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Alabama Football: Who Said the Tide Doesn't Have an Offensive Line?

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 14:  AJ McCarron #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide calls a play during the third quarter during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on September 14, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Marc TorrenceAlabama Lead WriterOctober 2, 2016

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Well, I did actually. Sort of.

Alabama's offensive line was nowhere to be seen in Week 1 against Virginia Tech. Quarterback AJ McCarron was constantly under pressure, there were hardly any running lanes and there were major communication issues.

What a difference a week (or two) can make.

The Crimson Tide line held its own in a tough road environment as the UA offense exploded for 568 yards and six touchdowns. Alabama's offense did a complete 180 from its season-opening game, and a big reason for that was the offensive line.

The ability to control the line of scrimmage has been a staple of Nick Saban's Alabama teams, especially the ones that won championships.

In last year's SEC championship, when the Tide fell behind in the third quarter, they looked to their running game, almost completely abandoning the pass. The Bulldogs had no answer for T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy, and Alabama came out on top.

This time, it was AJ McCarron who dug Alabama out of its early hole. But once it was out, the Tide offense leaned on its running game to wear down the Texas A&M defensive front and take precious time off the clock for Johnny Manziel and the Aggie offense.

There were some drives where everyone in the stadium knew what was coming. Alabama frequently featured two- and three-tight end sets, often stacked to one side or the other.

Everyone in the stadium knew what was coming. But A&M still couldn't stop it.

"T.J. left, T.J. right, T.J. smash," left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said, according to George Schroeder of USA Today. "Just so everybody would understand that we are a good offensive line."

A solid offensive line has a trickle-down effect that was on full display at Kyle Field. McCarron had plenty of time to find his receivers, throwing four touchdowns to four different targets.

The running game was clicking, which allowed Alabama to slow the game down and work at its own pace.

But the area where it might have had the most effect was on Texas A&M's offense.

Manziel was rolling early, leading the Aggies on two scoring drives to open the game. He and wide receiver Mike Evans were seemingly unstoppable. After those two drives, the Alabama defense clamped down, as the offense reeled off 35 straight points and never looked back.

Once Alabama was able to take the lead, it took control on offense and kept Manziel off the field for long stretches of time. And when he did get back on the field, the Alabama defense was ready to go.

"They did a great job of helping us out. When they went back on the field, they milked the clock down and scored on almost every possession," senior linebacker C.J. Mosley said of the offense. "We caught our breath when we had to. When they went on the field, they did what they had to do and executed."

It bears mentioning that the Aggies' front seven is middle-of-the-SEC level at best, while the Virginia Tech front—mixed with Hokies' defensive coordinator Bud Foster's scheming—was superb.

Still, it was a great sign for Alabama fans to see the Crimson Tide control the line of scrimmage almost at will like they did Saturday. Alabama might have the best and deepest set of skill position players in the country.

And now it has the offense line to pave the way for them.

 

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