TSX: Alabama Report

Get an in-depth review of Alabama as Penn State packs for their road trip to Tuscaloosa to face the no. 1 Tide.

INSIDE SLANT

The Heisman trophy winner likely won't be dressed out for Alabama's big cross-conference matchup with Penn State on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide will just have to settle for this week's Sports Illustrated coverboy to carry the ball under the lights of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Sophomore Trent Richardson, who ran for 66 yards and two touchdowns last week against San Jose State in limited action, will likely be the go-to guy again this week, but he won't be alone. Reserves Eddie Lacy and Demetrius Goode will also be asked to carry the ball from time to time.

"Eddie and Demetrius and, obviously, Trent all did a great job," guard Barrett Jones told the Dothan Eagle. "I think we really needed some guys to step up in place of Mark, and I think they did a great job.

"Honestly, you couldn't really tell much of a dropoff, and that's the way we really want it here. When one guy goes down, we can put in another guy and have success."

Coach Nick Saban didn't sound optimistic about Ingram, who injured his knee last Monday during a routine practice drill. He underwent arthroscopic surgery the next day.

"I have to see Mark Ingram be Mark Ingram," Saban said. "We just need to see him be able to be himself, be 100 percent, be able to practice enough to be confident and ready, but I'm not anticipating that's going to happen."

The Crimson Tide certainly won't have it as easy as it did against San Jose State, which was overwhelmed from the start and allowed Alabama to put up all kinds of big numbers in the 48-3 rout. The Tide rushed for 257 yards on 41 attempts, good for a 6.3-yard average.

"Obviously, Penn State is a little bit of a different opponent," quarterback Greg McElroy said. "But I think those guys will do a good job for us and continue to improve and continue to gain confidence as the season goes on."

NOTES, QUOTES

  • Quarterback Greg McElroy completed 13 of 16 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown against San Jose State. McElroy has attempted 114 passes since his last interception (LSU, 2009), which is the second-longest streak during his career (141 attempts in 2009).

    His current streak of attempts without an interception is the sixth longest in school history, while his 141-attempt streak last season is the third longest in school history.

  • The Tide offensive line continued its improbable streak Saturday, as it went yet another game without receiving a holding penalty.

    The unit has now gone 42 consecutive quarters without an offensive holding call. The last holding penalty came in the second quarter against Kentucky on Oct. 3, 2009, when left tackle James Carpenter was flagged.

    The streak spans 10 full games and roughly 639 minutes of game action.

  • The Alabama defense picked up right where it left off over the past two seasons, allowing San Jose State to convert just one of its 13 third down attempts. The Crimson Tide has finished sixth and third in the nation, respectively, in third-down conversion percentage over the last two seasons.

SERIES HISTORY: Alabama leads Penn State, 8-5 (last meeting, 1990, 9-0, Penn State).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Though the competition's defense was one of the weakest it will see all season, Alabama's offense definitely looked like a group that returned eight starters from 2009. Quarterback Greg McElroy likely won't get much Heisman buzz, but he proved again why he is one of the most efficient signal-callers in college football, completing 13 of his 16 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown -- the vast majority of which was done in the first half.

The running game didn't miss a beat without the injured Mark Ingram, as Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy proved up to the task. Julio Jones also looked sharp in his 2010 debut, hauling in a diving, one-handed touchdown grab on a throw from backup quarterback A.J. McCarron. It will be night and day going from the San Jose State defense to Penn State's, but the Crimson Tide just might have one of the best offensive attacks in the nation.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Don't let Nick Saban fool you. This group looked just as dominant in the season opener as it did all throughout the championship run in 2009. The most encouraging part, though, was seeing linebacker Dont'a Hightower back on the field for the first time since last September, when he tore his ACL in a game against Arkansas.

What made it even more rewarding was that Hightower got to take a seat early, as he, and the rest of Alabama's starters, stood on the sidelines for most of the second half while the game was out of hand. He will likely need more than just three tackles (two solos) against Penn State, a team that figures to give the Crimson Tide a few more headaches than San Jose State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They do such a good job of being in the right place. It is kind of fun to watch. When you play a team that is very sound and very fundamental, it makes you earn the yards, so it is a little more enjoyable. It makes things a little more fun." -- QB Greg McElroy on Penn State's defense.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Penn State at Alabama, Sept. 11 -- This won't do anything in terms of helping the Crimson Tide repeat as SEC West champions, but it's all about respect. The belief, in the South at least, is that the Big Ten, and football in the North in general, is inferior to what's happening in the Southeast. If Alabama can rout the Nittany Lions like some expect, that stereotype will only grow stronger.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Believe it or not, Alabama will be facing a less-experienced quarterback this week than it did in the season opener. The Crimson Tide defense will be anxious to see what it can to disrupt freshman QB Robert Bolden, the first freshman to start the season at the position in Joe Paterno's 60 years as head coach. He won't only have to deal with the talented, deep Crimson Tide defense, but he'll also have more than 100,000 screaming fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium on his case.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • LB Chris Jordan -- He's not one of the bigger names on Alabama's defense, or even a starter, but you can find the junior all over the field on special teams. Jordan picked up six tackles, two on special teams, in the Tide's rout of San Jose State. Jordan came to Alabama as a running back but was quickly converted to linebacker. His opportunities are expected to rise through the season.

  • S Mark Barron -- Considered one of the biggest leaders of Alabama's defense, Barron played like one in Saturday's season opener. He had just three tackles, but he was a major staple in helping prevent the San Jose State offense from doing anything through the air. Barron's unquantifiable efforts didn't go unnoticed by coach Nick Saban, who awarded Barron with Defensive Player of the Week honors.

  • WR Julio Jones -- He fell off the radar a bit during what some considered a sophomore slump kind of season, but he woke everyone up with his highlight-reel catch in the opener. He's had an extra year to develop chemistry with quarterback Greg McElroy, a tandem that could emerge as one of the most dangerous not only in the SEC, but college football as a whole.

ROSTER REPORT

  • Alabama will not appeal DE Marcell Dareus' suspension, which means Dareus will sit out his second and final game Saturday against Penn State.

  • LB Courtney Upshaw (ankle) was held out of Monday's practice for precautionary reasons. He's expected to practice at least once before Saturday's game.

  • OL D.J. Fluker injured his ankle in the opener and was also limited in Monday's practice, but Saban said it was nothing serious. Fluker is expected to start at right tackle Saturday.

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