When 'Bama gets to full strength, look out

BY foxsports • September 11, 2010

Pete Fiutak

There’s a line from Mr. Wolf in "Pulp Fiction" that I’d like to use here, but this is a family show.

Basically, let’s not go patting each other on the back just yet.

Alabama is the No. 1 team in America, and that’s not going to change any time soon, but don’t assume that this is an unbeatable, be-all-end-all team just because it had few problems getting by Penn State 24-3. 'Bama will show how good it is later, but don’t make much out of this.

This is a good Penn State team, but it’s not a great one. The offensive line hasn’t blocked anyone in the running game over the past year and a half, the defense is undergoing some major personnel changes (yeah, I know, like 'Bama isn’t?), and it has a true freshman at quarterback. This isn’t a Nittany Lion team that’s good enough to win the Big Ten, and it’s probably the league’s fourth best team at best (behind Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa), and the sixth at worst (also behind Michigan and Michigan state). That’s not to take away from Alabama doing what it was supposed to at home against a brand-name BCS squad, but at a time of year when everything gets overblown (I’ve already given the Heisman to Denard Robinson), there’s no need to assume the Tide will roll through the schedule based on this dominant win.

Of course, 'Bama did this with a Heisman winner (Mark Ingram) and a first-round NFL defensive lineman (Marcell Dareus) on the sidelines, and, obviously, the team will be even better when the two stars are back, but for now, just accept this as a strong home win that everyone had a chance to witness.

The scary part is that 'Bama was able to do this while it’s still figuring out what to do with all its new talent. Forget about Ingram and Dareus, when the defense gets a few more miles under its belt, it’s going to be every bit the killer the offense is. Trent Richardson is keeping the running game rocking, and Julio Jones is looking like the Julio Jones everyone was waiting for. Alabama was really good against Penn State, and it’s about to become a whole bunch better.

This wasn’t the real Penn State that Alabama just whumped, but it also wasn’t the real Alabama, either.

Richard Cirminiello

Penn State took it on the chin in Tuscaloosa, but not all was lost for the Lions on Saturday night.

There were few surprises, as Penn State labored all night to keep the chains moving and drives alive. There was, however, a silver lining for the blue and white, who saw its young franchise quarterback receive the kind of education that’ll pay dividends this season and beyond. Robert Bolden is just a true freshman, but you have to like the fact that the Nittany Lions are sticking with him, even through the most difficult circumstances. Bolden is going to be better for having played in prime time at packed Bryant-Denny Stadium. He’ll be better for having faced a Nick Saban defense that’s loaded with talent and difficult to understand for young passers. And better for having been humbled for one of the first times in his budding athletic career.

Penn State lost a game to a superior team Saturday night, which caught no one by surprise. 'Bama is top-ranked for good reason. What the Lions got in return was a 60-minute education for the young quarterback who hopes to lead the program for the next four seasons. It won’t be a salve for the wounds of Nit fans, who dreamt of a monumental upset, but it’s going to pay dividends for Bolden, who’ll use the entire weekend as a growth experience.

Matt Zemek

So, Robert Bolden couldn’t finish drives in a noisy SEC lair. Penn State lost focus and failed to elevate its level of play in this game’s most meaningful situations. The college football world is entirely unsurprised by this Tuscaloosa tussle, a contest in which Penn State was just not seasoned enough or dynamic enough to take advantage of Alabama’s youthful defense.

It’s not that the Nittany Lions couldn’t move the ball; they did. It’s not as though Alabama played a clean game and was noticeably sharp; the Tide weren’t at their best (not that they had to be; it’s still only Week 2). However, when a young road team with no margin for error treats the ball like a greasy pig, a modestly competitive game in the trenches becomes a deceptively lopsided affair on the scoreboard. That’s the long and short of Alabama’s latest conquest, the Tide’s 16th straight victory.

On a ballyhooed college football Saturday that failed to deliver electrifying encounters, this blue-collar 'Bama win rates as the least shocking development among the sexy brand-name showdowns on display. We’ll know a lot more about the Tide after their visit to Arkansas on Sept. 25. Penn State can use this game to develop in time for the teeth of the Big Ten campaign.

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