At first, it would appear that Alabama and Penn State are completely different teams. But a closer look reveals that the Crimson Tide and Nittany Lions are more similar than you may think. Let’s take a look at Penn State in advance of this week’s game.
Joe knows the Alabama-Penn State rivalry.
• Saturday will be the 15th meeting between the two iconic programs, with legendary Penn State head coach Joe Paterno having led the Nittany Lions in 14 of those contests.
• Alabama leads the series 9-5, and are 3-2 in games played at Beaver Stadium.
• The last time the two teams faced each other was last year, a game Alabama won handedly 24-3 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Nittany Lions did not get the results they were looking for in 2010, losing 6 games, including the Outback Bowl against Florida. But they were a young team, starting a freshman quarterback for part of the season, and losing some close games. This year, Penn State returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense on a team looking to make some noise in the new Big 10. It opened the season ranked 25th in the coaches' poll, but has since climbed to No. 20.
Perhaps the biggest similarity to Alabama is the ongoing quarterback battle in State College. Last season, true freshman Robert Bolden started the year under center, but was yanked mid-season in favor of walk-on sophomore Matt McGloin after a concussion and mediocre performances derailed his season. McGloin finished the season as the Nittany Lions’ starter, but ended on a sour note, throwing a school-record five interceptions against Florida in the Outback Bowl.
Both Bolden and McGloin saw equal playing time against Indiana State in week one and put up so-so numbers. Bolden completed 6-for-12 for 37 yards and no touchdowns, while McGloin went 6-for-8 with 77 yards and no touchdowns. But Paterno has been fairly mum about who will start against Alabama or whether they will use both quarterbacks.
“These kids have worked so hard and are so close, it's hard for me to say this guy is better than that guy,” Paterno said on Tuesday. “What we'll do this Saturday is try to win the football game. Whether we're going to do it with two quarterbacks, I couldn't tell you right now.” Sound familiar? It is entirely possible that on Saturday both teams will be using two quarterbacks to run their offense.
Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin are battling it out for the #1 quarterback job at Penn State.
• Senior running back and current leading rusher Stephfon Green will return from a suspension this week stemming from academic issues over the summer.
• Starting punter Anthony Fera was suspended for the season opener following his second underage drinking citation this summer.
• Sophomore cornerback Derrick Thomas will return from a suspension involving disciplinary issues.
• Wide receiver Curtis Drake is listed as doubtful after suffering a leg injury in spring practice.
• Tackle Mike Farrell is not expected to play this week (ACL sprain).
• Tight end Andrew Szczerba is listed as uncertain as he deals with concussion symptoms.
• Quarterback Paul Jones is out for the entire season for academic issues.