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Winning the trenches

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RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

In the past week Bill has posted advanced stats for both offensive and defensive lines from last season, and the usual suspects were well represented on both lists — Alabama, Florida State, Auburn, and Missouri, for instance.

By combining the offensive and defensive adjusted line yards scores for each team we should have a rough measure of a team’s ability to win battles in the trenches on both sides of the ball. This creates a "total adjusted line score" that I used to rank the top ten teams below (here’s the full Google spreadsheet):

Team Total Line Score Rank
Alabama 246.4 1
Stanford 242.1 2
Auburn 239.1 3
Ohio State 238.4 4
Florida State 235.8 5
Clemson 233.5 6
BYU 232.3 7
Missouri 231.6 8
Michigan State 231.5 9
Wisconsin 231.3 10

Like I said, it’s the usual suspects, with a fairly good mix of the conferences at the top: three in the SEC, three from the Big Ten, two ACC, one independent, and one Pac-12. Just in this top ten you’ve got the Rose Bowl champion (and runner up), National champion (and runner up), Orange Bowl champ (and runner up), and Sugar Bowl runner up.

So what happens if we subtract the defensive adjusted line yard scores from the offensive ones? That is, which teams had the biggest disparity between their two lines? These ten teams had vastly better defensive lines compared to their offensive lines:

Team Difference Rank
Utah State -43.6 1
Virginia Tech -42.5 2
California -35.0 3
Tulane -34.0 4
Michigan State -32.9 5
San Diego State -28.0 6
Florida -26.8 7
Southern Miss -25.8 8
Memphis -24.5 9
Akron -24.3 10

While these teams had superior offensive lines:

Team Difference Rank
Ohio State +54.8 1
Old Dominion +35.0 2
Northern Illinois +31.6 3
Miami +29.5 4
Texas A&M +26.6 5
Oregon +26.5 6
New Mexico +25.3 7
UCF +24.0 8
Auburn +22.9 9
Duke +22.8 10

The Buckeyes had far and away the biggest difference between their offensive and defensive lines according to adjusted line yards. Interestingly, many spread-to-run teams populate the top of the offensive lines rankings (despite the notable differences in blocking schemes between Ohio State, Oregon, and Auburn).