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All-American center Jones key to line battle

Alabama Crimson Tide Cody Mandell, Kevin Norwood and Barrett Jones celebrate after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs during the NCAA SEC college football championship in Atlanta

Alabama Crimson Tide punter Cody Mandell (29), wide receiver Kevin Norwood (C) and offensive linesman Barrett Jones (75) celebrate after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs during the NCAA SEC college football championship in Atlanta, Georgia, December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

REUTERS

If Manti Te’o was spotted wearing a protective boot this week, you can bet Notre Dame fans would be a little bit worried heading into Christmas. That’s where Alabama fans find themselves, with the heart and soul of their team’s best unit, All-American center Barrett Jones, still in a protective cast on his left foot.

Jones injured the foot in the SEC Championship, a sprain that didn’t take him out of the game. And if you ask the senior center, college football’s scholar athlete of the year, whether or not he’s playing, he’s particularly adamant.

“My foot is sprained,” Jones told reporters. “I’ll be playing in the game. I’ll be fine. I’ll have this cast on I don’t know how much longer, but not much longer. I’ll be all right. That’s all we’re talking about the foot.”

If you’re looking for a match-up that now has a really interesting subplot, Jones match-up with nose guard Louis Nix should be one to circle. Nix’s power and speed, which would’ve been a handful for Jones regardless on January 7th, might be even tougher if Alabama’s center can’t get back up to speed before the game.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Jones will be reevaluated on December 27, and said the cast and rehabilitation plan was precautionary. Still, the leader of college football’s best offensive line might be less than 100% heading into January 7th, a key factor in Alabama’s offensive prowess.