At the Center of Alabama Success

By Patrick Schmidt
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The AlabamaMichigan game is the main event for the opening weekend of college football and the defending champion Crimson Tide has the ultimate x-factor that will lead them to victory over the Wolverines.

The unsung hero is the Alabama offensive line led by center Barrett Jones, who is one of the best talents in college football and like Orlando Pace was at Ohio State could be a Heisman candidate from the offensive line.

Jones has lined up all along the line during his time in Tuscaloosa and moves over to center to open a spot for heralded recruit, Cyrus Kuondajo, who not only was the top tackle in his recruiting class but also was the #2 recruit in the nation according to ESPN.

The versatile Jones is great having won the Outland trophy last season given to the nation’s best interior lineman, but he may not even be the best future pro on his own team.  Chance Warmack is the nation’s best guard and DJ Fluker is the premiere right tackle prospect.

The line is so big, physical, and imposing running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson garnered accolades and broke school records in the last few years behind these road-graders.

Ingram won the first Heisman trophy in the school’s history in 2009 while establishing a school single season record with his 1,658 rushing yards en route to becoming a first round pick in the NFL.  Richardson broke Ingram’s rushing record with 1,679 yards and finished third in the Heisman, but he did become the school’s first running back to win the Doak Walker award.

Those backs are gone, but Eddy Lacy who led the SEC with 7.5 yards per carry in a backup role to Richardson in 2011.

I expect the offensive line to dominate the line of scrimmage Saturday night and maul the Michigan defensive line that lost three starters from last season’s team.  The offensive line does not get noticed unless they are called for a penalty, but pay attention to the men in the trenches on Saturday evening.

The offensive line has made stars out of running backs and yet the Crimson Tide knows who the true stars are on the team.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Wednesday mornings from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

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