Top 10 offensive lines in college football through Week 10
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. An offensive line going up against Alabama has much lower expectations for success than a line playing against a weak Big 12 defense, 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 10 weeks of action:
1. LSU Tigers (88.74 rating, on a 0-100 scale)
While the season has been disappointing as a whole for LSU, the offensive line has done its part. When adjusting for competition, the Tigers’ game against Alabama was not bad comparatively, as the Alabama defense has given up virtually nothing to opposing teams on the ground, while creating pressure at an incredibly high rate. The interior of the line is what sets LSU apart, starting with Ethan Pocic, who ranks fifth among centers at 84.2 overall, while guard Josh Boutte has the nation’s No. 6 grade at 84.8 overall, including an 87.1 grade as a run-blocker that ranks third. The other guard spot is manned by Will Clapp, who checks in with a strong 78.4 grade, highlighted with an 86.4 mark in pass protection.
2. Auburn Tigers (87.23)
The Auburn line does not boast any superstars, but they are solid across the board. Right tackle Robert Leff has the top grade at 81.1 overall, good for 20th in the country among tackles, while LT Darius James has taken a big step forward since we last saw him in 2014 with Texas, to grade at 74.3. Both guards are solid, as Braden Smith grades at 78.2 and Alex Kozan comes in at 73.1, while Austin Golson’s move to center has coincided with Auburn’s offensive explosion in recent weeks. The Tigers use a lot of misdirection in the backfield to keep defenses off balance, but “power” is their staple run, and this O-line executes it at a high level.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide (87.04)
The No. 2 pass-blocking team in the nation when adjusting for competition, Alabama has also been strong in the run game. Center Bradley Bozeman leads the way with his 84.0 overall grade, as he’s only allowed one pressure on his 300 snaps in pass protection. Left tackle Cam Robinson has not played up to his first-round hype, but he comes in at a solid 74.9 overall, while right tackle Jonah Williams has been the nation’s top true freshman tackle at 80.0 overall, including an 83.3 mark in pass protection. As a line, Alabama ranks eighth in the FBS in pass blocking efficiency at 90.3 as they’ve only allowed 37 pressures on 300 dropbacks.
4. Western Michigan Broncos (85.27)
While WR Corey Davis is often the center of attention for Western Michigan’s offense, the offensive line deserves credit for their work up front. They feature three players ranked within the top 27 players at their respective positions nationally, led by right tackle Taylor Moton and his 83.5 overall grade that ranks sixth in the nation (he has surrendered only six pressures on 300 attempts). Center John Keenoy has been strong in pass protection at 82.2, while right guard Luke Juriga has an 82.0 grade as a pass-blocker and an 81.4 in the run game. As a unit, Western Michigan’s adjusted pass-blocking ranks fourth in the nation, while their run blocking ranks ninth as their well-rounded line has been a big part of their undefeated season.
5. Pittsburgh Panthers (84.29)
The best pass-blocking team in the country, Pittsburgh has allowed only 22 pressures on 256 dropbacks this season, and even when adjusting for opponents, they still sit atop the pass-blocking rankings. Right tackle Brian O’Neill has the top grade on the line at 83.4 overall, good for seventh in the nation to go with an 85.6 pass-blocking grade that ranks 10th. The pass-blocking has also been strong on the interior between center Alex Officer (80.8) and guards Dorian Johnson (83.9) and Alex Bookser (84.0). Pittsburgh comes in at fifth because as good as they are in pass protection, they only rank 47th as a run-blocking unit. O’Neill is also the top run-blocker at 76.8 this season.
6. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (84.03)
The Western Kentucky line is strong at the top, with the nation’s top-graded offensive tackle in Forrest Lamp (87.4 overall), while center Max Halpin ranks 12th in the country at 81.4. Lamp has allowed only one pressure on the season (98.9 pass-block grade) on 285 snaps in pass protection, and he played as well as any tackle who had to go up against Alabama’s defensive front this season. The unit’s strength lies in the passing game, where Halpin boasts an 89.7 grade and RG Dennis Edwards comes in at 87.6. All five starters rank among the top 51 players at their respective positions, as Western Kentucky’s line has been strong all-around.
7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (83.26)
Tulsa ranks 10th as a unit in pass protection and 14th in the run game, as one of the nation’s most balanced lines. They’re led by two strong pass protectors in LT Evan Plagg, who ranks third among tackles at 88.9, and LG Tyler Bowling, who ranks fourth among guards at 90.5. Plagg and Bowling have combined to allow only nine pressures between them on 708 combined pass-blocking attempts. Bowling also leads the way in the run game with a 78.6 grade. Tulsa’s score has been boosted as a result of the strong defensive fronts like Ohio State and Houston that they had to contend with along the way.
8. Washington State Cougars (82.43)
There’s no doubt that Washington State’s Air Raid scheme creates favorable conditions for the offensive line with their wide splits and quick-hitting passing game. But they’re still playing well across the board, led by LG Cody O’Connell, who ranks second among guards at 91.7 overall and first as a pass-blocker at 91.3. It’s more than O’Connell, however, as there are few weaknesses up front — all five starters rank among the top 15 at their respective positions. When adjusting for competition, Washington State ranks third in the nation in pass protection and 40th in the run game.
9. Boise State Broncos (82.36)
The Boise State line is strong at tackle, where RT Mario Yakoo grades at 79.5 overall to rank 27th in the country, while LT Archie Lewis ranks 33rd at 78.5. LG Travis Averill is right there with them at 79.0 overall (29th in nation), including the top pass-blocking grade on the team at 87.1. Pass protection is where Boise State shines, as before adjusting for competition, they rank second in the nation with a pass-blocking efficiency of 92.8. Quarterback Brett Rypien has only been pressured on 17.6 percent of his dropbacks, fourth-best in the country, as the line has done its part in Boise State’s 8-1 record.
10. TCU Horned Frogs (81.45)
TCU has a balanced line with the No. 10 ranking in the run game and the No. 17 mark in pass protection. Center Austin Schlottmann has the top grade at 79.2, good for 24th among the nation’s centers, while RT Aviante Collins is right there with him at 79.1 to rank 28th in the country. QB Kenny Hill has faced pressure on only 21.9 percent of his dropbacks, good for 13th among FBS quarterbacks. In the run game, LG Patrick Morris leads the way with a 73.6 grade, as the TCU line is very much about the sum of their parts when it comes to moving the ball on the ground.
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.