Week two is here for Penn State football fans and the Alabama Crimson Tide are coming into State College, Penn State still doesn't have a starting quarterback, and the Nittany Lions offensive line still couldn't pass block last week. There is some good news however, the Tide still don't have a solid number one QB either and the Lions defensive line is vasty improved from last season.
The first issue PSU will have to deal with is the Alabama defense. The Tide "D" is always one of the best in the country and the fact that PSU still doesn't have a QB could really could hinder their chances of an upset.
Rob Bolden started last year's contest in Tuscalossa and didn't play necessarily bad, but just couldn't get things going enough in the red zone to give Penn State a chance to win. If the PSU coaching staff still treats Bolden as if he's a freshman (which is the way they called plays for him against Indiana State) then fans can expect the same vanilla result Saturday afternoon.
Matt McGloin has the confidence and gun slinging attitude that most people welcome in a quarterback but McGloin only seems to perform against lesser opponents. According to Pennlive.com in three games against Ohio State, Michigan State and Florida last season, McGloin threw eight interceptions. All teams that have Alabama-caliber defenses with NFL-type defensive backs.
Another issue for Penn State is their offensive line, which blocked well for PSU running backs still struggled giving McGloin and Bolden time against FCS opponent Indiana State giving up.
"I thought our offensive line did a good, not a great job", said Coach Paterno. "A couple of the kids like (Matt) Stankiewitch and a couple of kids like that, who have not played a lot, I thought when they got in there, they handled themselves well."
Switching from the PSU offensive line to their defensive line where the unit seems to be improved from last season mostly because they are all healthy. Seniors Devon Still (DT), Jack Crawford (DE), and Eric Lattimore (DE) are all experienced starters and sophomore Jordan Hill (DT) looks to be the next defensive star for the Nittany Lions. They will be up against a very good offensive line for the Crimson Tide headed by 3-year starting center William Vlachos and All-American right guard Barrett Jones. D.J. Fluker (RT) was a Freshman All-American last year and Chance Warmack (G) started all 13 games as a sophomore with Anthony Steen (LT) also playing in 13 games last season.
It will definitely be an all out war in the trenches at Beaver Stadium Saturday, but the Lions could actually take advantage of 'Bama's QB uncertainty. There is no questioning the talent of Alabama running back Trent Richardson and back-up Eddie Lacey. Out of respect for those two the Lions are most likely going to put eight or nine people in the box and try and put the Crimson Tide QB's in third and long situations. This is where it could get a little dicey for Alabama with a hostile road environment imminent and a talented PSU secondary A.J McCarron and Phil Sims could throw some interceptions. Last week against Kent State that's exactly what the 'Bama quarterback tandem did combining for four picks.
"They haven't played enough football for me to really pinpoint exactly what to expect from both of them", added Paterno. "I think we've got to play our game and we've got to be flexible enough on defense and be able to adapt to whatever Alabama's doing. We'll just have to play it literally down-by-down, and if they alternate quarterbacks, whichever way they decide to go, we're going to have to be ready to handle whatever problems they give us."
The PSU kicking game against Indiana State was certainly lacking and Anthony Fera (P, PK) could definitely help out in that area. Fera was on a lot of people's list for pre-season All Big Ten accolades, but has been in Joe Paterno's dog house following two off-season alcohol related incidents.
"We'll watch him through practice this week and in the pre-game warm up", said Paterno. "Whether he's as consistent a punter as the two other kids we've worked there, Butterworth and the other kid, I don't know, but we'll find out. We're still a little bit up in the air about the kicking situation, but with Fera in there, obviously it improves."
With the hostile crowd expected Saturday and Alabama's QB questions the Nittany Lions have a great opportunity to get a big win that they desperately need. Will Penn State finally bring it all together and beat a supposed better opponent? The Lions have a lot of recruits that will be attending their match-up against the Tide and if they do get the "W" not only does it move PSU up the ranks this season but for many years to come.