— FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Offensive linemen are usually the unsung heroes, the guys who only get talked about when they screw up.
Not at Alabama, where the second-ranked Crimson Tide's road to the BCS championship game has been paved by five talented 300-pounders, including two-time All-American and four-year starter Barrett Jones.
"This has a chance to be the best offensive line I've ever played on, and we've had some good ones over the past few years," Jones said.
No. 1 Notre Dame's offensive line doesn't have quite the star power or balance. The Fighting Irish don't hide the fact that they lean left — at least when it comes to running the football. Notre Dame has made a living running behind tackle Zack Martin and guard Chris Watt.
"We certainly use the left side of our offensive line I'd say at a ridiculous rate," Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. "I'm not giving away any secrets. They're not very good at what they do if they don't know some of the tendencies we have running the football. We typically like to go left. It's not by accident."
When the Irish and Crimson Tide meet Monday night in Miami, the BCS championship could very well be on the lines — the offensive lines to be specific.
That the smart and personable Jones has become the face of the Crimson Tide seems rather apropos. Alabama has reached the BCS championship game for the third time in four seasons with a power running game as its foundation. No spread offenses, read-options and up-tempo in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Jones, from Germantown, Tenn., played guard in 2009 when he was opening holes for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Last year he was Alabama's left tackle, helping Trent Richardson become a Heisman finalist. This season Jones moved to center and has been as good as ever. According to Alabama, he has missed only six assignments, playing 731 snaps. And Alabama has two 1,000-yard rushers in T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy.