Alabama, Georgia finalists with Oklahoma for top offensive line

Alabama, Georgia finalists with Oklahoma for top offensive line

December 5th, 2018 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (11) has excelled this season behind center Lamont Gaillard (53), guard Solomon Kindley (66) and the rest of the Bulldogs' offensive front.

Photo by KRISTIN M. BRADSHAW

Alabama and Georgia, which produced a thrilling Southeastern Conference championship game last Saturday inside Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, are two of the three finalists for the Joe Moore Award given annually to college football's top offensive line.

Oklahoma, which will face Alabama in the Orange Bowl national semifinal on Dec. 29, is the other finalist.

The Crimson Tide, Bulldogs and Sooners have a combined record of 36-3 with offenses that average 528.1 total yards and 235.9 rushing yards per contest. The average Bowl Subdivision team averages 406.1 total yards and 177.0 rushing yards a game.

"The finalists embody what the Joe Moore Award is all about, which is hard-working, like-minded individuals working their tails off for the greater good without desire for personal gain," said CBS analyst and former Notre Dame guard Aaron Taylor, who founded the award. "The voting was extremely close, but the finalists separated themselves to the committee through consistency and setting the tone for their entire teams. In addition to the finalists, I was particularly impressed by Clemson's growth over the season and Memphis' tenacity."

Alabama earned the inaugural Joe Moore Award in 2015, when Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry rushed for 2,219 yards and won the Heisman Trophy, with Iowa claiming the honor in 2016 and Notre Dame last year. The award is named for the former offensive line coach at Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, who sent the likes of Bill Fralic, Mark May, Russ Grimm and Jimbo Covert to the NFL.

The award's voting committee will announce this year's recipient later this month.

Alabama is averaging an SEC-record 47.9 points per game and has gone three-and-out on just 9.3 percent of its drives. The Crimson Tide have allowed sacks on just 3.4 percent of their drop-backs this season, which is their lowest sack rate in 25 years.

Tide fifth-year senior Ross Pierschbacher is among the three finalists for the Rimington Trophy, which is given annually to college football's top center.

Georgia is averaging 7.3 yards per play this season, which is the highest average in program history. The Bulldogs have gone three-and-out just 9.6 percent of the time, and they are completing a program-record 68.6 percent of their passes and have an interception rate of just 1.6 percent.

Oklahoma leads the nation with 49.5 points per game, 577.9 yards per game and 8.75 yards per play. The Sooners lead the nation by going three-and-out just 6.8 percent of their drives, and they have averaged .711 points per snap, the highest mark in the Bowl Subdivision in 25 years.

The Sooners have averaged 11.1 yards per drop-back this season, the highest rate in Division I history.

Locksley leaving Tide

Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley on Tuesday night was named Maryland's new head coach, hours after winning the Broyles Award as college football's top assistant coach.

Locksley spent one season as the Crimson Tide's coordinator after working last season as receivers coach under Brian Daboll. At Tuesday's awards ceremony in Little Rock, Locksley thanked Alabama head coach Nick Saban for reigniting a career that included his firing as New Mexico's head coach in 2011 and not being retained after serving as Maryland's interim coach in 2015.

"Lane Kiffin went there, and I know Steve Sarkisian," Locksley said. "A bunch of coaches who had been head coaches have gone behind the curtains of Alabama's storied football program, and what an honor it has been and how great has it been for me and my career to be able to rehabilitate it."

Locksley became the favorite this time around for the Maryland opening after guiding a Crimson Tide offense that has averaged 47.9 points per game behind sophomore quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Tua Tagovailoa.

He is expected to remain with the Crimson Tide through their run in the College Football Playoff.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.