In 1979, Barry Kraus achieved one of the most historic plays ever known in Alabama football history. On fourth and goal Barry Kraus, along with a strong defensive line, had a goal line stand against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Times have changed for people in Alabama since that amazing game over 31 years ago. I wish I were able to say the same about Penn State. Joe Paterno is entering his 45th season as head coach of the Nittany Lions. Despite this, Joe Paterno is still going strong and as long as he is putting up nine win seasons, he is going to stay there. The grand ole' rivalry of Alabama and Penn State is finally being renewed in newly expanded Bryant- Denny Stadium. With over 101,000 plus present, lets just say it is going to be pretty loud.
This is Alabama's first real test to prove that they have what it takes to defend their national title. This means that some big time players are going to have to step up. They are going to have to step up and make big plays. So lets see who can make these big plays.
Offense: Greg McElroy
In week one, Greg McElroy put on a show. After getting the ball on opening kickoff, Greg McElroy completed his first three passes all to Julio Jones. Greg McElroy finished the game 13-15 for 218 yards. With Mark Ingram being questionable, Alabama will have to step up its passing game. Greg McElroy showed a side that he has never shown before. He was calm in the pocket and made very smart throws. If he was being pressured, instead of trying to run or get sacked he would dump it off to Trent Richardson. He is also more consistent which will be a huge contribution to the team. If Julio Jones can step up and make plays like he did in week one, McElroy will have a huge game.
Defense: Dont'a Hightower
Robert Bolden will have his first test as a starting quarterback when he plays a stingy Alabama defense led by Dont'a Hightower. With no Marcell Dareus and questions surrounding the Courtney Upshaw injury, Dont'a Hightower will have to step up. Because Robert Bolden is a true freshmen, Kirby Smart and Nick Saban will come up with schemes to blitz and fluster him more. Hightower is the only really experienced man that can step up and put Bolden under pressure. It is time for Hightower to prove that he has overcome last season's injury. Mark Barron and others in the secondary will have to step up and make big plays.
Special Teams: Cody Mandell
A lot of questions surrounded Alabama's special teams. That is before Alabama fans met Cody Mandell. Mandell had 52, 53, and 18 yards punts against San Jose State. The last one certainly does not sound good, but the bad snap did not help. If Cody Mandell can make solid punts and pin Penn State deep in their own territory, then they will put more pressure on quarterback Robert Bolden.
Before Nick Saban, one thing Alabama fans did was talk about how great of a coach Bear Bryant was. Now fans are starting to talk about Nick Saban and his bright future that is left at Alabama. Now Alabama fans get to watch a game and a coach that coached against the great Bear Bryant. This is a much bigger and more important game than some people realize. Penn State wants this game due to the target on Aabama's back, and also for tradition reasons. Nick Saban is going to throw in some different defensive schemes and Jim McElwain will have to also come up with some creative plays if Alabama wants to win this one by a large margin.