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Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The best offensive line in the SEC is ...

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

I hate to make a call at this point. Alabama has been outstanding, but so has LSU.

Auburn defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks paid the ultimate compliment to the LSU line after the game last Saturday when he said, "They play on a whole other level than most offensive lines you go against."

Indeed, LSU center Brett Helms is one of the best centers in college football, while left tackle Ciron Black and left guard Herman Johnson are both ticketed to be high selections in next year's NFL draft. Black is just a junior, so he'll have a decision to make.

Alabama has its own dynamic duo in tackle Andre Smith and center Antoine Caldwell. Like Black, Smith is a junior and will be one of the highest rated offensive line prospects in the draft come April.

LSU passed its first big test against an Auburn front-seven that has several future NFL players. Alabama's comes this Saturday against a Georgia team that leads the SEC in rushing defense. The Bulldogs are allowing just 45.8 yards per game on the ground. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, has out-rushed their first four opponents 947 to 220 yards.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said the offensive line has been the catalyst for the Crimson Tide in their 4-0 start.

"When we haven't been able to do other things well, we've been able to run the ball fairly effectively and have controlled the line of scrimmage," Saban said. "Certainly that will be a challenge against a quality defense like Georgia, which has the best rush defense in the league probably, at least right now. They have a lot of good players and great speed. But our guys have taken the bull by the horns up front and been the real catalyst for the leadership on our team."

One other note of interest to come out of the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday: it's obvious that Saban has a great deal of respect for the team Mark Richt has put together at Georgia. When breaking down the Bulldogs, Saban called quarterback Matthew Stafford "probably the finest quarterback in America."

Makes you wonder.

Maybe Saban was the coach back in July that picked Stafford over Tim Tebow as the first-team quarterback on the coaches' preseason All-SEC team. Whoever it was, he was prophetic. Stafford has had the better season up until now.