Top 5 teams at line of scrimmage

Alabama leads ranking of college football's best teams in the trenches

Updated: August 29, 2013, 11:48 AM ET
By Kevin Carter | ESPN Insider

AJ McCarronJT Haugen/BCS/Collegiate Images/Getty ImagesRunning Alabama's offense is much easier for QB AJ McCarron with the help of the Tide O-line.

After 14 years of putting my hand in the dirt while playing defensive end in the NFL, I see football from the vantage point of where and how games are truly won and lost: in the trenches. In the end, winning the line of scrimmage is the key to success on both sides of the ball -- in both college and the pros.

With the 2013 college football season set to kick off, I've ranked my top five line-of-scrimmage teams in the country, examining the reasons each team's offensive and defensive fronts are so successful.


1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Offense: Study the Tide's trench play on offense and you'll understand why Nick Saban has been so successful in Tuscaloosa. They don't beat you because they're bigger, stronger or faster (even though they're not lacking for elite athletes); rather, they beat you because they are simply more disciplined. How else would you explain the success they've had despite running the same handful of uncomplicated running players each game?

It starts with the technique being further developed by new offensive line coach Mario Cristobal, who is building upon the unit's already impressive skills such as low pad level, correct hand placement and short, waddling "power" steps off of the line of scrimmage.

• College football analyst for ESPN
• 14-year NFL defensive end; No. 6 overall pick in 1995 draft
• All-American at University of Florida