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2007 Alamo Bowl - Penn State vs. Texas A&M
Penn State QB Anthony Morelli
Penn State QB Anthony Morelli
Posted Dec 20, 2007

2007 Valero Alamo Bowl Preview - Penn State vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M (7-5) vs. Penn State (8-4)

Dec. 29
, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

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2007 Alamo Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

National Rankings
Penn State Texas A&M
Total Offense
56th  399 ypg 54th  402.75 ypg
Total Defense
9th  306.58 ypg 83rd  416 ypg
Scoring Offense
44th  30.83 ppg 53rd  28.83 ppg
Scoring Defense
8th  17.58 ppg 55th  26.08 ppg
Run Offense
32nd  187.42 ypg 13th  215.58 ypg
Run Defense
6th  87.92 ypg 57th  151.83 ypg
Pass Offense
70th  211.58 ypg 98th  187.17 ypg
Pass Defense
46th  218.67 ypg 104th  264.17 ypg
Turnover Margin
47th  0.08 20th  0.67
Penn State
FIU W 59-0
Notre Dame W 31-10
Buffalo W 45-24
at Michigan L 14-9
at Illinois L 27-20
Iowa W 27-7
Wisconsin W 38-7
at Indiana W 36-31
Ohio State L 37-17
Purdue W 26-19
at Temple W 31-0
at Mich St
L 35-31
Texas A&M
Montana St W 38-7
Fresno St W 47-45 3OT
UL Monroe W 54-14
at Miami L 34-17
Baylor W 34-10
Okla State W 24-23
at Tex Tech L 35-7
at Nebraska W 36-14
Kansas L 19-11
at Oklahoma L 42-14
at Missouri L 40-26
Texas W 38-30
Position Ratings
relative to each other
P 5 highest
1 lowest
3 Quarterbacks 4
3.5 RBs 4
4 Receivers 2.5
3.5 O Line 4
4 D Line 3
5 Linebackers 3
4 Secondary 3
3.5 Spec Teams 3.5
4.5 Coaching 2

All Joe Paterno has done is coach 499 games while not even hinting at slowing down. All Gary Darnell has done is coach Western Michigan to a 46-46 record and serve as a high-level interim head man taking over at Florida in 1989 when Galen Hall got fired, and now, stepping in for a canned Dennis Franchione while Mike Sherman gets cozy in his new digs.

While Penn State has been great in bowl games with four wins in the last five and nine bowl wins in the last 12, Texas A&M has been a big fat dud losing six of its last seven including a horrible clunker against Cal in last year's Holiday Bowl. So while the coaching disparity might be enormous, and the difference in post-season histories might not be pretty, this should still be a decent game. Alamo Bowls usually are.

These might not be the two most scintillating teams around with strong running games and decent passing attacks that rely on the short to midrange throws more than bombing away, but it should be a tough, hard-nosed battle with each team trying to pound the ball down the other's throat. At least that's what each team would like to do.

The Alamo Bowl is always a respectable reward for Big Ten and Big 12 teams, but Penn State probably wanted more. With a New Year's Day game a distinct possibility, the Nittany Lions gave up 28 second half points and lost the season finale to Michigan State to ruin a shot for a 20th ten-win season under Paterno. There was only one moment of greatness this year, with a breathtakingly dominant performance in a 38-7 win over Wisconsin, but no surprise wins, losing to Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State, while beating all the teams they were supposed to. In other words, this was a good team that couldn't turn the corner to become great. Beating Texas A&M might not mean much to the overall view of the season, but a loss to a worse team with an unsettled coaching situation (at least for the bowl game) would be a bitter pill.

On the flip side, A&M has nothing to lose. It got the win it really wanted, beating Texas in the regular season finale, and no one's expecting a win over the Nittany Lions considering the all-around turmoil. A win wouldn't mean too much considering the program will start from scratch as soon as the game is over, but it would be a positive step for a team trying to cleanse itself and change the all-around attitude.

The Aggies had a strange season, needing three overtimes to beat Fresno State and getting whacked on national TV by a mediocre Miami team before diving into a brutal Big 12 schedule. Before the season, who knew Missouri was going to be a national title contender and Kansas was going to be special? Outside of a lousy performance in a 35-7 loss at Texas Tech, A&M, for the most part, didn't have a truly bad loss, but just being average in a 7-5 season isn't nearly good enough for Aggie fans desperate for their program to be among the elite.

