After easy opening matchups, the Penn State Nittany Lions and Alabama Crimson Tide will clash in week two in a key top 25 battle. Alabama was firing on all cylinders against San Jose State, even without Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, and rolled 48-3.

The Nittany Lions also won easily in their first game, but showed they have some definite room for improvement. Alabama is a 12-point NCAA football odds favorite in this game.

Alabama Crimson Tide Hot College Football Fan

For the first time in head coach Joe Paterno’s historic career, a true freshman quarterback started the season. Robert Bolden played well in his debut, throwing for 239 yards and two scores, but he will have a much harder time against the Tide’s defense.

The bigger issue for the Penn State Nittany Lions is their running game. Featured back Evan Royster averaged only 3.6 yards per carry against a pitiful defense. Even though Alabama’s defense lost most of its starters from last season, it is still a very tough unit.

Alabama’s offense tallied almost 600 yards on offense last week, led by quarterback Greg McElroy’s 218 yards. He completed 87% of his passes and was nearly flawless. Running back Trent Richardson proved he is suitable replacement for Ingram, rushing for 66 yards on 10 carries.

Penn State’s defense was also gutted from last season, and they start three new linebackers. With the weakened front seven, the Alabama Crimson Tide should have no trouble running all day, with or without Ingram.

This matchup looks like it should be all Alabama. They will be able to run the ball efficiently, which should set up play action passing for McElroy. Tide coach Nick Saban will surely have some new defensive schemes that will confuse Penn State’s young quarterback and the Tide should roll in this one.

 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2010-2011 Season Preview

2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 8
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 86

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will look much different than they did last year. New coaches, players and schemes have been brought in after a disappointing 6-6 season. New head coach Brian Kelly had a strong track record at Cincinnati, but now he is under extreme pressure to turn this once proud program around.

The offensive philosophy has changed, with the introduction of a shotgun based spread formation. New starting quarterback Dayne Crist will be trying to return from a torn ACL and learn a new offense. Not easy for the junior who will be starting for the first time.

His top returning wide receiver is Michael Floyd who caught 44 passes for 795 yards and nine touchdowns last year. The only other established receiving option is tight end Kyle Rudolph (33 catches). With the new offensive scheme, it is vital that other young receivers step up to give Crist some options.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Cheerleader

Running back Armando Allen returns after leading the team with 697 yards. He is a decent receiver out of the backfield, so he should be ok in this system. The offensive line has only one position that is locked down, left guard. The line is still being shuffled to find the best combination.

The defense will also be making a scheme change, moving to a 3-4 system. This unit was awful a year ago, and nine starters are returning. The linebackers are the strength of the team, hence the scheme change. Sophomore inside linebacker Manti Te’o is expected to become a premier player and a team leader.

The starting defensive line of Ian Williams, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson are strong, but there is little depth behind them. The secondary has been an area of weakness, and should be again as few players have grabbed a hold of the starting jobs. Jamoris Slaughter and Harrison Smith will likely be the starting safeties this year.

The Irish are not the team they once were. While they have a manageable schedule, there are too many weak areas with unproven players to give them a legitimate shot at a national title.

Notre Dame’s odds to win the National Championship: + 4000

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