2007 Alamo Bowl Preview
by Josh Nagel
Penn State (8-4) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)
Conference Matchup: Big Ten vs. Big 12
Date: Dec. 29
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Spread: Penn State -5.5
College football fans might remember this Alamo Bowl because of the contrast in stability each team brings into the game. The Penn State Nitanny Lions will be playing in their 500th game since Joe Paterno became their coach more than 40 years ago, while the Aggies will be playing their first under appointed interim Gary Darnell after Dennis Franchione resigned the day after Thanksgiving. The difference in loyalty is considerable, too. Paterno has spent the whole season telling anyone who would listen that his quarterback, Anthony Morelli, was never given his just due as a college player and that he deserved more national recognition. You wonder if Paterno simply was trying to convince himself of this because, in reality, Morelli has been erratic and mistake-prone and has cost the Lions at least as many games as he has won for them in his career. Even so, the coach's gesture was sincere and certainly had to boost the morale of Morelli and his teammates. Then you have Franchione, who was Bobby Petrino before Bobby Petrino existed, jumping around from TCU to Alabama and eventually A&M, always angling for that next job and figuring the grass and money was greener somewhere else. Well, his postgame resignation after the 38-30 upset of Texas was necessary because he was about to be fired anyway, and Franchione had to get a jump start on finding his new job. But what shame and a sad moment for his dedicated players when, seconds after the clock wound down on the program's biggest win in recent memory, the coach was asked by an interviewer how much the players and the program meant to him. He paused and paused and … paused … with his mouth wide open, and staring at the interviewer as if she had just ask him to explain quantum physics to the national audience. After about 10 agonizing and painful seconds - in which coach Fran found nothing to say - the sideline reporter uttered, "Thanks, coach," and the network mercifully turned off the camera. No matter what Franchione thought of his treatment by the school, his kids deserved a "thank you" in that moment. Fran, of course, had himself to think about. At least the Aggies were rewarded for their win by getting the Alamo invitation.
Penn State can cover if: the Lions can get past the fact they expected a lot more out of this season. The Lions were a trendy Rose Bowl pick, but road losses to Michigan and Illinois derailed those hopes, and a 35-31 loss to Michigan State on the last game of the season does not give them any sort of momentum heading into this game. If they take the game seriously and play to their potential, they have a clear edge in talent over the Aggies. The aforementioned Morelli will have to avoid the huge mistakes that have plagued his career - game-changing gaffes, such as interceptions returned for touchdowns - and the Lions will have to shut down the Aggies' option offense. Morelli finished with solid numbers, throwing for 2,508 yards and 18 touchdowns against nine picks. A solid running game is led by Rodney Kinlaw's 1,186 yards and 10 TDs. If the lions can control the line of scrimmage and perhaps build an early lead, it could be a long day for Texas A&M, which would prefer to not have to throw the ball to win.
Texas A&M can cover if: the Aggies can get past the snubbing from former coach Franchione and play the way they did against Texas. Those who saw the Aggies play throughout the season, and their fans in particular, had to be wondering, "Where has that been all season?" after watching the Aggies shred the Texas defense with powerful runs, creative play calling and precise execution. It seemed like they were scoring on every other play; in the second half, they basically were. But this is the same squad that looked as if even getting a first down was a minor miracle in terrible losses to Texas Tech and Kansas. They seemed predictable, disorganized and lacking playmakers. But if they play with the same sort of fire as they did in the win over Texas, and perhaps a chip on their shoulders for redemption from an otherwise disappointing season, then they have a good chance to win this game. Quarterback Stephen McGee leads the option attack with 2,147 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, and also is their leading rusher with 858 yards and five scores. Jovorskie Lane and Mike Goodson have combined for almost 1,400 more rushing yards.
General Notes: Penn State is 4-0 ATS in last four games against the Big 12 and 5-1 ATS in its last six non-conference games. The Aggies are 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl games.
Re: Alamo Bowl
Texas A&M's bowl preparation goes on through turnover at top
December 26, 2007
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -First, there was the sting and shock of Dennis Franchione's resignation. Then, the uncomfortable acceptance of Mike Sherman as his replacement.
