Top 10 offensive lines in college football through Week 11
There are few statistics than can properly quantify the overall performance of an offensive line, but the PFF team has been hard at work creating one out of our extensive database that comes from our play-by-play grading of every college football game.
The result is the PFF O-Line metric, which assesses just how much each line is contributing in the running game and how well they’re protecting in the pass game, all while adjusting based on situation and quality of opponent. It is much more difficult going against a defensive front as stout as Alabama’s compared to a weak defensive line found in the Big 12, and those adjustments are factored in here.
With that quick background behind us (see a more complete methodology explanation at the bottom of this article), here are the top 10 offensive lines in college football through 11 weeks of action:
- LSU 88.5
Maintaining their spot at the top, LSU dominated Arkansas with 399 yards on the ground at 8.0 yards per carry. They got their usual strong play from guards Will Clapp and Josh Boutte who both rank among the top 20 in the nation with Boutte’s 86.7 run block grade ranking sixth. Center Ethan Pocic ranks seventh in the country at 83.3 including a 79.9 run blocking grade that ranks fourth at the position. The interior of the line has led the way for the Tigers who have one of most well-balanced lines with their adjusted run-blocking mark coming in third while they rank fifth in adjusted pass blocking as a unit.
- Auburn 87.7
It was a rough outing for Auburn’s offense, though the offensive line kept QB Sean White clean for most of the game and they were solid in the run game. As a unit, Auburn lacks stars as RT Robert Lefft boasts the top grade at 81.3 to rank 19th among the nation’s tackles while the rest of the group is just above average with grades in the 70s. Guard Braden Smith has the top pass blocking grade at 86.1 and the unit as a whole ranks fourth in adjusted run blocking and sixth in adjusted pass blocking. The sum of the parts is the story for Auburn who keep teams off balance with a variety of shifts and motions while running their power-centric running attack.
- Alabama 86.8
The No. 2 pas-blocking unit kept QB Jalen Hurts clean on all but seven of his 45 dropbacks against Mississippi State while paving the way for 174 yards on 28 carries (6.2 yards/carry) on the ground. Center Bradley Bozeman has allowed only one pressure on the season and his 86.5 overall grade ranks second among all centers. Right tackle Jonah Williams has been outstanding as a true freshman, now ranking 13th in the country among tackles at 82.6 while LT Cam Robinson may not be as good as the hype machine but he comes in at a strong 77.1 overall. The guards have been the weakness of the line but the trio that has seen significant time are all grading out average for the year.
- Washington State 84.6
Favorable scheme or not, Washington State continues to impress and they had another strong game in pass protection with QB Luke Falk getting pressured on only six of his 54 dropbacks against Cal. The difference for this Air Raid line is their work in the run game where guard Cody O’Connell ranks second in the nation at 88.2. The rest of the line has been above average as run blockers leading the Cougars to a strong adjusted run-blocking grade as a unit. But it’s pass protection that puts Washington State so high on the list as their adjusted pass blocking ranks third in the nation and even with their wide splits and quick passing game, Washington State’s line has performed above their expected level all season.
- Western Michigan 84.5
There are few weaknesses along Western Michigan’s offensive line as the starting five has been solid all around with RT Taylor Moton boasting the top overall grade at 84.4, good for sixth among offensive tackles. He’s rarely been beaten in pass protection while center John Keenoy is right there with him with only four pressures allowed on the year. The run game is where Western Michigan really shines where their adjusted run blocking ranks 10th in the nation, meaning they’ve dominated their MAC competition to this point. Moton has graded at 81.0 as a run blocker while guard Luke Juriga is right there with him at 81.3. The skill position players at Western Michigan get much of the love, but the offensive line has helped set the tone for their undefeated season.
- Pittsburgh 84.3
Fresh off an upset win against Clemson, Pittsburgh remains the top pass-blocking unit in the country with an adjusted 90.3 mark as they lead the nation with a pass blocking efficiency of 92.9 (28 pressures on 300 attempts). RT Brian O’Neill ranks seventh among tackles with an 85.8 pass-blocking grade while Dorian Johnson has been strong as well at 85.0. They’re blocking for a quarterback in Nathan Peterman who average 2.78 seconds per dropback, 35th-longest in the country among 129 qualifiers so it’s not like they’re being protected by a quick passing game. Pitt has been more hit or miss in the run game, but O’Neill and Johnson have done their part with grades of 77.1 and 70.8 respectively.
- Western Kentucky 83.4
Left tackle Forrest Lamp leads the way on a well-balanced unit that ranks sixth in the run game and 11th as pass blockers. Lamp has the No. 2 overall grade among tackles at 86.9 as he’s only surrendered three pressures on the year while doing his usual fine work as a run blocker. Center Max Halpin ranks 13th in the country at 80.9 overall while the rest of the line all ranks within the top 72 at their respective positions. Guard Brandon Ray leads the way with the top run-blocking grade at 80.5 while Lamp, Halpin, and guard Dennis Edwards all rank among the nation’s best in pass protection.
- Ohio State 83.4
The one new team on the list, Ohio State’s offensive line has been outstanding since getting dominated by Penn State back in Week 8. Since that time, QB J.T. Barrett has been pressured on only 17 percent of his dropbacks (18-of-107) since that game, well below the NCAA average of 30 percent. They’ve certainly experienced some growing pains with some youth up front, but veteran center Pat Elflein is grading at 80.9 overall, good for 13th among centers, while LT Jamarco Jones comes in at 77.0, good for 52nd among tackles. While pass protection has improved, it’s the run game where this line has made their mark as they rank second in the nation in adjusted run blocking led by Elflein and guard Billy Price.
- Tulsa 83.26
Tulsa is now tied for seventh in adjusted pass blocking, led by LT Evan Plagg who ranks third among tackles at 88.9 in pass protection. LG Tyler Bowling is right there with him ranking third among guards in the pass game at 90.5 and Plagg and Bowling have combined to allow only 11 pressures between them on the season. In the run game, Tulsa’s line has paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in D’Angelo Brewer and James Flanders and Tulsa gained over 2,600 yards on the ground when taking out quarterback scrambles from the mix.
- Boise State 82.36
The tackles lead the way for Boise with RT Mario Yakoo’s 80.2 grade ranking 23rd at the position while LT Archie Lewis’ 79.3 grade ranking 30th. As a unit, they rank second in pass efficiency at 92.7 (31 pressures on 333 dropbacks) while their adjusted pass blocking ranks fourth in the nation. QB Brett Rypien has now faced pressure on only 17.8 percent of his dropbacks, fifth-lowest in the nation. They’re not as strong in the run game, but LG Travis Averill leads the way with a 75.8 grade and Boise has rushed for 1,817 yards on the season when taking quarterback scrambles out of the equation.
The PFF O-Line Metric quantifies the performance of an entire offensive line on a statistical basis, using a range of data collected by Pro Football Focus’ highly skilled analysis and player participation teams. For both run-blocking and pass-blocking situations, the offensive line’s performance is assessed against an expected production level, which is derived from a variety of scenarios. On run plays, the key statistic is yards before contact, where the expected gain before contact is set based on factors like the number of defensive players in the box, the run concept called by the offense and the down-and-distance situation. On passing plays, the key stat is pressures allowed in terms of sacks, hits and hurries only by offensive linemen. The expectation there is set by factors such as the down-and-distance situation, the dropback-type by the quarterback and whether a play-action fake was executed. These numbers are then adjusted for the opposition and combined based upon the run-to-pass ratio that each offense plays within to ensure that each offensive line is judged for their performance level within what they are asked to execute.