Thursday Review: Penn State vs Alabama


::The recruiting article took more time than I thought so I couldn’t get this article out until now.  My apologies once again for being late::

This weekend’s game is Penn State’s first real test of the season.  Going head-to-head with a SEC Power like Alabama is never an easy task, but it will certainly tell us where the football team is at this season.

Penn State Notes

Curtis Drake playing looks to be at about 65/35.  He’s been practicing, although not full contact.  Still, I think we’ll see a little bit from him.

Andrew Szczerba has yet to practice this week.  He had a minor concussion, but it still being held out.  Concussions are tricky so you don’t know if they are just holding him out for precautionary reasons, or if it is that he can’t play at all.

Let’s do a little Position vs Position Battle…

Alabama Passing vs Penn State’s Secondary

-PSU may play a soft zone defense, but this is an experience talented group going up a first year starter at QB and a WR core that lost Julio Jones and is missing another starter to suspension.  Anyway you slice it, Penn State has the advantage here.  Although it is closer than what many may think.

Alabama Rushing vs Penn State’s Linebackers

-This is a tough one.  Alabama ran at will last year, and our LBs looked pathetic with the broken tackles thanks to Trent Richardson.  What evens this battle up is the improvement of PSU’s LBs and what looks to be a struggling OL (Not to mention Trent Richardson looking a tad bit slower).  I’ll say this is even, but Bama may be slightly out in front here.

Alabama OL vs Penn State’s Defensive Line

-Still and Hill at DT looks as good as advertised.  Crawford looks to be back in ’09 form and Stanley looks like he could be a decent pass rusher.  Meanwhile, Alabama’s OL is still struggling and is playing around with who the starters are.  Another very close match-up, but I’ll still go with the OL.

Penn State Passing vs Alabama’s Secondary

-Although Penn State has one of the best WR groups in all of the nation, the Bama secondary looks to be even better.  Add in a shaky PSU QB and Alabama has the advantage in this one too.

Penn State Rushing vs Alabama’s Linebackers

-Last week Penn State was able to run with ease.  Granted the opponent was ISU, but last year this time we couldn’t run against YSU so that has to count for something.  Silas Redd looks special, and Beachum gives PSU a strong power back.  Personally, I think Bama’s LB core is a bit overrated.  Hightower is always talked up being that he is 6’4 260, but I just don’t see anything special here.  Upshaw has to be accounted for, but he’ll actually fit in with the DL being that he’s going to be rushing the QB.  I’m giving Penn State an edge here.  If Silas can break through past the DL, I think he’ll have little trouble with the LBs.  #InSilasWeTrust

Penn State OL vs Alabama’s Defensive Line

-Although PSU’s offensive line may be improved, this Alabama DL looks nasty.  Chapman could be the strongest man in college football, and he’ll be manning double teams from the NT position.  Both DEs are also two big guys who will hold their own, to say the least.  Alabama has an advantage here.

Special Teams

-Although Penn State returned a kickoff for a TD last week, the kicking was pretty bad.  With Fera back that should improve, but I’m still giving Alabama the edge.

Basically what this game comes down to is 4 things…

1. Can PSU have any success on offense?  It’s going to be so important to run the ball.  If we can’t run the ball even at a decent rate, we’re going to be in for a tough time.  If the running game is decent, that should open up the passing game enough for us to at least put us in position to win the game.

2. Is PSU’s defense as good as we think?  No doubt about it, we need the defense to keep us in this game.  The offense won’t win the game…the defense will.  Whether that is by keeping Bama off the scoreboard or creating turnovers.  We can not get into an offensive game with Alabama.

3. Will special teams be good enough?  It would be a massive help if Fera is bombing punts, and is making FGs.  Every scoring opportunity we get, we need to capitalize.  That most definitely includes FGs.

4. Can we win the turnover battle?  If we have more TOs than Alabama, I can guarantee you Penn State will not win.  TOs were costly last year as well.  Bolden’s first INT and the Powell fumble.  Both times points should have been put on the board, and we let the ball get away.

Prediction Time

Can Penn State win this game?  Absolutely.  Do I think Penn State wins this game?  Nope.  I do think this game will be closer than the experts think, and the chances will be there for the taking.  Like I was saying above, we need to do well enough on offense.  We need to play really good defense.  We need to capitalize on our chances, and we need to play smart.  That last thing is the most important thing…play smart.  This Bama team isn’t all world.  They are beatable, especially the offense.  We just need to not beat ourselves, while also playing to win the game.

I do think this team has the leadership, talent, and intangibles to win.  This whole week has just had a weird feel to me.  Can’t say why, but something just feels good about this team, and I am rather confident.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to pick us to win, but this season has a much different feel than last year.  So as much as I would like to pick with my heart, I’m going with my head.

Alabama – 16

Penn State – 10