WARNING:If you wear blue tinted glasses and inject blue Kool Aide directly into your veins, reading the following may be hazardous to your health. Please consult your physician before proceeding. This isn't going to be pretty, but we're realists, yo.
On the field, I'm expecting a relatively tight contest. When we have the ball, we'll see the Spread HD opened up more than last week. I have low hopes, after last week, that our run blocking will provide sufficient openings for the four yards we'll need to move the chains via the running game. But I think the lads will give Robert Bolden enough time to do what he may actually do best: read the defense, proceed through progressions, and find the right receiver. I'm thinking we'll get about 4-6 possessions each half, will move the ball enough to attempt about three or four field goals total (all made), and get into the red zone maybe three times all game. Our receivers will get open, and there's a potential for some big plays, because Bolden will find them.
When Alabama has the ball, we'll see fireworks. LJ's gonna cut all nine dogs loose, and Scrap and Vandy are gonna run five different backers at their running backs (the 5th may be Khairi Fortt after Bani Gbadyu gets run over once. Mauti/Stupar/Hodges on Richardson/Lacy/Ingram is gonna be a battle for the ages, the result of which will provide the game's outcome. Smash mouth ball from the deep past of tradition. Sadly, we'll come up just short, but will be psyched for the future and the strong possibility of contending for the Big Ten championship.
Prediction: Alabama 23, Penn State 21
While the absence of Marcell Dareus gives me hope that Penn State will be able to open some holes in the running game, protect Robert Bolden and move the ball a little against Alabama's defense, ultimately I just don't see the Lions keeping pace with Alabama's high octane skill guys, Mark Ingram or no Mark Ingram. Penn State just didn't dominate Youngstown State's front like you might hope last week, and as Joe Paterno himself has basically said, it's hard to see an average performance against a below average team translating to an average performance against a really good one on the ground.
Penn State can keep things competitive if it protects the middle of the field and avoids the big play, but Alabama probably has too many weapons for the Lions to hang in for all 60 minutes.
Prediction Alabama 31 Penn State 17
At this point, I’m not sure which offense is going to show up against Alabama. History tells us it will be the Paterno conservative approach; run the ball, play solid special teams, and don’t turn the ball over. However, since Rob Bolden has be named the starter, and true freshmen continue to get meaningful playing time, maybe JoePa has turned over a new leaf. Will he let the freshman air it out against Alabama in prime time? I also keep coming back to the idea that Kevin Newsome is going to get an opportunity on Saturday to be the Wild Lion QB. We all know the kid can flat out run and make plays with his legs (think Michael Robinson in 2002 against Nebraska or Daryll Clark in the Alamo Bowl against Texas A&M in 2007), could this wrinkle give the offense the advantage it needs?
Alabama has a ton of talent on both offense and defense. Tom Bradley must find away to stop Julio Jones and Trent Richardson. Despite reports from the Alabama faithful, I don’t see Mark Ingram playing. Even if he does play, he won’t be 100%. Defensively, I think ‘Bama’s 3-4 defense will be a blessing for our struggling offensive line. Both teams have outstanding run defenses, so it is going to come down to special teams (advantage Penn State) and which QB can make enough plays to get the job done. Don’t expect the scoreboard to light up too much on Saturday night.
Prediction: Alabama 17, Penn State 13
I don't know that I've ever thought this much about a game as I have this one. It's easy to pick Alabama but I don't know that the 2010 version of the team has shown me anything that makes this pick straight forward. They're talented, but they replace a lot of players. Bama fans will point out coaching, young talent, and playing at home
as factors that all lean the Tide's way. While it's true it'll take a good effort to beat the Tide, In the end a lot of these players haven't played in a big time game. What happens if Bolden gets a few passes into the younger secondary and they get a little shaken up? What happens if a depleted defensive line can't pressure Bolden enough? Talent is only part of the game, experience shouldn't be overrated. Penn State has had all summer to get ready for this game, and they've studied film since the spring of a 2009 team that in regards to skill is better than the Alabama team we'll see tomorrow night. That same team was held to 12 points at home by a suspect Tennessee defense, two field goal blocks from never making it to the title game, and held under 30 points 5 total times, twice by unranked opponents.
That being said, Penn State has a lot of questions to answer in their own right. If they can't give Bolden enough time to pass or make big enough holes for Royster and Co to run through it is game over. In the end this game is the best time for Penn State to pull off the upset. Bolden seems to have the tools to get it done, and I've said from a very long time ago Penn State could win this game. Penn State wins 21-17..if things don't go their way though it's a 30-17 loss.
(BSD- Booo non-committal prediction!)
The good guys can win tomorrow by playing stout defense, not making many mistakes, and capitalizing on any mistakes the Crimson Tide make. If we can keep them under 20 and score off a turnover, get lucky on a missed assignment by the Alabama secondary, or make a big play on special teams, we definitely have a chance. To play that type of disciplined game, you need tremendous leadership, and I fear we don't have it, particularly on offense. Certainly not at quarterback, and Joe made a point to say we lack it on the o-line. The hope is that we'll have more leadership on Sunday morning than we do right now--and that we win.
I don't think Alabama is the best team in the country this year, but even as good as Bolden looked last week, playing in front of 100,000+ is a lot different when you're wearing the road whites. This trip prepares us to upset another top-ten team on the road later this year, but tomorrow night's not ours.
Prediction: Alabama 26, Penn State 6
My biggest fear in this game is Joe Paterno getting nervous when he realizes he's starting a true freshman in Tuscaloosa and orders Galen Hall and Jay Paterno to keep the offense under the shell. I think it's important that either the defense forces a turnover or the special teams comes through with a big play early to give the offense a short field so Paterno feels comfortable in taking some chances. I like the way Penn State's wide receivers match up with Alabama's secondary which is dangerously thin. If the offensive line can protect Bolden I think they can have success in getting open and making some big plays.
One thing that bothered me about the PSU defense last week was all the changes going on with the linebackers. I love the depth that Ron Vanderlinden has to work with, but it seemed like they were changing personnel so much that they weren't playing well as a unit. This is going to be crucial on Saturday because good linebacker play will be necessary to stop the run and help out in pass coverage.
If Penn State plays extremely well they have the talent to win this game, but the fact is that this is a young team that has a lot to learn, including winning on the road in a tough environment. I can see them playing well in the first quarter, but then they'll start getting frustrated and trying to push things a little too hard. I can see Alabama having a big second quarter and breaking the game open by two or three scores. I think Penn State will play well in the second half once they settle down, but Bama will keep the game just out of reach. Mark May will have to hurry up to tell America how bad Penn State sucks before they turn the game off at halftime to go to bed.
Prediction: Alabama 24, Penn State 14