Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, May 20, 2013 at 5:47 PM
Building a winning college football or National Football League team is a complicated process that is both art and science, with a bit of wizardry thrown in and it does not hurt to also be blessed with a bit of good luck. Winning is not an accident; it is the end result of understanding what it takes to compete at the highest level of the game and to then be able to do it.
In the NFL, one can almost be certain New England will field an outstanding team every year and in the colleges it seems to always be home-run time at places such as Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Oregon. The bottom line is all teams try to build power-house winners but the reality is that few succeed.
In Part IV of this 10-part series to help readers build a winning betting platform for the coming season, we are going to discuss the second most important element that makes for a winning team - the oft forgotten real men who make up a squad's offensive linemen. Few teams will consistently win without a top-flight offensive line and none without one will ever win a championship.
There is some debate over which NFL team fielded the best offensive line ever but the voting seems to lean towards the Dallas Cowboys of 1992-96. The Cowboys won three of four Super Bowl championships in that time frame operating behind an offensive line made up of Mark Stepnowski, Nate Newton, Mark Tuinei, Erik Williams and Larry Allen who has a unit played in 30 Pro Bowls.
Needless to say, their record speaks volumes.
In the past season's BCS championship game between Alabama (13-1) and Notre Dame (11-1) the Crimson Tide's offensive line absolutely destroyed one of the best defenses in the country and rolled to a one-sided 42-14 win. Notre Dame came into the game giving up less than 100 rushing yards per game and an average of just 10.33 points per game.
It was a complete mismatch as Alabama went up 28-0 at the half, moved that number to 35-0 in the third period and in the process had 265 yards rushing and 264 passing. When the game was over, it was noted the offensive line had been so powerful and protective Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron had one single grass stain on the back of his jersey, one the right shoulder.
As we have noted in previous parts of this series (all archived on this website) Alabama came into that game with the first two requirements to win - more blue-chip talent and a much better quarterback than Notre Dame had. Now throw in one of the best offensive lines in football and the result was quite predictable.
For the record I released Alabama as a 100-unit play in that game, with complete confidence the Crimson Tide had everything it took to bury once-beaten Notre Dame and it all began with the blue-chip talent factor.
"Oft Forgotten" Is An Understatement
Whether Alabama's offensive line of last season was the best in history is a matter for discussion in the world of the hot stove, but it certain was a major factor as Alabama won its second straight and third national championship in the past four seasons. It is of note two members of that line were 1st-round NFL draft choices with guard Chance Warmack (6-2, 318) going to the Tennessee Titans as this 10th pick and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker (6-4, 340) going to the San Diego Padres as the 11th 1st-round pick.
Of course, you will never see players of this caliber even in the running for the Heisman Trophy that goes supposedly to the best player in the country. Neither will you see the names of the first two players taken in the draft among the Heisman candidates because no one pays any attention to them.
For the record the first player taken in the draft was offensive tackle Erik Fisher (6-7, 306) of Central Michigan, going to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the second pick was, yes, another offensive tackle - Luke Joeckel (6-6, 306) of Texas A&M, picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It also is of note five of the first 10 players and six of the first 11 players taken in the draft were from the world of the "oft-forgotten".
One could write a book on the importance of the offensive line and it is a tremendous mistake for any football bettor to overlook it. While we are just four lessons into getting ready to handicap the 2013 football season, we have already seen the power of (1) superior overall talent, (2) the need for a top-flight quarterback and (3) the need for a top-flight offensive line.
While it is easy for handicappers to determine the quality of talent and the standing of each college quarterback, finding the best offensive lines is a bit more difficult and will require some digging. I suggest your best source is to visit each school's football website and grade the 1-2-3 offensive line spots on the depth chart.
Here is what I am looking for in an offensive line - one that can win for me:
I want an experienced offensive line from tackle to tackle and it will usually be made up of juniors and seniors.
I especially want a top-flight center and an outstanding blind-side tackle.
I want a big offensive line that hopefully averages better than 295 pounds from tackle to tackle.
I want an aggressive offensive line that is quick and fast firing off.
I want an offensive line that has a record of protecting its quarterback. (see the NCAA statistical categories of number of sacks allowed, average number of plays for losses, and its team's offensive rushing average per carry.
Obviously determining the above will require some work but it will be worth it. Just keep in mind this 10-part series is just getting started and we already know talent, play at the quarterback position and the effectiveness of the offense line is already as much as we need to win. It is now on to the cover, whether it is -7 or -35.
In the next part, due in two days, I will discuss the element of game-breaking players.