Iowa leads ranking of 10 best O-lines in college football

These are the top O-lines in college football through seven weeks, including Iowa, Washington State and -- believe it or not -- Notre Dame.

| 8 months ago
(Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Iowa leads ranking of 10 best O-lines in college football

With the heart of the college football season upon us, we now have a sample size large enough to revisit our ranking of the top 10 offensive lines. While many of these teams and offensive lines have their biggest tests still in front of them, we’re taking a look at where they stand now through a combination of our grades and opinion from the analysts of these teams’ games.

  1. Iowa

Iowa’s offensive line has been the cornerstone of the Hawkeyes program and it’s no different this season. The Hawkeyes line is the nation’s best-performing overall offensive line when you balance pass- and run-blocking measured against the quality of competition Iowa has played. The Hawkeyes utilize NFL zone-blocking techniques and schemes with more detail than probably any other offensive line in college football. The Hawkeyes have PFF’s 17th-highest-rated guard in Sean Welsh and 23rd-graded tackle with Ike Boettger, but it’s Iowa’s offensive line execution play-in and play-out that has them holding the top spot.

  1. Washington State

Heading into the season the Cougars’ offensive line had the task of replacing current Detroit Lions guard Joe Dahl, and they’ve managed to surpass expectations. The Cougars line boasts PFF’s highest-graded guard in Cody O’Connell and the sixth-highest and 10th-highest graded tackles in Cole Madison and Andre Dillard respectively, along with No. 15 guard Eduardo Middleton. The time to throw the line gives Luke Falk to pass is unbelievable. Falk has faced pressure on only 16 percent of his dropbacks, which is the second-lowest in college football. The “Air Raid Scheme” — which you can read about here — obviously helps the offensive line but these guys have heavy responsibility, from man blocking on every single pass attempt, to run blocking and blocking on the perimeter for screen passes. Wazzu’s offensive line efficiency is uncanny and if they continue at this level, the Cougars have a shot at the Pac-12 championship.

  1. Kansas State 

This is a team that usually flies under the radar, as does their offensive line, but the line plays so well in conjunction with each other that they earn their No. 3 ranking. Their understanding of technique and angles to create space for the ball carrier in the running game is second to none. Kansas State is creative in their run scheme but they love blocking the inside zone play and and a series of running schemes for their quarterback. Kansas State grades highly in pass blocking. The Wildcats are led by our fourth-highest-graded tackle in Dalton Risner. Guard Terrale Johnson has also graded well and these two working together side by side can cause problems for defensive fronts.

  1. Western Michigan

Western Michigan is having a “fly in the ointment” type season with wins over two Big Ten schools and their overall high level of performances every week. The Broncos are a spread football team but very much a power-running team. Western Michigan tackle Taylor Moton is currently our highest-graded tackle, and his combination of size, athleticism and movement makes him the NFL prototype for tackle. A weaker schedule works against them in the polls but both their pass and run-blocking grading has been among our best in college football.

  1. San Diego State

In case you haven’t seen the San Diego State Aztecs play, tune in late at night on Saturdays and enjoy the show. San Diego State currently has our highest collective run-blocking grade led by PFF’s seventh-highest-graded guard in Nico Siragusa. San Diego State operates in a pro-style offense and running scheme. Right tackle Daniel Brunskill is fun to watch and has graded well for us also. This unit has helped propel Donnell Pumprey into a force in the college football world while helping the Aztecs vault to the top of the Mountain West.

  1. Ohio State

Ohio State is near the top of our run-blocking grading but average in pass blocking. If the Buckeyes pass blocking improves it will be a huge problem for the rest of college football. Center Pat Elflein anchors the middle for the Buckeyes line and I think more than anything the success of the Ohio State offensive line is everyone working together within their creative schemes to give their talented ball carrier daylight. The Buckeyes running game keeps every opposing defensive coaching staff up at night.

  1. Alabama

Alabama’s blocking unit would not have made this list weeks ago, but there might not be an offensive line that has improved more than Alabama’s. Bradley Bozeman is our seventh-highest graded center and he has filled the shoes of first-round draft pick Ryan Kelly as best as could be expected. True freshman tackle Jonah Williams is one of the highest-graded freshmen in the country right now and he’s been excellent at protecting the passer. Alabama is still a work in progress as they have struggled at guard this season but if Lester Cotton or Alphonse Taylor can solidify that position (Cotton had the Tide’s second-highest offensive grade against Tennessee) then a running game that has been impressive as of late might become unstoppable.

  1. Western Kentucky

There is not a college offensive line in PFF’s grading system that has a better cumulative score in both pass and run blocking than the Hilltoppers. WKU’s offensive line excels at protecting the passer and executing their assignments in the run game. Western Kentucky has standouts amongst their line with PFF’s fifth-highest tackle Forest Lamp, who has surrendered zero sacks and quarterback hurries and only one quarterback hit all season, that coming in his matchup with the vaunted Alabama pass rushers. Guard Dennis Edwards also grades well and center Max Halpin is our fourth-highest-graded center.

  1. LSU

Similar to Iowa’s offensive line LSU’s big guys up front are good run blockers and pass blockers. They have gotten better every week and they seem to be finding their stride at the right time. LSU has a physical smash-mouth style and they impose their will on defenses. Big tests still lie ahead for the Tigers, including the Crimson Tide. With No. 10 center Ethan Pocjc and No. 10 guard Josh Boutte, LSU’s running game will look to shift to another gear down the stretch of their SEC schedule.

  1. Notre Dame

Yes, you’re reading this correctly — our preseason No. 1 offensive line is still among the top offensive lines in college football. From a technical and assessment standpoint, the Irish are still among the best in this category. Mike McGlinchey is our 12th-highest-graded tackle, and in both our pass and run grades the Irish have graded positively. For Notre Dame to finish the season strong, look for the offensive line to lead the way.

| Analyst

Taylor is an offensive line and run-game specialist at Pro Football Focus. He has coached at every level of college football, with experience at Mississippi Gulf Coast, Central Missouri, and Wyoming.

  • Josh Lensing

    As a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes… I am shocked that Iowa is number one and frankly on the list at all. This years performance of the o-line has been like riding a bike with a flat tire, it works great when it gets aired up but eventually your back to riding on the rim wondering why you’re not walking instead. I do agree that Iowa’s o-line has some great top level players but have not been consistently producing good plays and personally think that is what makes a number one rated offensive line.

    • buddy davison

      Josh: I would agree with you at the start of the year. But not over the past few games. Their real issue is their offense as a whole. How many sacks have they taken over the past few weeks and their running game is not bad given they have no one to throw too. I would not consider them the top O-line in the nation, but I only watch the game and dream of last year when they were not dreadful again.

    • Roo Mal

      PFF grades each player on each play. Sometimes a great run blocking Line is going to produce nothing when the defense loads 8 in the box every single down. There’s only 5 O Linemen, and if they obliterated their 5 assigned defenders; thats ALL that counts for PFF; in grading the O line individuals and as a whole. A putrid passing offense ALWAYS leads directly to 3 yards a carry; no matter how good the front 5 is. Also in Pass pro; if they send 6 and the backs fail to pick up the 6th man and he gets the sack; casual fans will say the O line sucked. But That’s the ENTIRE reason PFF exists; ESPECIALLY line play….we’d have to crunch film ourselves to be able to notice great performances.

  • Randall Powell

    WVU should be on the list right after Alabama.