'Bama Comes to Beaver Stadium

'Bama Comes to Beaver Stadium

Penn State, Alabama. Just reading those two names next to each other is enough to get any college football fan excited. Today, they face each other for the second straight season, and 100,000 crazed Nittany Lions fans will be ready to go for one of the biggest games in Beaver Stadium since the 2005 Ohio State game.

There are some parallel storylines between today's game against the nation's second or third ranked team, depending on which poll you pay attention to. This is a Penn State team that is searching for some national respect, and feels as though they have the right blend of players to make that kind of statement similar to the way the 2005 Nittany Lions did when they upended the favored Ohio State Buckeyes. But that 2005 team had a few more games to get in the flow of things before announcing to everyone that they are indeed back. This year's team is still trying to sort through a quarterback competition, with sophomore Rob Bolden battling the scrappy and confident walk-on from Scranton, Matt McGloin. Expect both players to see some equal playing time, unless one guy can keep the offense moving consistently against one of the toughest defenses they will face all season.

A year ago Alabama roughed up Penn State and let their foot off the gas pedal out of respect for their undermanned and overmatched opponent. But Penn State's players remember every detail about that game and have been thinking about it all week, all summer and since the end of the 2010 season. This is a game they have circled on their calendars for a long time.

This is the game they want to win, and some feel they need to win.

Joe Paterno is 0-8 against the last eight ranked opponents Penn State has faced and he has lost the last four of five meetings against Alabama, dating back to the 1980's. Nick Saban has never won a game in Beaver Stadium, going back to his time as Michigan State's head coach (had to work a Land Grant Trophy reference in for good measure), and he knows just what kind of atmosphere his Crimson Tide will be walking in to Saturday afternoon.

Don't expect Alabama to be intimidated.

The Alabama defense is stacked with potential NFL draft picks, although they lack some of the name recognition they had last year (except for linebacker Dont'a Hightower), and they will make it tough for Penn State sophomore running back Silas Redd to find much room to work with. Penn State’s run blocking worked very well last week against Indiana State, but that was Indiana State. Alabama is a whole different animal to tame.

Last season it was Alabama running back Trent Richardson who snapped a streak of games in which Penn State did not allow a 100-yard rusher (plenty of players did that last year). He was a strong runner who refused to be tackled and overpowered Penn State’s linebackers. Penn State generally plays better at home (I know this is a silly thing to say) and they should be able to cut down on the effectiveness of Alabama’s running game a little better than they did last season. If they can do that then Penn State may start to build an advantage because the pressure will be on the Alabama quarterbacks, who like Penn State, are battling for the starting job. AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims are young and inexperienced players, and young quarterbacks playing on the road at Penn State have a poor track record. Could Penn State force McCarron and Sims to make a few mistakes and force some turnovers? If they do, an upset may not be entirely out of the question.

If Penn State wins, they will come to Philadelphia next week riding an emotional high. Could that distract them from focusing on preparing for Temple in Lincoln Financial Field?
Let’s just take this one game at a time, shall we?

Nick will have your Temple pre-game post in a little bit to get you caught on the Owls and their road game against Akron.

Kevin McGuire covers Penn State football for Examiner.com. Follow his Penn State coverage on Twitter @PSUExaminer.

Photo: Marvin Gentry-US Presswire

NFL Notes: LeSean McCoy doubtful for Bills; Matt Jones out for 'Skins

NFL Notes: LeSean McCoy doubtful for Bills; Matt Jones out for 'Skins

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills look to be short-handed on offense in a pivotal divisional matchup against the New England Patriots.

Bills running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring) is doubtful and not expected to play. Wide receiver Robert Woods (foot) is questionable, and receiver Marquise Goodwin (concussion) is out.

Buffalo (4-3) is home against New England (6-1) at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

McCoy has not practiced all week due to a hamstring injury. He originally injured the hamstring on Oct. 19, leading up to Buffalo's Week 6 game against Miami before suffering a setback against the Dolphins.

"Obviously, he never practiced so you can guys can figure that out," Bills coach Rex Ryan said.

McCoy has been the driving force on offense for the Bills this season. He is fourth in the league in rushing with 598 yards and six touchdowns.

Backup Mike Gillislee is expected to start in place of McCoy. Gillislee is questionable with a foot injury but expected to play. He's performed well with limited reps and had a 44-yard touchdown against San Francisco in Week 6.

Redskins: RB Matt Jones out
LONDON — Redskins running back Matt Jones says he will not play in Washington's game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium on Sunday because of a knee injury.

Jones, who has 99 carries for 460 yards and three touchdowns this season, says he has "a bruise and some cartilage damage" after getting hurt in the second quarter of the Redskins' 20-17 road loss to the Detroit Lions last Sunday.

He has not practiced at any point this week and was the only Redskins player who did not participate Friday at Twyford Ground in Acton.

With Jones out, the Redskins will turn to Chris Thompson, who ran for a career-high 73 yards against the Lions, and rookie Robert Kelly. They also signed Mack Brown off their practice squad, cutting safety Josh Evans.

