Mark Ingram's Knee Surgery: What It Means for Penn State's Week 2 Chances

Sean StebnerContributor IAugust 31, 2010

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12:  Running back Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide poses with the Heisman Trophy during a press conference after being named the 75th Heisman Trophy winner at the Marriott Marquis on December 12, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

There are few names in sports that have such a polarizing effect as Dr. James Andrews. One the one hand, he is the most highly regarded surgeon-to-the-pros (or future pros). On the other hand, he's the guy you go see when your star player needs to go under the knife.

In the case of the Alabama Crimson Tide's Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, that's exactly what happened Tuesday morning.  

Ingram hurt his left knee late in Monday's practice and was shipped off to see the good doctor for an arthroscopic procedure. Coach Nick Saban has come out to confirm his number one back will miss the season opener against San Jose State.

Although Saban said Ingram will be handled "on a week-to-week basis" after Saturday, it's considered unlikely that the star runner will be available for Week Two's matchup with the Nittany Lions. Saban even said they'd make every decision based on what's best for Mark and "his career." That means the Tide will likely take a conservative approach to Ingram's return.

Now while I'd never wish injury on anyone, especially when it could significantly alter their career, for Penn State fans, this is nothing but good news.

Last season Ingram, in the SEC mind you, ran for 1,658 yards and 20 TDs. He became Alabama's first Heisman winner.

Yeah, in the preposterous history that is Crimson Tide football, you could argue that he had the best single season in Alabama history.

As a sophomore.

Now before Happy Valley starts dancing in the streets, let's not forget this is still Nick Saban's Alabama football. Their number two back is probably better than most teams' number one. So let's meet the number two.

Trent Richardson is a sophomore out of Escambia High in Pensacola, Florida. He was a 2008 High School All-American and was the 5A Florida Player of the Year. considered him a five-star recruit and the number two running back prospect in the nation.

As a true freshman and Mark Ingram's backup last year, he rushed for 751 yards on 145 carries and eight touchdowns. He was voted to the SEC All-Freshman team.

Here's where things get worrisome. It's enough looking at his accolades and numbers, but consider these: He had the 10th highest yards per game in the SEC at 53.6.

Let's try that again. Alabama's back-up had more rushing yards per game than at least three other team's starters.

On top of that, Richardson logged two 100-yard rushing games. One versus Florida International (go ahead and scoff), and one versus Texas in the BCS Championship game.


Now before there's a panic in the streets of State College...give me a second, I'm singing...

Okay, Penn State was 2009's sixth-best in the country in rush defense in a conference that is typically run-oriented. The blue-and-white gave up just 89.9 YPG, 2.85 YPC and six TDs. 

The six TDs allowed were second in the nation, trailing only (surprise) Alabama.   

Of course the assumption can't be made that Penn State will hold Alabama to under 100 yards rushing, but simply put: With such a stout rush defense, going against the team's backup makes the job easier. No matter how good he is.

So while Week Two is a decidedly uphill battle, at least now there's one less Alabama field general to worry about. Considering the task at hand, the Lions need every advantage they can get.