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Penn State still struggling in big games in loss to Bama

Penn State needed a great game against No. 3 Alabama.

Okay, maybe they didn’t “need it” need it; the No. 23 Nittany Lions can still win the Leaders Division in the Big Ten and play for a chance at a Rose Bowl berth. But, an early season test against the Tide was a great way to find out exactly how competitive Joe Paterno‘s team would be against elite opponents.

Turns out, not very competitive at all -- at least on offense.

Penn State coughed up three turnovers in a 27-11 trouncing by Alabama in which the Nittany Lions never found any offensive rhythm, were ineffective with both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, who was an astonishing (and not in a good way) 1-for-10, at quarterback and couldn’t capitalize on good field position.

The frustrating afternoon was also an indication of a nausea-inducing trend that Paterno’s teams have faced over the past decade. Since 2000, PSU is 3-11 vs. AP top-10 teams (dropping six of their past seven) and have lost their last eight against AP top-5 teams.

Not exactly the Penn State from days gone by. It’s not that PSU isn’t winning, they’re just not winning the big games. At least not on a regular basis.

Alabama’s defense deserves credit, though. The future NFL-rich Tide contested practically every pass, forced turnovers and kept both quarterbacks off balance. Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron and running back Trent Richardson, despite much better games than the ones they turned in against Kent State last week, weren’t relied upon to win the game.

Going through a rigorous SEC schedule, it’s nice to know Alabama can count on their defense to pull through if their offense turns in a performance like the one Penn State did today.

The very Penn State that may not beat another AP top-10 team for a while.