Somewhere in between, Texas A&M had to start preparing for a bowl game.
The Aggies (7-5) play Penn State (8-4) in the Alamo Bowl on Saturday, the last go-round for Franchione's staff - not to mention his first recruiting class - before Sherman assumes control of the program next week.
``You never want to have to go through something like that, but when you do, you've got to be able to accept that and know you can't control all that that goes on outside,'' said junior quarterback Stephen McGee, a staunch Franchione supporter through mounting losses and the embarrassing revelation of a secret newsletter sent to boosters who paid for information unavailable to the public.
Defensive coordinator Gary Darnell was named interim coach on Nov. 24, the day after Franchione resigned. Sherman was hired as Franchione's replacement Nov. 26, but has remained offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, who finish their NFL season on Sunday.
Darnell, a former head coach at Tennessee Tech and Western Michigan, tried to keep things as familiar as possible, and that gave the players a comfort level during the awkward transition.
``He's done a real good job of keeping us fresh and the situation with Coach Fran we knew that he had,'' running back Jorvorskie Lane said. ``We know in our minds that Coach Fran's not there. We know he's missing, but practice hasn't changed. It's just football.''
On the surface, Franchione and Darnell would seem to have totally different approaches.
During games, Franchione was always reserved and businesslike, studying a laminated chart of plays most of the time. Darnell was often one of the most animated assistants on the sideline, wildly waving his arms and yelling at players as they ran off the field.
Franchione always chose his words carefully with reporters, giving mostly bland answers and never raising his voice. Darnell is always quick with a quip, delivering it with a folksy drawl that's part Arkansas, part Oklahoma.
It's a different voice the Aggies hear, but the plays and the system are the same.
``For me to say it's not weird (without Franchione), I would be lying to you because he's been the head coach for so long,'' senior offensive guard Kirk Elder said. ``Nowadays in college football, you spend more time with your coaches than you do with your mom and your dad and your family. But we haven't lost a step. We're still who we are, we're still going on. Since we've gotten back into it, it's been real good.''
After the Alamo Bowl, the program belongs to Sherman, who's unlikely to retain many of Franchione's assistants. He's already hired Tim Cassidy as associate athletic director for football. Cassidy was A&M's recruiting coordinator from 1989-2004.
Like Franchione's absence, the unknown future of A&M's coaches is an unavoidable topic no one wants to discuss. But Darnell said the uncertainty has motivated the coaches to finish their tenures with a victory.
``It's unique how positive it is, because we come to work every day and our job is to maintain this program until the next guy gets here,'' Darnell said.
Darnell likened the staff's situation to a changing of the guard at a military base - appropriate, given A&M's tradition.
``It happens every day, base commanders turn over every day, but it's seamless transitions, because everyone is responsible, everyone is capable, and everyone understands the lines of communications,'' Darnell said. ``This is a perfect example. And then we'll finish, and the next guy's going to come in here and have his go at it, and it'll be his watch.''
Darnell isn't worried about any of the assistants finding other jobs. He just wants to do this one right.
``The easiest way to find a job is play well, do a good job coaching,'' he said. ``And plus, these aren't rookies. These guys, they're connected and they're known in our profession as extremely good coaches.''
Re: Alamo Bowl
Baker, Bowman among five Penn State players to miss upcoming Alamo Bowl
SAN ANTONIO -- Two Penn State players charged with assault in connection with a campus fight will miss the Alamo Bowl.
Saturday's game against Texas A&M will be the second straight for the Nittany Lions without starting defensive tackle Chris Baker and backup linebacker Navorro Bowman, who also missed the regular-season finale Nov. 17 against Michigan State.
They are two of five Penn State defensive players who did not travel to San Antonio.
Baker and Bowman are scheduled to stand trial this spring on misdemeanor charges after police said they beat up a man at a fraternity party Oct. 7 at the campus student union. A judge earlier dismissed felony assault charges against them, but prosecutors refiled those counts last week.
