The Alabama Crimson Tide are on pace for their third straight BCS National Championship in 2013 as they have dominated this season on their way to an 11-0 record. Standing in their way towards a trip to Pasadena this January is a tough Iron Bowl matchup with the 10-1 Auburn Tigers this Saturday before they can qualify for the SEC title game. Making this weekend an even bigger challenge is an injury to starting center Ryan Kelly. How will his possible absence affect the Tide’s chances?
So much of the success of Alabama is predicated on their offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage. Kelly has been strong in the middle of the line all season long, leading the offensive line and getting the group into the right protections to keep AJ McCarron on his feet for the most part. Losing that captain of the offensive line could create some confusion in communicating the blocking schemes in the trenches this weekend.
According to Nick Saban, Kelly has a sprained knee that has limited him in practice this week leading up to the Iron Bowl after injuring it on Tuesday. Kelly missed three games earlier this season with a knee injury and Saban said this injury was similar to that one but not nearly as serious. The team will limit Kelly’s reps again in practice on Thursday to try and get him rested enough to play. His status for the game this weekend will be a game-time decision and will be decided by how well the knee has healed and how well Kelly is moving around on it.
If he is unable to go against Auburn, Chad Lindsay will step in at center. He started there during Alabama’s wins over the Arkansas Razorbacks, Kentucky Wildcats and FCS Georgia State when Kelly was out of the lineup and would likely be who Saban turns to again if Kelly is out again. Saban said that Lindsay did “a really good job” filling in for Kelly last time, but the Auburn defensive front would present a much bigger challenge for him this time around.
If Alabama struggles to get the running game going or protect McCarron in the passing game, their offense will find it difficult to get going on Saturday. Will the health of Ryan Kelly make an impact in the Tide’s run at another national title?