Browns: Josh McCown to start vs. Jets
BEREA, Ohio — Josh McCown will start at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns against the New York Jets on Sunday.

The 14th-year pro has been sidelined since Sept. 18, when he broke his left collarbone in a home game against Baltimore. McCown began the season as the backup to Robert Griffin III before both injured their non-throwing shoulders.

McCown was medically cleared to play earlier in the week, and coach Hue Jackson formally chose him as the Sunday starter following the team's morning walkthrough.

The winless Browns have used six quarterbacks in their first seven games, including starters Griffin, McCown and rookie Cody Kessler.

Third-round pick Kessler suffered a concussion last week at Tennessee and remains in the NFL's head trauma protocol. He had been Cleveland's starter since Week 3 (see full story).

Broncos: No timetable for Anderson's return
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — C.J. Anderson tweeted early Friday that his knee surgery was a "super success" and he was in "great spirits" but he added there was still no timetable for his possible return to the Broncos lineup.

Anderson had surgery in California on Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

He got hurt Monday night on his second carry against Houston but returned to the game and ran 14 more times for 84 yards and a touchdown, finishing with 107 yards in his best performance of the season.

Rookie Devontae Booker will make his first start Sunday when the Broncos (5-2) play the Chargers (3-4), with Kapri Bibbs backing him up.

Rival Penguins may be what Flyers need to get off to fast start

Rival Penguins may be what Flyers need to get off to fast start

VOORHEES, N.J. — Saturday might be a good time for the slow-starting Flyers to meet their cross-state archnemesis.
The Pittsburgh Penguins often bring out the best in the Flyers.
They’re sitting atop the Metro Division with 11 points and their veteran leaders, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are having an impact.
“Stanley Cup champs, it’s going to be emotional,” Jakub Voracek understated. “Something has to change tomorrow. That team is very fast. If we’re gonna have a slow start, they’ll jump out 2-0 or 3-0 and it will be hard to come back. We can’t afford to do that tomorrow.”
The Flyers had been living off comebacks lately, but fell short against the Coyotes in Thursday's 5-4 loss.
Since 2014, the Flyers are 4-1-0 against the Penguins at Wells Fargo Center. That’s the good news. 
The bad news is the Flyers have given up 30 goals this season — tied for worst in the league — and they’re meeting an offensive machine.
“These are always intense games with a fun atmosphere and we’ve got to be ready for it,” said goalie Steve Mason, whose slot has been under siege with uncontested shots lately. “We don’t want to take them lightly and get off on the wrong foot like we did [against Arizona]. 
“We've got to take the play to them and not sit back and let them dictate things. They’re too good for that.”
Dave Hakstol said after the Flyers’ poor first-period performance against the Coyotes that it shouldn’t matter who they face next, they simply need to start faster. It’s been a problem most of this season and haunted them early last fall, as well.
“They’re a team that comes out hard and it’s as good a challenge as any for us,” Hakstol said. “After the loss in our building, it shouldn’t matter who we’re playing at the start of the hockey game.”
Interestingly, Mason said following that loss that the Flyers seem hellbent on trying to outscore their opponents without taking care of their defensive responsibilities. 
Given the influx of speed and some new offensive talent, perhaps the emphasis has switched to offense at the expense of defense.
Offensively, Claude Giroux (9 points) and Voracek (8) are among the top 10 in NHL scoring. Giroux leads the league in three areas: nine assists, six power play assists and six power play points.
Rookie Travis Konecny is tied for fifth with six assists. Wayne Simmonds’ four power play goals rank first with Matt Moulson (Buffalo). 
Lotta offense behind the Flyers' 28 goals scored.
“It’s a good question,” Voracek said. “It’s tough to say. It’s still early, but if you’re going to get scored on so many goals a game, you’re obviously doing something wrong. Might be the case. It’s hard to answer. 
“We have to make sure even if we have talented players offensively ... we have to be responsible defensively. In today’s hockey, everybody can play defense.” 
You never know which direction these games against Pittsburgh will go. They can be very physical and low-scoring. Or they can be wide-open, pond hockey with a goal fest. 
“Bluntly, last year, they played a fast, pressure-type game and I didn’t think we dealt very well with it,” Hakstol said. “That won’t be any different tomorrow. 
“They’ll play a fast, pressure-type game and we have to be ready to deal with it and take advantage of it. That will be a challenge for us.”
Defensive pairs
Hakstol changed his defensive pairs in practice. 
Brandon Manning worked with Radko Gudas; Ivan Provorov worked with Mark Streit; and Nick Schultz was with Shayne Gostisbehere.
Why the changes?
“They weren’t very good [against Arizona],” Hakstol replied. “It’s not all on the D-pairs, that’s for sure. There is some thought process behind ... switching the pairs. But ultimately, the goal is to have a more competitive group of six back there playing below the top of our circles.”
Andrew MacDonald, who had several turnovers/miscues this week, will sit against the Penguins.
Hakstol didn’t mince words when asked why he was reinserting Schultz into the lineup.
“Absolute, competitive, prideful defender,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
As for the lines, it would appear Nick Cousins will be scratched because he centered Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton in practice and both are injury-scratches right now.