The second week of the 2011 college football season rolls on with non-conference action for two traditional powers when the 3rd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0) of the SEC travel to Happy Valley to take on the 23rd ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0) of the Big 10 in State College, PA this Saturday afternoon (3:30pm ET). This game will feature two of the most high-profile coaches in college football, in Alabama’s Nick Saban and Penn State’s Joe Paterno,
The Crimson Tide rolled 48-7 over Kent St. last week, alternating quarterbacks with AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims combing to throw for 299 yards on 21-37 passing with 2 interceptions each. That propensity to turn the ball over could be an issue for whoever gets the start at Penn St. in their first significant action on the road against a ranked opponent. Stud tailback Trent Richardson (6.3 YPC in 2010), who ran for a quiet 37 yards last week although with 3 TDs, will be relied on heavily in this game to help take the pressure off the young QB whoever he may be. Poise and ball-control will be necessary for the Alabama offense with over 100,000 Penn St. fans providing a hostile welcome for them. Penn St. defeated Indiana St. last week by a score of 41-7 failing to cover the 38 point spread. The Nittany Lions’ also rotated two quarterbacks in Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, who combined for a meager 114 yards passing last week with no TD passes. Running back Silas Redd (5.7 YPC in 2010) tallied 104 yards on only 12 carries last week. He will need his offensive line to step up and create holes against an Alabama defense led by DT Josh Chapman that is loaded with pro prospects including FS Mark Barron, and has the type of speed that the Nittany Lions do not encounter in Big 10 play.
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Alabama vs. Penn St. Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Alabama Crimson Tide -10
@ Penn St. Nittany Lions +10
Alabama vs. Penn St. Pick:
For Penn St., WR Curtis Drake is doubtful for this week’s game and OT Mike Farrel will miss the game with an ACL injury to his right knee. For Alabama, WR Kevin Norwood (ankle injury) should be available for the game and juco transfer WR Duron Carter is expected to be available for the first time as well.
The over is 8-1-1 in Alabama’s last 10 non-conference games and 8-3-1 in their last 12 games in September. The over is 7-2 in the Nittany Lions’ last 9 games overall, and they are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games against a team with a winning record. Paterno’s crew lost by a score of 24-3 down in Tuscaloosa in last season’s meeting, as Alabama easily covered the 14.5 point line. Nick Saban is 39-3 when holding the lead at halftime, a key to look for if you’re playing the second half line.
In last year’s game Richardson had a huge day for the Tide with Hesiman Winner Mark Ingram out with an injury, rushing for 144 yards on 22 carries (6.54 YPC avg.) with one TD. This year, the Tide does not have the senior leadership of QB Greg McElroy, who had a huge day against Penn St., and with 2 inexperienced quarterbacks on the road for the first time the offense will struggle. Their defense has the speed and the attacking style to make life miserable for Penn St. on offense, and big plays will be hard to come by with the Nittany Lions’ conservative style on offense. The key to last year’s blowout for Alabama was the three interceptions thrown by Penn St. QBs, and this year with the home field advantage the Lions will take better care of the football. It will be a ball-control, ground-oriented game and Penn St. will be able to hang in until the end. With a 9.5 point cushion, the play to make is Penn St. at home.