that defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was suspended for two games.  Missing the 306-pound mammoth defensive tackle should play to Penn State’s advantage.  Alabama still has a strong defense and will try to pose problems for Bolden.  The Crimson Tide is coming off a game in which they only allowed three points.  We’ll see how they cope without Dareus against a strong opponent.  

Advantage: Alabama is very talented, but the loss of Dareus hurts them. 

Injury Report:
Penn State: no injuries.
Alabama: Marcell Dareus & Mark Ingram is unlikely to play. 

Prediction: Penn State is going to play tougher than everyone thinks.  But Alabama wins a close one 23-17.

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