KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SITE: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
SERIES: Alabama leads 9-5 (last meeting, 2010, Alabama 24-3)
RECORDS: Alabama 1-0; Penn State 1-0
POLLS: Alabama (No. 3 AP, No. 2 USA Today); Penn State (No. 23 AP, No. 20 (USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME
For Alabama: Stay mentally tough. With more than 100,000 Nittany Lion fans turning Beaver Stadium into a cauldron of noise, inexperienced QBs A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims must keep mistakes to the minimum? If they can, there's almost no way Alabama can lose as its defense appears to match up very well with the Penn State offense.
For Penn State: Protect QBs Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin and give RBs Silas Redd and Brandon Beachum room to run. They need opportunities to get into the secondary. The linebackers and defensive backs must rally to the ball and bring down RB Trent Richardson as a unit and be careful to avoid getting beaten by the play-action pass.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS
While Bama fans obsess about the quarterback position, one thing they don't have to worry about is their No. 1 wide receiver. Marquis Maze was magnificent against Kent State with eight receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown, as well as 135 yards in the return game. A veteran line is talking about redeeming itself for what it felt was a subpar performance against Kent State. It took the responsibility for Trent Richardson's 37 yards on 13 carries and will have to execute well to get him going at Penn State.
One gets the feeling that as long as the offense doesn't do much to lose it (i.e.: turnovers), Alabama can keep an opponent under wraps and win ugly. The defensive line showed it could dominate in the season opener while the linebackers and secondary played up to snuff. The Nittany Lions will try to be physical, which shouldn't bother the Tide, but might also have a couple of tricks up their sleeve.
Penn State's offense moved the ball on the ground with ease against Indiana State, carving up the FCS team for 245 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore RB Silas Redd looked explosive and powerful and was always moving forward. The Nittany Lions' passing attack, with two different quarterbacks (Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin) at the helm, wasn't nearly as consistent. The offensive line blocked well for the most part but had trouble picking up Indiana State blitzes.
The Nittany Lions' defensive line spent the offseason trying to shed excess pounds and looked quick and aggressive in the opener. No one was harder to block than DT Jordan Hill, who had five tackles and forced and recovered a fumble. The secondary, led by S Drew Astorino and CB D'Anton Lynn, broke aggressively on the ball and had few of the coverage breakdowns that plagued the team last season. LBs Glenn Carson, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges had a quiet afternoon against a team that rarely ran the ball but should put in much more week this week against Alabama's Trent Richardson.
Crimson Tide: This will be the Bama's first visit to State College, Pa., since 1989, when it pulled out a 17-16 win. Penn State coach Joe Paterno has been on the sidelines for all 14 meetings, the first in 1959 as an assistant. ... The halftime score may provide a lot of illumination as to Saturday's winner. In coach Nick Saban's four-plus years at Alabama, his record is 39-3 when owning the lead at intermission. LSU (twice) and Auburn (2010) are the only teams to defy that stat. ... LB Trey DePriest shared SEC Freshman of the Week honors after an excellent performance against Kent State. DePriest notched a team-high 10 tackles and might force the coaching staff to find more playing time for him at one of the team's deepest positions. ... WR Duron Carter, who just joined the team last week, is a junior college transfer who could offer another big, talented body in the passing game. The 6-4, 220-pound Carter is the son of former NFL great Cris Carter.
Nittany Lions: Penn State has won its last 23 non-conference home games, the nation's second-longest active streak. ... The game between the Nittany Lions and the Tide is the only Big Ten-SEC matchup of the regular season. Postseason agreements will have teams from the two conferences pitted against each other in at least three bowl games (Outback, Gator, Capital One). ... Penn State (819-357-42) and Alabama (803-319-3) are two of eight teams in college football with at last 800 victories. ... P/PK Anthony Fera is likely to return to action this week. He had missed the season's first game as punishment for an underage drinking citation he received earlier in the summer. ... The last time the Lions hosted the No. 2 team in the country was in 2001 when Miami visited. Ohio State was No. 1 in 2007 when it came to Happy Valley. ... Bama is one of seven bowl teams from 2010 on Penn State's 2011 schedule. Four are at home (Bama, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska) and three on the road (Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Trent Richardson -- After last week's 37-yard, 13-carry effort against Kent State, logic suggests that getting Richardson going will be job No. 1 for the Tide offense. Richardson enjoyed a terrific game last year against Penn State and he'll need one to keep this game from being really dangerous.
OL Barrett Jones -- Perhaps the team's best lineman, Jones is being used all over the line as the coaches try to determine the unit's top five players. It will be interesting to see where he's deployed long-term because at some point this line has to start cohering before SEC play begins. His leadership will be vital in this game.
FS Mark Barron --The team's last line of defense wasn't needed that often against Kent State, posting just two tackles and breaking up a pass. Barron figures to be busier against the Nittany Lions, which might have a trick play or two ready.
C Matt Stankiewitch -- The junior performed solidly in his first career start at center last week but has a much more difficult task awaiting him Saturday in Alabama DT Josh Chapman. Stankiewitch must also be able to recognize different personnel formations and help the Nittany Lions anticipate the blitz, which they did not do well against Indiana State.
LB Gerald Hodges -- Penn State's weak-side 'backer was injured early in the game against the Crimson Tide last season and will be eager to play four quarters against them this year. Hodges will be counted on to help contain Trent Richardson and could also be asked to put in some work in pass coverage.
PK Evan Lewis -- The former walk-on wide receiver and defensive back, in his first year as a placekicker, missed both of his field-goal attempts last week. He also missed and extra point. There is a chance true freshman Sam Ficken or Anthony Fera could take over the duties if Lewis isn't able to capitalize on his chances.