This isn't just a chance for A&M to put an official end to the Franchione era, it's a chance for the Big 12 to make a huge statement. Since the Alamo became Big 12 vs. Big Ten, the Big Ten has gone 7-5, but the Big 12 has won three of the last four. Considering all of A&M's issues, Penn State needs to win and win big, so if the Big 12 can sneak out with a victory, it would go a long way to boosting the league's overall profile.

It's the night game on a big day of college football with Connecticut vs. Wake Forest in the Meineke Car Care Bowl early and UCF vs. Mississippi State in the Liberty in the afternoon. Can it live up to the marquee status? Probably not, each team will have something to prove and each should come up with a nice effort.

Players to watch: Both teams will work around their running games, but the quarterbacks are each going to have to make plays. Texas A&M junior Stephen McGee took on more of the workload as the season went on throwing 44 times in the loss to Kansas and 36 times for 362 yards and three scores in the win over Texas. While he might not push the ball deep, he's an accurate passer on the move and always keeps defenses honest with his legs rushing for 858 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 2,147 passing yards and 12 scores. Already an established leader for the attack, a win over Penn State would launch him into 2008 as one of the Big 12's best all-around offensive weapons.

On the other side, Penn State's Anthony Morelli will close out a slightly disappointing season and an underwhelming career, but if he steps up like he did against Tennessee in last season's Outback Bowl, when he came up with a strong 197-yard, one touchdown day leading the team to a win, he'll be remembered as a clutch bowl game performer. The former superstar recruit has a live arm and plenty of experience, but he failed to have a really, really big game this year against anyone with a pulse. He threw for 298 yards against Illinois, but his three picks contributed to the loss. He threw for 18 touchdown passes, but ten came against FIU, Buffalo and Temple and didn't throw a scoring pass in showdowns against Ohio State and Michigan.

If Penn State wins, it'll be because of the defense and linebackers Dan Connor and Sean Lee, who combined for 260 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, and ten sacks. These two make plays all over the field and should come up with at least 25 tackles against the A&M running game. Connor might not be Paul Posluszny, but he's a top playmaker inside and out doing a little bit of everything all season long. With 325 career tackles, 13 sacks and 16 broken up passes, he's seen it all and done it all. Next year, Lee will be the team's signature star with even more mobility than Connor and enough talent to be on everyone's All-America list.

Connor and Lee will meet up with the thunder and lightning tandem of Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson all game long. Goodson didn't crank out the home runs like he was supposed to and didn't score a rushing touchdown since early September, but he grow into a reliable receiver over the final few games with 11 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri and Texas. Meanwhile, Lane pounded his way to 746 yards and 16 rushing scores, but he was underutilized over the second half of the year only getting 12 carries against Kansas and Oklahoma. The Aggies will try to pound away with him early on to open things up on the outside for McGee and Goodson.

Texas A&M will win if... the Penn State pass rush is kept in check. McGee might be able to throw, and he might be good on the move, but the Aggie passing game struggles mightily when there's even a whiff of pressure. The A&M O line has been strong all season long in pass protection, but it hasn't faced a defensive front that gets into the backfield like Penn State does. Until McGee proves he can light up the Nittany Lion corners, the A&M front five will have to deal with Maurice Evans and an aggressive defensive front that'll pin its ears back and go. Everything will funnel into the linebacking corps, and if McGee isn't coming up with several good passes early, Penn State will get more and more bold in its pass rush.

Penn State will win if... it runs for 200 yards or more. Morelli isn't all that bad, but he's at his best when he doesn't have to carry the offense. This season, Penn State is 7-0 when it runs for 190 yards or more, and 1-4 when it runs for fewer with 101 against Michigan, 129 against Illinois, 139 against Ohio State and 167 against Michigan State. A&M has the biggest problems with good quarterbacks and passing teams that up the tempo, and while that's not necessarily Penn State's game, the receivers and pieces are in place to crank out bigger numbers if this gets into any sort of a shootout, even if it's just for a quarter or two.

What will happen: Bowl by numbers. Penn State will come up with a balanced attack, a solid defensive effort, and will win the battle of running games to win in a walk. A&M will be fired up and effective for a half, and then the Nittany Lion defense will take over with a few key stops, the offense will take advantage, and the game will be all but over early in the fourth quarter.

Line: Penn State -4.5 ... CFN Prediction:
Penn State 34 ... Texas A&M 20

2007 Alamo Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More


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