Monday, August 29, 2011

The Final Pre-Season Countdown: #1

So here is the season, counting down from the game we are most likely to win (#12) to the game we are most likely to lose (#1):

12. Indiana State University
11. Eastern Michigan University
10. Temple
9. Indiana
8. Purdue
7. Illinois
6. Northwestern
5. Iowa
4. Ohio State
3. Nebraska
2. Wisconsin

How many teams can lose a trio of playmakers like Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones and still be ranked second in the nation?  Maybe USC.  But apparently the Alabama Republicans from the Crimson State are in that minority as well..

Returning 18 starters from last years squad which handled Penn State easily at home, 24-3, but lost critical games to South Carolina , LSU and hated rival Auburn, Alabama looks to improve on their record of 10-3 from a year ago.

Maybe it's some solace to know that Alabama dominated Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, beating Sparty 49-7.  Maybe not.

The Bama defense was ranked 5th in the nation in total defense and third in scoring defense, allowing opponents 13.5 points per game.  They return nine starters on a formidable unit that will be crucial to Alabama's success this season, especially given the uncertainty at QB.

As of the time of this writing, Saban has not named either A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims, who are apparently neck and neck for the starting QB job.  Both are described as pocket passers.  But they will fortunately have a veteran line as 4 of the 5 starters are back.  Two senior starters return at wide receiver--Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks--but it remains to be seen if they can fill the shoes of the departed Jones.  Neither is very tall, listed at 5-11 and 6-0.

Tide Fans . . . ready for any crap you can throw at them.
I think pollsters are putting a lot of faith in the Bama defense to carry this team, or they feel the new quarterback has enough talent around him to perform well regardless.  In this day and age of football, you have to be able to score points.  Their schedule is littered with potential land mines, with games against ranked (Coaches Poll) opponents being LSU (4), South Carolina (12) Arkansas (14), Auburn (19), Misissippi State (20), Florida (23),  and PSU (25).  They also host unranked Tennessee and travel to Ole Miss.

The Tide will open with Kent State, and they follow our game hosting North Texas.  Our game is sandwiched between Indiana State and Temple, so neither team should be physically or emotionally tired coming in, or looking forward to a marquee opponent.  This is the marquee game.

For Penn State, it will be a white out game, starting at 3:30.  None of the players was even born when Joe Paterno battled Bear Bryant, and the 1979 Sugar Bowl is a historical curiosity.  Recent fans likewise may not appreciate the history of this match-up.  And this home and home series may never occur again as conferences swell to superconferences and OOC games dwindle to just low budget competition willing to fill home game slots.

This likely could be Paterno's last chance to beat the Tide.  JoePa is 4-9 versus the Tide.  (Penn State is 5-9 all time.) 

On paper, the only real advantages we have is more experience at QB, and home field advantage.  That's not much to work with.

But that is not to say there isn't a chance.  On any given Saturday . . . blah, blah, blah.  But with an inexperienced QB, the atmosphere at Beaver Stadium could rattle him.  If our defense can apply some pressure early in the game, throw the QB off his rhythm, and create a turn-over setting up field position for our offense, this game could be won.

If Bama comes out of the gate, marches down the field and scores, this will be a long late afternoon in Happy Valley.

Prediction:  We lose.  You'd have to be a bit crazy to seriously predict an upset.  This would be an upset of elephant-sized proportions.  But stranger things have happened, and it is early in the season, and success last year doesn't always mean a team will return with the same level of emotion and skill and chemistry.  Their weakness is quarterback.  If we can exploit that, we have a chance.  If we can't, then the Tide will Roll.   Of course, we will somehow have to find a way to score touchdowns against the Bama defense, and I don't know if we can.  Our quarterback will have to have a flawless night and it would help to have some great plays by Moye.  Even if we lose, I don't think the game will be as lop-sided as last year.

1 comment:

Carolyn Todd said...

Don't you think that there's something strange about Penn State fans saying "White Out Alabama"?

A lot of my friends from the sixties/seventies era are remembering civil rights days...

In any case, I just hope that it's close and a fantastic fan experience for all who attend the "white out".

Including those six Harley Davidson motocyclists I met in Maine this summer, who made it a point to ask me "Did the Alabama fans treat you well?"

They LOVE LOVE LOVE Joe Pa and I hope we can be as welcoming to them at Beaver Stadium.