Don’t let the big number scar you away. Alabama lost a lot during the offseason and it will be without running back Mark Ingram again this week but this team remains extremely deep. The Tide are coming off a blowout win in their opener against San Jose St. as it outgained the Spartans by a whopping 416 total yards. The competition takes a step up in class on Saturday but top to bottom, Alabama has advantages all over the field and it will show.
Penn St. took out FCS Youngstown St. by 30 points but that final score was somewhat deceiving as the Nittany Lions won the yardage battle by just 107 total yards. The worst part about the game was the passing defense as they allowed the Penguins to complete 21 of 25 passes and while the yardage did not add up to be a big number, it is a concern. The play of freshman quarterback of Robert Bolden was good but going up against a team in the lower division will do that. Now comes a real test.
The huge question for Alabama coming into the season was its defense. The Tide had to replace nine starters from the second ranked defense in the country. The entire defensive line is gone but there is loads of experience in tow led by defensive end Marcell Dareus who was the BCS Championship defensive player of the game. The secondary is the weak point of the defense but the three replacements were all ranked in the top 30 in recruiting circuits. Some publications have Alabama ranked 10th in the nation back there.
With Ingram out, Alabama still rushed for 257 yards on 41 carries (6.3 ypc) as it is stacked at that position and while it is impossible to replace Ingram, the Tide are just fine. Quarterback Greg McElroy had a great first season a year ago and he started right where he left off as he went 13-15 for 218 yards and a score. The defense of Penn St. is sure to be a tougher test but I am not sold yet as the Nittany Lions lost five starters from the front seven that finished 9th in total defense and 6th in rushing defense.
It is pretty clear what Penn St. is going to do. Penn St. is going to run the ball as to try and shorten the game thus trying to win in a low-scoring contest, but if Alabama can shut down Evan Royster and the Nittany Lion running game, that strategy does no good. The Tide will gladly try and make Bolden beat them. Another big edge for Alabama is the weather as the heat and humidity are both something the Nittany Lions are not accustomed to and we could see fatigue and cramping.
Alabama is perfect 5-0 ATS after scoring 35 or more points against a non-conference opponent while Saban is 19-8 ATS in games he has coached following a win by more than 28 points. Penn St. has not been a road underdog since 2007 so this is completely unfamiliar territory. Also, play on home favorites after outgaining their last opponent by 225 or more total yards while returning eight or more starts on offense going up against an opponent returning five or fewer starters on defense. This situation is 62-28 ATS (68.9 percent) since 1992. 3* Alabama Crimson Tide