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Penn State 2011 Football Season Preview: Alabama

Our 2011 Penn State season preview continues with the Alabama Crimson Tide, who come to town on September 10.

Previously on SBN Pittsburgh: Indiana State - Alabama - Temple - Eastern Michigan - Indiana - Iowa - Purdue - Northwestern - Illinois - Nebraska - Ohio State - Wisconsin

In today's preview, we tackle the mighty Crimson Tide of Alabama. Two years removed from a national championship, Alabama might appear at first glance to be ripe for an upset. The Crimson Tide are replacing a quarterback, star wide receiver, Heisman Trophy-winning running back, and other valuable contributors. However, with solid recruiting and great coaching, this Crimson Tide team has enough talent waiting in the wings to be a national title contender again in 2011.

Week Two - vs. Alabama Crimson Tide, 3:30 pm

These are the games that fans live for, the ones that instantly put a smile on your face when you get up in the morning. Games against Indiana State and Eastern Michigan are nice, in that they almost certainly mean victory. But college football comes alive when two storied programs like Alabama and Penn State meet on the gridiron.

Alabama took last year's meeting, the teams' first in 20 years, with the final score of 24-3. The Crimson Tide were definitely the better team, as Penn State could not tackle an Alabama running back to save their lives and freshman quarterback Rob Bolden struggled in only his second collegiate start. While Trent Richardson returns for Alabama, Rob Bolden has a full year of experience (both on the field and off) to prepare for this rematch.

Penn State lost 11 seniors after the 2010 season, and while many of them were solid contributors during their time in Happy Valley, none of them are not easily replaced. In many instances, the current players replacing the outgoing seniors make the team tougher and more athletic, and put Penn State in a great position to win at home against a top-10 team.

As always, has some great additional reading on the Alabama matchup. Mike takes a Summer Snapshot of Alabama while Galen gives fans Too Much Information. Finally, Tim catches up with Elliott Roberts from the Bama Sports Report.

Strengths In 25 Words Or Less

It's Alabama. Even after sending WR Julio Jones and Heisman Trophy-winning RB Mark Ingram to the NFL, the Crimson Tide have even more weapons behind them.

Weaknesses In 25 Words Or Less

Whoever is under center will have a brutal first road game, heading to Happy Valley in Week Two to play in front of 100,000+ fans.

Three Things To Watch For

1) Under center. Last week we told you to watch under center to see who Penn State's starting quarterback would be, but this week keep an eye on Alabama's quarterback. It being Week Two, their starter should already be named, but the Crimson Tide have a decision to make this year.

2) The ability to tackle. It's one of the most fundamental aspects of this game we love so much, yet the Penn State defense showed a lack of tackling ability last year when now-starting running back Trent Richardson ran roughshod all over the Nittany Lions. If he's permitted to do that again this year, it could be a long afternoon.

3) PSU offense vs. Alabama defense. The Crimson Tide lose three contributors on a defense that was stingy as ever in 2010, while the Penn State offense is looking to make a mark with some solid skill players and an improved offensive line.

Likely Outcome

This is a tough one. My heart says that the Nittany Lions avenge last year's 24-3 defeat and send Nick Saban and the boys home with their heads hung. My brain says the Tide return too much, and replace those gone with enough talent, to be a tough match for Penn State. However, as always, the heart wants what the heart wants. Penn State 22, Alabama 19.

Penn State 2011 Schedule

Date Opponent / Event Location
9/3/2011 vs. Indiana State University Park, Pa.
9/10/2011 vs. Alabama University Park, Pa.
9/17/2011 at Temple Philadelphia, Pa.
9/24/2011 vs. Eastern Michigan University Park, Pa.
10/1/2011 at Indiana Bloomington, Ind.
10/8/2011 vs. Iowa University Park, Pa.
10/15/2011 vs. Purdue University Park, Pa.
10/22/2011 at Northwestern Evanston, Ill.
10/29/2011 vs. Illinois University Park, Pa.
11/12/2011 vs. Nebraska University Park, Pa.
11/19/2011 at Ohio State Columbus, Ohio
11/26/2011 at Wisconsin Madison, Wis.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.