Alabama Crimson Tide: SEC championship game

Trenches will decide SEC title game

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Games in the SEC are often decided up the middle -- in the trenches, over the center and into the heart of it all.

Saturday's matchup between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia likely will be no different, as the Crimson Tide's offensive line, arguably the best in the country, battles with the Bulldogs defensive front that is equal parts size and skill.

[+] EnlargeJenkins
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesBlocking John Jenkins will be a key for Alabama getting its running game going.
Alabama center Barrett Jones has gone through four seasons of SEC battles. He has gone head-to-head with the best from LSU, Arkansas and Florida. But the biggest challenge he has ever faced might have come from a former teammate during practice. Terrence Cody, the former Alabama nose guard with the apt nickname of Mount Cody, was terror on centers and guards in his two seasons in Tuscaloosa.

This weekend Jones will face a nose guard similar to the former 6-foot-5, 365-pound All-American. He might not be a mountain, but John Jenkins is surely a load. The 6-foot-3, 351-pound senior has helped Georgia to a top-25 defense.

"He's hard to block," UA coach Nick Saban explained. "Any time you play an odd defense, a 3-4 defense and can't block the nose guard, makes it hard to run a lot of plays. He reminds me a lot of Cody when we had him here."

Jones doesn't compare well to anyone in Alabama's past, perhaps because he has played so many positions. But nevertheless, Georgia coach Mark Richt is aware of the defending Outland Trophy winner's presence at center.

"He's a fantastic player, obviously," Richt said of Jones. "You know, very versatile. All of a sudden he's playing center when he was playing some tackle in the past. To have a guy like that, a senior leader, up front, right where you need him, right down the middle, is huge.

"No doubt, he's got the ability to block a big man like [Jenkins] because he's a big man himself. A lot of centers aren't quite as big as he is. I think it's going to be an advantage for him to have a better chance to man up against a big nose guard like that."

But Jones is defined by more than his size, said Saban.

"He's an extremely smart player," Saban explained. "This is his first year playing center, but he's done a really good job for us. His efficiency as a blocker, whoever he's had to block, has been really good for us this year."

The Jones-Jenkins matchup is the focus, but the entire line is filled with intrigue. When Jenkins goes out, he is spelled by another 350-plus pound nose guard -- Kwame Gaethers.

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