The Alabama Crimson Tide will win their second consecutive BCS Championship and their third in four years for one simple reason: they are bigger and stronger where it counts.
The men who will win it for Alabama are not the guys who make the highlight reels, not the ones whose names get called for scoring touchdowns or making spectacular one-handed grabs. They aren’t even mentioned on the stat sheets.
They are center Barrett Jones — winner of the Remington Trophy — left offensive guard Chance Warmack, the “blind side” left tackle Cyrus Kouandijo, right guard Anthony Steen and right tackle D.J. Fluker. Individually, they are among the best at their position. Collectively they are arguably the best front five in the history of college football.
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco knows it. He called Alabama’s offensive line “the best line from tackle to tackle that we’ve seen this year.”
However, the Irish defensive line will be one of the best the Crimson Tide has faced. Nose tackle Louis Nix III will challenge Jones on every down, especially if Jones’ left foot is still bothering him at game time. The All American was still wearing a boot mid-week, although Jones insisted that he would be ready to play. Even at less than full strength, Jones is too fast and strong, even for a solid defender like Nix.
Notre Dame defensive ends Kapron Lewis-Moore and Stephon Tuitt have disrupted offenses all year, but rushing against Kouandijo and Fluker is like meeting tanks in an alley. Your options are limited.
Alabama won a dozen games this season because no one has been able to stop running backs, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. The reason no defense has stopped the run is because the Tide’s offensive line has dominated, opening huge holes for the duo.
Notre Dame’s best player and Heisman finalist Manti Te’o knows what he and his teammates face.
“They’re very big and they can move,” Te’o said of Alabama’s offensive line on Thursday. “They’re very physical and we understand that. Just watching them on film, they’re not out there to just shield you, they’re out there to drive you back and to try and make the biggest hole they can make. It’s going to be a great opportunity for our defense to go against such a great O-line.”
Once Alabama’s run game is established and Notre Dame’s linebackers inch forward to help, look for quarterback ‘Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron will pick on the young Irish cornerbacks, especially if he can find wide receiver Amari Cooper.
McCarron isn’t the best quarterback the Notre Dame defense has faced, nor is Cooper the most talented receiver. But both have the advantage of breaking the huddle with one of the best offensive lines in history. And that, in the end, makes them all better.
“This is an angry, aggressive, intense group of players that play hard and finish blocks,” Diaco said. “The offensive line is really the marquee position group of that pretty marquee offense.”
They aren’t the flashiest players, and most would laugh at being called “marquee,” but they are the ones that will make the difference … and they know it.
Championships are won in the trenches. They always have been. And in the trenches, nobody can hang with Alabama.