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Penn State vs. Alabama
Betting Line: Alabama -11.5
It's been a crazy last two years for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Two years ago
they were defeated by Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators in the SEC Title game
before rolling over against Utah in the Sugar Bowl. They came back with a
vengeance last year and crushed the Gators en route to a BCS Title win.
Defending their title starts in week two with a home game against Joe Paterno's
Penn State Nittany Lions who were 11-2 in 2009. The line betting line opened up
-9.5 and has been bet up to -11.5.
The Penn State Nittany Lions were road warriors finishing 4-0 while traveling last year. Granted, they didn't play any powerhouses on the road, but this is a good thing heading into a hostile environment at Tuscaloosa nonetheless. Coach Joe Paterno certainly won't allow his boys to get crushed. This starts in the trenches on defense. With just two starters back from last year it's tough to say how good they really are. The secondary is completely intact and will prevent Alabama from burning them through the air, but unfortunately for Penn State that probably wasn't going to happen anyway.
If Penn State is going to win this game they will need to take advantage of a relatively inexperienced defense for the Crimson Tide that returns only 2 starters. That would have been a much easier task last year with QB Daryll Clark. However, it won't be an easy task with a true freshman QB at the helm of the offense. QB Robert Bolden passed for 2 TDs and 1 INT in his debut against Youngstown State. He will get a rude welcome to the NCAA playing on the road against an extremely good 'Bama defense.
How will the Alabama Crimson Tide win this game? By not making mistakes and allowing Penn State to hang around. The status of Heisman winning RB Mark Ingram isn't known at the time of this writing, but with our without him the Tide is more than capable of pounding the rock. RB Trent Richardson had a great game against Texas in the BCS Title game and should be able to do the same against a much weaker Nittany Lion's defense. QB Greg McElroy did a lot of growing up as a player in the latter half of 2009. If the running game stalls he can get points through the air.
Computer 900 starts the year 2-1.
Expect to win -
The Alabama Crimson Tide boasts a very strong defense thanks to HC Nick Saban. Conversely, Penn State's offense is inexperienced and an unknown quantity. It's not out of the question for Alabama to completely shut out Penn State. The Nittany Lions scored just a single TD last year against the Buckeyes. The defense they will face this week is just as good or better, and their offense isn't as good. DE Marcell Dareus will miss the game due to a suspension, but 'Bama has a stockpile of good players to fill in for him. They won't miss a beat without him.
This matchup of Big 10 and SEC football is probably going to be an ugly one. JoePa and company could have their pride tarnished a little bit if the offense doesn't get rolling. Alabama has been successful in non-conference games recently. They started 2009 by beating Virginia Tech 34-24. Their task here is a much easier one. Laying the 10.5 points here seems advisable as the Nittany Lions aren't going to do much scoring. The offense AND defense for Alabama is capable of putting points on the board. This could turn into a blowout in favor of the defending National Champs as they play in front of their fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
With a freshman QB, playing in front of 100,000 plus hostile fans, going up against this Alabama defense, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the Penn State game plan going in. You can expect a conservative approach. True, it's an Alabama defense that lost tons of starters from it's Championship team, but Saban has done a terrific job recruiting and there's no reason to believe this defense won't be top notch. The 12th man doesn't hurt either. It's also a Bama offense that is largely intact from a year ago. An offense that averaged 32 points per game and is loaded with stars.
If this game were played later in the season, we'd naturally look for reasons
to back Penn State. A solid program getting a boatload of points is right up our
alley. But we can't see anything but trouble for Penn State in this one. As far
as we can see, only the margin is in doubt here and we don't back teams just
because we think they can hang within the number. That's a losing approach. No
official play, but we'll lean towards Alabama -11.5. But take note, this is
where line shopping comes into play. This game opened Alabama -9.5 and the
sharps quickly gobbled up that number. If you're considering playing Alabama, it
does no harm to wait at this point to see if it by chance comes back to -10. If
it goes up, not much difference between -11.5 and -12.5, dead numbers.