Backup cornerback and special teams ace Knowledge Timmons will also miss his second consecutive game. Timmons faces misdemeanor charges in an incident directly after the fight.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno said two weeks ago that the three would travel to Texas, but a school official said Wednesday they did not make the trip. Offensive coordinator Galen Hall declined comment at a news conference at the Alamodome on Wednesday, referring questions to Paterno.
Also not making the trip was backup cornerback Willie Harriott, who was charged with driving drunk on Nov. 11. Harriott had also been suspended by Paterno a few games earlier this season after university police cited him on a count of underage drinking.
Backup defensive tackle Tom McEowen also did not make the trip for undisclosed reasons.
Re: Alamo Bowl
PENN STATE vs. TEXAS A&M (Alamo)...Rematch of ‘99 Alamo Bowl won by Shades 24-0. Shades just 2-9 vs. line last 11 away from home, and one of those covers was at Temple this season. Shades just 3-7 last 10 vs. line in ‘06. Ags 8-4-1 vs. line last 13 as dog. Tech edge-A&M, based on Shades road woes.
Re: Alamo Bowl
Alamo Bowl: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Texas A&M Aggies
- Texas A&M limped to the finish in the Big 12 and get another tough challenge from Joe Paterno's Penn State Nittany Lions. Fans at Alamodome should witness a good one December 29 at the Alamo Bowl.
Oddsmakers currently have the Nittany Lions listed as 5½-point favorites versus the Aggies, while the game's total has not yet been posted.
The Nittany Lions were upset 35-31 by the Michigan State Spartans last time out. The Nittany Lions were favored by 2.5 points in that contest, while the combined 66 points sailed OVER the posted total of 51.
Rodney Kinlaw carried the ball 28 times for 125 yards with two touchdowns in a losing effort.
Texas A&M were up 38-17 in the fourth quarter last time out, and had to withstand a late Texas rally to win 38-30 as 7-point home underdogs. The 68 points scored were OVER the posted total of 60.
Stephen McGee was 24-for-35 for 364 yards, three touchdowns and two picks, while Earvin Taylor caught seven passes for 113 yards and a score for the Aggies.
Penn State: 8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS
Texas A&M: 7-5 SU, 5-6 ATS
Penn State most recently:
When playing in December are 1-1
When playing on turf are 4-6
After being outgained are 7-3
When playing outside the conference are 9-1
Texas A&M most recently:
When playing in December are 3-5
When playing on turf are 5-5
After outgaining opponent are 5-5
When playing outside the conference are 8-2
A few trends to consider:
Penn State is 11-4 SU in its last 15 games
Penn State is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games
Texas A&M is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games
Re: Alamo Bowl
What bettors need to know: Penn State vs. Texas A&M
Texas A&M is attracting late action, which has driven the spread down to 4½ points this week. It sat a point higher for the bulk of December.
The total for Saturday’s final bowl game kickoff was similarly static, staying at 51½ points through most of the month before jumping to 52 points late this week.
Who calls the shots at A&M?
Former Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione resigned after the regular season and Mike Sherman is bound to his NFL duties through the winter. That leaves the Aggies in defensive coordinator Gary Darnell’s hands for Saturday night’s Alamo Bowl.
But there is speculation that offensive coordinator Les Koenning was the reason A&M upset the Texas Longhorns in the season finale. Franchione, who usually filtered Koenning’s offensive play calls to suit his own tastes, is rumored to have let Koenning’s calls stand in his final day as head coach.
The Aggies compiled 38 points and 533 yards of total offense against the Horns. Optimistic A&M backers hope for more unfiltered Koenning calls against PSU as Darnell concentrates on defense.
"I haven't been down there (to the offensive end of the field)," Darnell told reporters about A&M’s recent practices. "I thought just for kicks I'd go down there today, but I was afraid they'd run me off."
Koenning denied the play calling innuendo this week, saying that Franchione conducted business as usual against Texas. More than one Longhorns fan Web site also says that A&M’s offensive outburst was less creative than it looked and that the Aggies simply mimicked the schemes to which the Horns had been vulnerable in previous weeks.
