For a generation, conversations about the nastiest offensive lines in college football started with the Nebraska; Most years, the conversations ended with the Cornhuskers, too. From 1980-2001, the Big Red won 13 national rushing titles, ran the option game to perfection, and made the position of I-back one of the most coveted leading roles in the NCAA.
According to one scouting service, the Huskers are making a statement in the trenches again — just like old times.
After three games, Josh Liskiewitz of Pro Football Focus told Landof10.com, the Big Ten’s top center and guard and one of the top tackles have one thing in common: They call Lincoln home.
Liskiewitz reviews and grades Big Ten game film for PFF’s colleges division, and emailed a list of the best blockers in the Land of 10 so far:
- Dylan Utter, Nebraska. Sixth-highest overall grade in country, 5th run blocking grade, no pressures allowed in pass pro.
- Michael Deiter, Wisconsin. Strong run grade, 1 hit and 1 hurry in pass pro.
- Also worth noting Michigan’s Mason Cole was No. 1 in the country until Colorado NT Josh Tapau had his way with him this past weekend.
- Also, Ohio State’s Pat Elflein grades out 13th in the Big Ten. Worst run blocking grade among Big Ten centers, has given up four total pressures. Last two games were the worst we’ve graded of his through 2014 (he’s supposed to be a 1st round pick in April).
- Tanner Farmer, Nebraska. No. 3 overall grade in FBS, just one hit yielded in pass pro, no other pressures.
- Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin. One hurry allowed.
- Brian Allen, Michigan State. No pressures allowed, best screen block grade in conference.
- Jared Wyler, Minnesota. No pressures allowed, has played only 68 snaps and has still amassed a huge grade.
- Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin. No. 2 overall grade in FBS, no pressures allowed on 235 snaps.
- Tariq Cole, Rutgers. Strong run blocking, One hit allowed.
- Nick Gates, Nebraska. Strong on run blocks, one hit and three hurries in pass pro.
- Erik Magnuson, Michigan. One sack and one hurry in pass pro, average run blocking grade.
The Huskers head into league play this weekend ranked fifth in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (219.3) and tied for second (Michigan) with nine rushing touchdowns through three contests. The Big Red have allowed, collectively, only three sacks in three games — their 1.0 sacks allowed per tilt is tied with Michigan State at fourth-best in the circuit.
Liskietwitz also offered up some insights on the top defensive linemen after three games:
Top defensive interior players
- Jake Replogle, Purdue. No. 3 overall in country, top run grade in FBS, eight stops, seven total pressures.
- Darius Hamilton, Rutgers. No. 6 overall in country, seven defensive stops, eight total pressures.
- Ryan Glasgow, Michigan. No. 7 overall in country, one sack, four hits, four hurries, seven stops.
- Malik McDowell, Michigan State. Eight total pressures, seven stops in just two games.
Top Edge players (all happen to be DEs in 4-3 schemes, no 3-4 OLBs)
- Chris Wormley, Michigan. 116 snaps. 10 total pressures, three defensive stops.
- Rashan Gary, Michigan. 108 snaps. Eight total pressures (two sacks), eight stops, No. 2 run defense grade in FBS.
- Ross Dzuris, Nebraska. 178 snaps. 12 total pressures (four sacks), 10 stops.
- Anthony Nelson, Iowa. 138 snaps. 14 total pressures (four sacks), seven stops.
The Wolverines’ defensive line doesn’t mess around — Michigan leads the Big Ten in fewest rush yards allowed on first down (2.06 per attempt), ranks fifth in rushing yards allowed on 3rd down and less than three yards to go (1.0 yards per opponent attempt) and No. 1 in terms of opponent third-down conversion percentage (4-for-38, 10.5 percent). You find a lot of Huskers, Wolverines, Badgers and Spartans on these lists — and the men up front, on both sides of the ball, go a long way toward explaining why those four schools head into Week 4 with a combined record of 11-0.