Wednesday, September 8, 2010

College Football Royalty…Penn State/Alabama

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 31: Head coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions walks the sidelines as his team takes on the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on October 31, 2009 in Evanston, Illinois. Penn State defeated Northwestern 34-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
For the first time in 20 years, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Alabama Crimson Tide will go head-to-head on the gridiron.

On Saturday night, legendary coach Joe Paterno will make his return to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first time since Penn State defeated Alabama (9-0) in 1990.

Penn State and Alabama are not only rich in tradition, but have also provided the game of college football with some of the best moments in history.

Although history is a reminder of great tradition and great moments, the ability to seize the present will decide the 2010 edition of Penn State/Alabama.

The obvious storylines for this contest will revolve around the absence of Marcell Dareus, the uncertainty of Mark Ingram and the aptitude of Penn State freshman quarterback Robert Bolden.

The Dareus issue will simply be a case of other talented players filling the role. Individuals with insight into the daily “business” of the Alabama football program are well aware that Dareus is a major part of the defense…but certainly not irreplaceable.

Will Mark Ingram play against Penn State? The chances of the Tide running back participating in the game are highly unlikely. However, similar to the Dareus situation, Alabama has depth and Trent Richardson can certainly carry the load left by the reigning Heisman winner.

By taking a detailed look at the so-called “storylines” the most intriguing would appear to be that of Penn State quarterback Robert Bolden.

When a true freshman quarterback faces the No. 1 team in the nation, in Bryant-Denny Stadium and in front of 101,000 screaming fans…we certainly have a plot to examine.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 07: Head Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts during the Citi BCS National Championship game against the Texas Longhorns at the Rose Bowl on January 7, 2010 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Bolden was impressive in his college debut against Youngstown State as he completed 20 of 29 passes for a total of 239 yards and two touchdowns.

However, to state the obvious, Youngstown State is not Alabama…and Bryant-Denny Stadium is certainly not home.

The productivity or incapability of Bolden against the Crimson Tide defense could very well be the deciding factor in the game.

The Penn State offensive line appeared pedestrian at times against YSU and the Alabama defensive front will look to take advantage and exploit this possible weakness.

If the Tide can penetrate the offensive line, Bolden will be on the run against the Alabama defense. As any coach will convey…you don’t have to sack the quarterback to disrupt the quarterback.

Receivers Brett Brackett (who caught both Bolden touchdowns against YSU) and Derek Moye are the primary targets of Robert Bolden.

Brackett is listed at 6-foot-6 and tops the scale at 246 pounds. The young Alabama secondary could have major issues trying to contain the very tall and experienced receiver.

Derek Moye caught five passes for a total of 61 yards in the Penn State season opener against Youngstown State. Expect Robert Bolden to look for Moye as an alternate receiver when Brackett faces unyielding coverage.

In the spirit of “smash-mouth football”…the Tide defense will need to contain Penn State running back Evan Royster.

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 24:  Evan Royster #22 of the Penn State Nittany Lions carries the ball during the game against the Michigan Wolverines on October 24, 2009 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Royster, who only needs 441 yards to become the all-time leading rusher in school history, will be an essential piece of the Penn State offense on Saturday night.

If the Penn State passing gain struggles, the Nittany Lions will have to depend on Royster to provide the offensive firepower.

Royster was held to only 40 yards against Youngstown State and now he must face an Alabama defense which is known for stopping the run.

We all know about the offensive weapons Alabama has to offer and the Tide should be productive against the Penn State defense.

However, the 2010 edition of Penn State/Alabama will most likely be decided when Penn State has the football.

How will the young quarterback perform in front of a great defense and hostile crowd? Will the Alabama secondary be able to cover a 6-foot-6 receiver (Brackett) efficiently for an entire game? Will Penn State running back Evan Royster prove he is one of the best running backs in the nation…or will he simply become a victim of the ‘Bama defense?

The Penn State offense versus the Alabama defense…grab the popcorn and enjoy!

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