Few of the Aggies’ current assistant coaches expect to be part of Sherman’s regime next year, though Darnell is on contract at A&M through 2008.
Calling the shots at PSU? There’s no question
The Alamo Bowl will mark Joe Paterno’s 500th game as Penn State’s head coach.
Paterno has guided the Nittany Lions through 33 bowl games, compiling a 22-10-1 record. That includes a 24-0 win over Texas A&M during the 1999 Alamo Bowl.
More recently, Paterno led PSU to wins over Florida State at the Orange Bowl two years ago and Tennessee at last year’s Outback Bowl. The Nits failed to cover the spread against FSU, needing a field goal in triple-overtime to win as 10-point favorites. They easily covered the number as a 4-point underdog against the Vols last year.
Attractive matchups, ugly results
Though Texas A&M has a handful of four-year starters, none have experienced bowl game success.
The Aggies were a ranked team at the conclusion of two of the last three regular seasons. They were paired with other ranked schools for bowl appearances in both campaigns, but may as well have stayed home.
No. 22 A&M was a 4 ½-point favorite over No. 15 Tennessee for the 2005 Cotton Bowl, but lost to the Vols 38-7. The No. 21 Aggies were 3-point underdogs to No. 20 California at last year’s Holiday Bowl and lost 45-10.
Lions’ roar is silenced against quality competition
Penn State was the consensus No. 2 team in the Big Ten last summer, but ended up in a tie for fifth place.
The Nittany Lions’ inconsistency against decent opposition was a downfall for bettors. PSU went 3-4 against its seven bowl-bound foes this year and covered the spread just once during that span.
Quarterback Anthony Morelli typified the Nits’ season. His quarterback rating topped 150.0 against Florida International, Buffalo and Temple. Morelli’s rating topped out at 134.3 against all other teams, and was only 114.4 in Big Ten play.
Identifying the keys
Quarterback Stephen McGee, who led the Aggies in rushing this season, threw for 362 yards in the upset over Texas. But Penn State defenders have identified tight end Martellus Bennett and tailback Jorvorskie Lane as Saturday night’s top targets.
"Bennett is one of the best tight ends that we've seen," safety Anthony Scirrotto told Central Pennsylvania’s Patriot-News. "Physically, he's a big guy that can run. He's an athlete. He's played basketball, I've heard. He's the go-to guy for the quarterback.
Bennett has 83 catches for 1,038 yards and seven touchdowns over the past two seasons, operating in a run-first offense.
"They're a little different group to prepare for because of the offense they run," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley told the Patriot-News. "They spread you out. They also have that big, uh, I don't know what that guy [Lane] is. They list him as a tailback. Good God, they list him at 268 and he looks like he's 300 to me.
"He's probably the best short-yardage back in America."
Lane has 44 rushing touchdowns in his three seasons with the Aggies.
Both schools posted equal amounts of over and under games this season.
Penn State games involved an average of 48.4 points per game this season, while Texas A&M games averaged 54.9 points per game (52.6 by discounting overtime points).
Both the Nits and Aggies closed their seasons with shootouts. Penn State lost a 35-31 affair at Michigan State, while A&M outlasted Texas 38-30.
