Penn State and Alabama, two of the most historic and successful programs in the history of College Football, have always thrived thanks to their programs stability. Both schools sell out nearly every home game and have played in a combined 15 bowl games since 2000.
However, as we head towards the second game of the 2011 season both teams are extremely unstable at arguably the most important position on the field: quarterback. Both Penn State and Alabama have two options to lead the charge this week at Beaver Stadium, but neither coach has named a starter as both teams have yet to see a player step up and distance himself from his counterpart.
Alabama, just two seasons separated from defeating Texas for the schools 13th national championship, is in the midst of a youth movement. The Crimson Tide are relying on one of two underclassmen to take the reins this year following the departure of Greg McElroy, who threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns in Alabama’s victory over Penn State a year ago.
AJ McCarron, a redshirt sophomore, came into this season as the favorite to replace the aforementioned McElroy. Alabama head coach Nick Saban named him the starter for last week’s season opener, but he did not blow anyone away against the inferior Kent State. He threw for 226 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice.
On the other side of the Alabama quarterback battle is redshirt freshman Phillip Sims. The number one quarterback in his recruiting class according to ESPNU, Sims did not have much success against Kent State either. Taking over for McCarron at the start of the second half, Sims threw for only 73 yards and was intercepted twice as well.
Even if McCarron or Sims had distanced himself from the other last week, Alabama is still in a similar situation Penn State was in last year going to Bryant-Denney Stadium. One of the two underclassmen will be making their first collegiate road start in front of a raucous Beaver Stadium crowd, widely considered one of the toughest places to play in all of college football.
However, Penn State has also failed to clear up its quarterback controversy. While sophomore Rob Bolden and redshirt junior Matt McGloin both received playing time against Indiana State last week, neither did enough to entice Joe Paterno to name a starter at Tuesday’s press conference.
Bolden, last year’s starter at Alabama, completed just six passes for 37 yards last weekend. He started the first seven games of last season with mixed results.
Bolden is seen as the better athlete between the two and has the ability to serve as a viable weapon outside of the pocket. After throwing for 144 yards and two interceptions last year in Tuscaloosa, he will need to make much smarter decisions under center if he is given the opportunity.
McGloin put up slightly better numbers than Bolden last weekend, but did little to impress. McGloin went 6-of-8 passing and threw for 77 yards against the Sycamores.
After an up-and-down sophomore season, which saw an impressive 21-point comeback victory against Northwestern and a disappointing five-interception performance against Florida, McGloin is seen to be the better leader of the two. Much like Bolden, McGloin will need to protect the football and make better reads if he wants to have success against a tough Alabama secondary.
With both teams led by a strong running game and impressive defenses, Saturday’s matinee could very well come down to which teams quarterbacks play better. By the end of this weekend one team may have its quarterback of the future, while the other could still be stuck asking questions. Regardless of what decisions are made, one of these four quarterbacks will be leaving State College this weekend with an impressive win on their résumé.
Justin Rocke is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Justin is resident of Closter, New Jersey and an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster. Justin spent the past two summers as an Internet Broadcaster for the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Justin currently co-hosts ComRadio’s Inside the NFL and The Association as well as doing play-by-play work for Penn State Football, Baseball, Men’s and Women’s Basketball and the State College Spikes as well as hosting the Penn State Football Pregame Show. He strives to one day be the play-by-play broadcaster for either the New York Knicks, Yankees, or Jets.