Alabama Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Florida Atlantic Owls

Ben Layman@@houtexmajorinCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2012

Alabama Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Florida Atlantic Owls

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    The Alabama Crimson Tide will look to continue their early season dominance in this week's game against the Florida Atlantic Owls in Tuscaloosa.

    Alabama is coming off of one the most impressive victories in college football this season after trouncing the Arkansas Razorbacks on the road. The Razorbacks had issues going into the game, and the Tide took full advantage.

    The Owls were blown out on the road by the Georgia Bulldogs last week, and they'll look to avoid a second straight week of being dominated by an SEC opponent.

    The Tide's confidence is sky-high at this point, and a home game against a Sun Belt Conference opponent could be just what the team needs to keep its season rolling.

    Here are five keys to this week's game.

Offensive Line Dominance

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    Alabama's offense is predicated on dominant play from the offensive line. This year's group might be the best line the program has fielded in quite some time, which is impressive considering the offensive line talent Alabama has produced over the years.

    Tackle's Cyrus Kouandjio and D.J. Fluker make up one of the best tackle bookend combinations in the SEC. Fluker is particularly stout in the run game, and Kouandjio has been consistent in protecting quarterback A.J. McCarron's blind side.

    Chance Warmack was particularly impressive in Alabama's win over Michigan, where the left guard was blowing the Wolverines' defensive line off the ball consistently. Center Barrett Jones' leadership and ability to identify defenses has been vital to this unit playing well together.

    Alabama can easily dominate Florida Atlantic in the trenches, and it's likely the first-team offensive line could be pulled at some point late in the game if the Tide dominate like they're expected to.

Distribute the Carries

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    The Crimson Tide will likely continue to distribute carries between their stable of backs. T.J. Yeldon has emerged as a home run hitter for the Tide, and with a clear speed advantage against the Sun Belt Conference's Owls, the elusive back could break off some highlight-reel runs in this game.

    Yeldon and Eddie Lacy each have 30 carries this year and have accounted for the majority of Alabama's rushing yards. Dee Hart contributes as a third runner in the rotation, and if Alabama gains a large lead, he'll be counted on as much more than just the third tailback.

    Kenyan Drake had an impressive showing in last week's victory over Arkansas, and there seems to be a push for him to receive more carries. With Jalston Fowler expected to be out for the season recovering from a knee injury, Drake could find himself seeing his biggest workload yet.

    The Tide will look to run the Owls out of Tuscaloosa, and their third and fourth running backs could be the biggest beneficiaries of this potential blowout victory.

Let the Defense Win the Game

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    Alabama boasts one of the best defenses in the SEC again, and the Florida Atlantic Owls could struggle to score at all in this weekend's game. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the Arkansas Razorbacks have each failed to score against the Tide in back-to-back weeks.

    The Tide didn't face a great offense in either of those games, and they'll have the good fortune of seeing a struggling Owls offense this week as well.

    There's exciting talent all over Alabama's defense. Nose guard Jesse Williams has emerged as one of the premier defensive linemen in the country, along with teammate Damion Square.

    Xzavier Dickson, Trey Depriest and Nico Johnson are growing together as a linebacking corps, and should play their best football now that they've had some games together.

    The young secondary hasn't shown any reason for early concerns regarding their inexperience, and more games against opponents like Florida Atlantic should help this group gain confidence.


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    It's easy for Alabama players to get excited about a game against Michigan or any other ranked opponent on the schedule.  It takes leadership from the team's veterans to make sure the underclassmen maintain focus and play just as hard against an unheralded Florida Atlantic team.

    The Crimson Tide have done an exceptional job under Nick Saban of dominating lower-level competition in games like this. Much of that success can be attributed to the leadership exhibited by Alabama's most important veterans.

    A.J. McCarron, Eddie Lacy, Michael Williams and Barrett Jones are all relied on for their leadership on the offense. Their leadership has been evident in all of Alabama's blowouts this year.

    Damion Square, Jesse Williams, Nico Johnson and Robert Lester will need to emerge as leaders of this defense, and a strong outing against the Owls will allow these seniors to jell with this defense even more after losing several players to the NFL.

Finish the Game Healthy

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    The Crimson Tide cannot afford to lose any of their key players to injury, especially in a game where their second team could probably carry the team to a win.

    The Tide saw how one injury can be devastating to an entire team last weekend when they dominated an Arkansas Razorbacks offense without their star quarterback, Tyler Wilson.

    It's important to win these games in dominating fashion for the sake of the BCS voting, but it's more important for Alabama to have its best players in tow when it faces SEC teams later on.

    The Tide will go on the road against the Missouri Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers in the next two weeks.  Alabama will face the LSU Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies down the road as well.  

    Being full strength against these SEC opponents who have waited all year to face the Tide will be vital.

    The Tide should be more concerned about nursing their roster through the easy part of the schedule right now. Nick Saban is one of the best in college football at doing this, as he won't hesitate to rest his first team on either side of the ball if necessary.