Re: Alamo Bowl
Game Preview for Penn State vs Texas A&M
GAME NOTES: Recent College Football Hall of Fame inductee Joe Paterno will lead his Penn State Nittany Lions against the Texas Aamp;M Aggies in the 15th Valero Alamo Bowl this Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Paterno will be coaching in his 500th matchup for the Nittany Lions. This season started with much promise for Penn State, as the squad reeled off three consecutive wins. However, the quick start was instantly diminished with back-to-back road losses to Michigan (14-9) and Illinois (27-20). With a promising season suddenly in jeopardy, the Lions roared past Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana, pushing their record to 6-2. Penn State closed out its season with back-to-back wins over Purdue and Temple sandwiched in between setbacks to Ohio State and Michigan State. The Lions have a rich history in postseason play. In fact, Penn State has 25 postseason victories, which is third most in the nation. PSU has also had success against the Big 12 over the years, posting a 21-13 mark against teams from that conference, along with a 6-2 ledger against Big 12 schools in bowl matchups. As for the Aggies, they will have to rely on defensive coordinator Gary Darnell, who will be the interim coach in this matchup before stepping aside for Mike Sherman, who will leave the NFL to return to the college ranks. Darnell landed the job when former Aggies head man Dennis Franchione stepped down after a rocky five-year tenure at the helm. However, before leaving, coach Fran led the Aggies to a 7-5 mark on the season. Texas Aamp;M began the year with five wins in its first six games, with the lone setback coming on the road against Miami-Florida. However, after the fast start the Aggies lost their steam, losing four of their next five, including three straight against Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Fortunately for the Aggie faithful, their beloved team was able to grab a 38-30 victory over rival Texas to close out the season and secure a spot in its third Alamo Bowl. This will be the fourth meeting between the Nittany Lions and the Aggies on the gridiron. PSU currently holds a slim 2-1 edge, and that includes a 24-0 victory over the Aggies in the 1999 Alamo Bowl.
The Nittany Lions depend on the success of their ground game, which averaged 187.4 ypg on the year. Austin Scott began the season as the main tailback for PSU, but off-the-field issues left his career as a Lion uncertain, along with the running back position. However, Paterno inserted Rodney Kinlaw into the lineup and the team didn't miss a beat, as the running back rumbled for 1,186 yards and 10 touchdowns behind 5.3 ypc. The passing attack was led by Anthony Morelli, whose play seemed to suffer through a Jekyll-and-Hyde complex. At times during the season, Morelli played like an All-American while at others the signal caller played like he was completely overwhelmed. By season's end, Morelli finished with just 2,508 yards and 18 touchdowns against nine interceptions. If Morelli can find a way to put forth a consistent effort in this matchup he will have the luxury of connecting with a trio of dangerous receivers. Derrick Williams was the main target on the season for Morelli, as the talented wideout grabbed a team-best 50 balls for 490 yards and three scores. Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood have the speed to stretch the defense, and when given a chance this year the two did just that, as Butler averaged 13.3 ypc and Norwood 12.1 ypc. Combined, the two receivers finished with 83 catches for 1,058 yards and eight touchdowns.
Tough defensive play is a staple for the Nittany Lions, and this year was no different as the squad did a solid job once again, limiting teams to just 17.6 ppg and only 306.6 total ypg. The main success for this unit has been against the run, as the Lions have held the opposition to just 87.9 ypg, on a mere 2.6 ypc. However, the team has been susceptible against the pass, allowing 218.7 ypg through the air and out of the 21 touchdowns surrendered, 14 have come via the pass. The team forced 25 turnovers on the season, but even more impressive was the Nittany Lions' ability to pressure the quarterback, as the squad racked up 45 sacks, which was second best in the nation at the end of the regular season. Linebacker Dan Connor was the main player for this unit, and he paced the team with 136 tackles, which included 14 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. After living in the shadow of former standout Paul Posluszny, Connor finally received recognition by being named a First Team All-American.
Throughout the season, the Aggies used a tremendous ground attack, which abused opponents for 215.6 ypg (12th best in the nation). Surprisingly, the main back has been the quarterback, as Stephen McGee rushed for 858 yards and five scores. Jorvorskie Lane added 746 yards and did a tremendous job finding the end zone, as the sophomore scored 16 touchdowns on the year. Mike Goodson is also a threat to cause mayhem out of the backfield, as the tailback rumbled for 646 yards behind 4.6 ypc. While McGee did a solid job on the ground, the signal caller was less than impressive with his arm, throwing for just 2,147 yards. On the year, the junior completed 57.7 percent of his throws, but tossed just 12 touchdowns against seven interceptions. One thing the Aggies do not possess is a go-to receiver, which could be the reason for McGee's mediocre numbers. The main threat for Aamp;M is Martellus Bennett, but he has hauled in just 45 balls for 541 yards and four touchdowns.
