Capital One Bowl: Why Alabama's Offensive Line Will Decide The Game

Trent CalvertCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2010

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 02:  Mark Ingram #22 and William Vlachos #73 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Florida Gators at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Alabama's offensive line came out flat in 2010 despite expectations of being a dominating unit. Heisman winner Mark Ingram, a runningback who rushed for 1,658 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry behind a good line in 2009, was often wrapped up with no rushing lanes in 2010 and has only gotten 816 yards with just one game left in the season.

QB Greg McElroy ended most pass plays on his back, and ended the regular season with a 4th quarter injury against Auburn.

These problems, of course, can be traced back to the offensive line, whose erratic play caused Tide fans much grief.

Left tackle James Carpenter is probably 'Bama's best offensive lineman, as Alabama usually had the most success running behind him.  

Left guard Chance Warmack has potential, but struggled at times in the brutal SEC. If offensive line coach Joe Pendry spends some one-on-one time with Warmack, he could develop into an all-SEC lineman.

Center William Vlachos does an excellent job at center, at both protecting McElroy and opening running lanes there is scarcely ever a bad snap from him. His downside is that he is "only" 6-foot-1 and 289 pounds, so it is tough for him to block 6-foot-4, 340 pound nose tackles.

Right Guard Barrett Jones has struggled with injuries sustained against Mississippi State, but should be back for the Capital One bowl. Jones is a dependable two-year starter.

Right Tackle D.J. Fluker, a much-hyped recruit, has shown his strength when shucking defensive linemen and linebacker to the ground, but also struggles with speed rushers. His transition to the position of starter has gone fairly well, though.

Overall, the offensive line has been inconsistent as a group and hurt Alabama a lot this year. Things are not too late, however.  Alabama now faces a Capital One bowl matchup against Michigan State, and for the Tide to win, the offensive line must put in a good game against the physical Spartans.

For a Tide win, the offensive line must be the cohesive, dominant unit it has been in games like Florida and Mississippi State, not the mess it was against LSU or South Carolina. After all, the offensive line is the backbone of the team, and Alabama will be sorely pressed to win the game with a broken back.