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Monday, December 20, 2010
Offensive line continuity pays dividends

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Playing well in the offensive line is a must if you're going to win big at any level of football.

Equally important is playing together in the offensive line and maintaining a degree of continuity up front.

If you're constantly having to mix and match in the offensive line, then your productivity on offense is probably going to reflect that lack of continuity.

Arkansas and Auburn are two prime examples of what continuity up front can do for an offense.

The Hogs had the same five starters in all 12 games this season. The Tigers finished the season with the same five starters in their last 10 games. The only change was Brandon Mosley stepping in for A.J. Greene at right tackle after Greene suffered a season-ending ankle injury the third week of the season against Clemson. Mosley was in the starting lineup that next game against South Carolina and has been there ever since.

Moreover, all four of Auburn's senior starters -- Lee Ziemba, Mike Berry, Byron Isom and Ryan Pugh -- have been in the starting lineup for all 13 games.

So, is it any coincidence that the the SEC's two BCS bowl teams have essentially played with the same offensive lines all season?

Look at the offensive numbers.

Auburn (42.7 points per game) and Arkansas (37.3 points per game) are the top two scoring offenses in the SEC. The same goes for total offense. Auburn led the SEC, averaging 497.7 yards per game. Arkansas was close behind at 489.2 yards per game.

They were also two of the best teams in the league at scoring touchdowns inside the red zone. The Hogs scored 33 touchdowns in 46 red-zone trips (71.7 percent), while the Tigers scored 44 touchdowns in 63 red-zone trips (69.8 percent). Auburn would probably have an even higher percentage had it not been for four kneel-downs at the end of games.