What has hampered the Aggies all year has been the inconsistent play from the defensive unit, which allowed 416.0 total ypg and 26.1 ppg. Texas Aamp;M had trouble against the run, surrendering 151.8 ypg, but the main issue was against the pass, as teams averaged a whopping 264.2 ypg through the air. Opposing offensive units have found the end zone on the ground and through the air this season against Aamp;M, scoring 18 times by way of the run and 21 times via the pass. The Aggies have also found it extremely difficult to make big plays, and in 12 contests the team recorded 22 turnovers and collected just 18 sacks. Third down has been another sore spot for this unit, as the Aggies are allowing teams to convert 47 percent of their chances. There is not one standout on this defense, but linebacker Mark Dodge is a tough player, and should be considered the team's best defensive performer after leading the squad with 108 tackles this year.
Both the Lions and Aggies have similar offensive game plans, which is predicated on effective use of the ground game. However, where these two teams differ is on the defensive side of the ball, as Penn State is leaps and bounds better than Aamp;M in that department, and ultimately that should be the difference.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 31, Texas Aamp;M 13
Re: Alamo Bowl
ALAMO BOWL (at San Antonio)
Penn State (8-4, 5-7 ATS) vs. Texas A&M (7-5, 5-6 ATS)
Legendary coach Joe Paterno leads Penn State into a bowl game for the 34th time, and he’ll take on a Texas A&M program in a state of flux following the forced resignation of former coach Dennis Franchione.
The Nittany Lions ended the regular season with a back-and-forth 35-31 loss at Michigan State as a 2½-point road chalk, snapping a 5-1 SU run. Penn State struggled against the number down the stretch, going 3-7 ATS in its last 10, including 1-4 ATS in the last five.
Texas A&M, which began the season ranked in the Top 25, capped an extremely disappointing campaign with a 38-30 upset victory over archrival Texas as a seven-point home underdog. That win snapped a three-game losing skid, but wasn’t enough to save Franchione’s job. Mike Sherman, former head coach of the NFL’s Packers, has been hired to take over the program, but defensive coordinator Gary Darnell will be the acting head coach for this game.
Paterno has a 22-10-1 bowl record (20-9-1 ATS), including a 24-0 shutout win over Texas A&M in the Lions’ only other Alamo Bowl appearance in 1999. Last year, Penn State beat Tennessee 20-10 as a 4½-point underdog in the Outback Bowl.
Texas A&M got smoked in its last two bowl games, losing 45-10 to Cal as a four-point underdog in last year’s Holiday Bowl and falling 38-7 to Tennessee as a 3½-point chalk in the 2004 Cotton Bowl. The Aggies are 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl contests and they’re 2-1 all-time in the Alamo Bowl (1-2 ATS).
Both teams struggled on the highway this year. Penn State went 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS, while Texas A&M was 1-4 SU and 2-3 ATS.
Penn State is on positive ATS runs of 4-0 against the Big 12 and 5-1 in all non-conference games. However, the Nittany Lions have failed to cash in five straight games on artificial turf over the last two years. Conversely, A&M is 5-3 ATS on turf during this stretch.
Both teams put up similar offensive stats, with Penn State going for 30.8 points and 399 yards per game (187.4 rushing ypg), compared with 28.8 points and 402.8 yards per outing for the Aggies (215.6 rushing ypg). However, the Nittany Lions scored at least 26 points in six of their final seven contests, while A&M tallied 17 points or less four times in its last nine games.
Penn State has a huge edge defensively, giving up just 17.6 points and 306.6 yards per contest (88 rushing ypg), while the Aggies give up 26 points and 416 total yards (152 rushing ypg). Over its final three regular-season contests, A&M got torched for 42, 40 and 30 points.
For Texas A&M, the under is on runs of 5-2-1 overall and 19-9-2 as an underdog. For Penn State, the under is on streaks of 23-11 in non-conference games, 4-1 in bowl games and 4-0 versus the Big 12.
