On Saturday afternoon the Alabama Crimson Tide will invade Beaver Stadium to tangle with the Penn State Nittany Lions in what figures to be one of the most prominent games of the weekend.
After dusting Kent State and Indiana State in week one, the Tide and Nittany Lions are prepared for a national showdown for the second time in as many years.
In week two of the 2010 season, Penn State traveled to Bryant-Denny Stadium where they were defeated 24-3, due in large part to a swarming and suffocating Crimson Tide defense.
The calendar has turned, the venue has changed, but Nick Saban and Joe Paterno are ready for round two.
Due to shoulder and pelvic injuries sustained from an inadvertent collision with a player during preseason camp, Joe Paterno was forced to coach the contest against Indiana State from the press box.
It is unclear at this time if the legendary coach will be on the sidelines when the Nittany Lions face Alabama, although Paterno himself has indicated the chances are good.
Penn State Quarterback/Offensive Line Concerns
When it comes to quarterback “controversy," the Alabama Crimson Tide has a friend in Penn State.
Rob Bolden, who started against Alabama in 2010 as a freshman, is in a battle with Matthew McGloin to decide who will be the permanent signal caller for the Nittany Lions.
Bolden, who started the contest against Indiana State, completed 6-of-12 passes for only 37 yards, while McGloin went 6-of-8 for a total of 77 yards.
While the Nittany Lions continue to sort out the quarterback issue, the PSU offensive line has become a concern for head coach Joe Paterno.
Both Bolden and McGloin took several hits against an inferior Indiana State defense, and the last team you want to play if you have offensive line concerns…is the University of Alabama.
In one final piece of apprehension, the PSU offense was 2-of-10 in respect to third down conversions against ISU.
Lack of quarterback stability, offensive line concerns and lack of third down success could spell trouble for the Nittany Lions against a sturdy Alabama defense.
Penn State Ground Assault
In the same way Alabama will find it difficult to replace Mark Ingram and Julio Jones, Penn State must endure the task of trying to replace Evan Royster, the all-time leading rusher in school history.
If the contest with Indiana State served as a glimpse into the future, Silas Redd will be the featured back for the Nittany Lions in 2011. Redd had 12 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns against Indiana State.
Penn State certainly has a very talented player in Silas Redd, but the Nittany Lions are also very deep at the running back position. PSU received solid contributions from five different backs against ISU.
Silas Redd.....12 Carries 104 Yards 2 TD
Curtis Dukes.....6 Carries 47 Yards
Brandon Beachum.....7 Carries 41 Yards
Joe Suhey.....6 Carries 29 Yards 1 TD
Michael Zordich.....5 Carries 15 Yards 1 TD
Playmaker Derek Moye
At the wide receiver position the Nittany Lions are led by the talented Derek Moye.
While PSU may have quarterback concerns, Moye is the receiver of choice regardless of who is throwing the football.
Moye led the Nittany Lions last season with 53 receptions for 885 yards including eight touchdowns.
In week one against the Sycamores of Indiana State, Moye caught a total of four passes for 57 yards.
Chaz “Special Teams” Powell
It goes without saying that Penn State will find the going tough against the solid Alabama defense, but the Nittany Lions have a special teams weapon in the person of Chaz Powell.
Powell, a cornerback/kick returner, took the opening kickoff of the 2011 season 95-yards for a Penn State touchdown.
Alabama has been known to have issues in respect to kick coverage, so Chaz Powell could very well be a “major player” come Saturday.
Alabama/Penn State Verdict
While Alabama comfortably sits as a 10-point favorite over Penn State, this game stands to be anything but comfortable.
Both Alabama and Penn State share similar concerns on the offensive side of the ball in respect to quarterback play and offensive line stability.
Alabama has a solid ground game, led by Heisman hopeful Trent Richardson, but defense and overall team speed are the major factors that separate the Crimson Tide from the Nittany Lions.
Alabama is the better team and should win the contest; however, weather reports suggest a 40 percent chance of showers on Saturday with highs in the lower 70s. Inclement weather could very well play a factor in respect to ball security and team speed, which in turn could "equal" the playing field from a "strengths and weaknesses" standpoint.
When all is said and done, the 2011 Alabama/Penn State contest will play out like a sequel to the 2010 game; only this time…the Nittany Lions will be a smidgen better.
Penn State 7