ATS ADVANTAGE: PENN STATE and UNDER
Re: Alamo Bowl
Alamo Bowl Preview
By Brad Young
Penn State (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Texas A&M (7-5 SU, 5-6 ATS)
How they got here
Penn State fell out of the Big Ten title race early with back-to-back losses at Michigan (14-9) and at Illinois (27-20). The Nittany Lions proceeded to win five of their next six outings before dropping their last outing against Michigan State as a 2 ½-point road favorite, 35-31. The combined 66 points eclipsed the 50 ½-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 3-1 the past four games with a total attached.
Coach Joe Paterno’s squad struggled to a 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS road record, while the ‘over’ went 3-1. Penn State’s biggest road victory of the year occurred against Indiana as a seven-point ‘chalk,’ 36-31. The Nittany Lions are just 1-4 ATS their previous five games overall.
Texas A&M struggled midway through the season by going 1-4 SU and 2-3 ATS during a miserable five-game stretch. However, the Aggies righted the ship just in time to topple bitter-rival Texas in the regular-season finale as a seven-point home underdog, 38-30. The combined 68 points eclipsed the 60-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ cash the second game in a row after experiencing six consecutive ‘under’ outings.
Texas A&M also struggled in its road outings this year with a 1-4 SU and 2-3 ATS ledger. The Aggies lone road win occurred against the Nebraska Cornhuskers as a two-point underdog, 36-14. The combined 50 points in that contest went ‘under’ the 59 ½-point closing total. Texas A&M figures to have a homefield advantage for this contest due to the proximity of the game to its campus.
What to expect
There will not be another game with a bigger contrast in coaches than Saturday’s Alamo Bowl. Paterno will be coaching his 500th game with Penn State, while Texas A&M will be led by interim head coach Gary Darnell. He is filling in for Dennis Franchione who resigned from his post Nov. 23, and keeping the seat warm for incoming Mike Sherman. It is widely speculated that Sherman will clean house with the coaching staff and bring in his own crew.
Both teams also ended the regular season differently, with Penn State falling to Michigan State while Texas A&M upset rival Texas. The Nittany Lions were leading the Spartans 24-7 in the second half before falling apart.
Penn State ranked 46th in the country in points scored (30.8), and 58th in total yards (409.9). The Nittany Lions will have to run the ball effectively in order to prevail, since senior quarterback Anthony Morelli led the nation’s 76th-ranked passing offense with just 222.5 yards per contest.
Texas A&M is even more inept throwing the ball, ranking 101st in the country by averaging only 196.3 yards a game. Quarterback Stephen McGee led the team by gaining 858 yards on the ground while averaging five yards per carry. Bruising running back Jorvorskie Lane racked up 746 yards on 159 carries along with 16 touchdowns.
Whichever team runs the ball more effectively will win the Alamo Bowl. Penn State has more offensive balance, while Texas A&M is the better running team with more options.
Players to Watch
The Penn State offense revolves around running back Rodney Kinlaw, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry for 1,186 yards this season with 10 touchdowns. His exploits helped the Nittany Lions rushing attack rank 33rd in the nation with an average of 187.4 yards per contest.
Texas A&M is also a running team, but has a more two-headed attack. Quarterback Stephen McGee leads the way for the Aggies, but also completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 2,147 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Penn State is making its third consecutive bowl appearance after upending Florida State in three overtimes against Florida State in the 2005 Orange Bowl, 26-23. The Nittany Lions doubled-up Tennessee in last year’s Outback Bowl, 20-10. Penn State didn’t make the postseason during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
Texas A&M is searching for its first bowl victory since 2001 after beating Texas Christian in the now-defunct Galleryfurniture.com Bowl, 28-9. The Aggies fell to Tennessee in the 2004 Cotton Bowl, 38-7, and to California in the 2006 Holiday Bowl, 45-10.
Inside the Line
Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Penn State as a four-point ‘chalk’ over Texas A&M, with the total set at 53. The line has since moved to 5 ½, with the total dropping down to 51½. ESPN will provide coverage of the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET.