Despite not winning the Big Ten championship and being blanked by eventual national champion Clemson in the College Football Playoff last season, the Ohio State Buckeyes have plenty of reasons to be thinking about a championship ride in 2017. Among the many reasons the Buckeyes are considered a favorite in the Big Ten and seen as a serious threat to Alabama or Florida State is the massive offensive line.
It is ridiculous to make comparisons between college teams and NFL teams, but in this particular case it helps paint the picture. As noted by Eleven Warriors, the offensive line at Ohio State measures in an average of two inches taller and two pounds heavier than the offensive line of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. That may not be a huge difference, but it does show the Buckeyes will be playing with an offensive line that is comparable to an NFL line in terms of sheer size and girth. This is not to say the Buckeyes o-line is better than the Browns, because the Browns offensive line is still made up of NFL-talent benefitting from NFL conditioning and strength training. No matter how good Ohio State may have it with facilities and training, the Browns will still have the edge overall.
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) August 28, 2017
But imagine being Indiana, the team that hosts Ohio State to kick off the 2017 college football season this Friday night in Bloomington. Imagine being on the defensive line and realizing you are about to square off with a line bringing NFL size to the trenches. There are not many teams in the Big Ten that can match Ohio State pound for pound, especially on the offensive line. Oddly enough, the offensive line is one area where Ohio State is hoping to get some improvement in 2017.
Last season, in 13 games, Ohio State gave up 28 sacks, putting them just barely in the bottom half of the 14-team Big Ten; one fewer sack allowed than Purdue and one more allowed than Michigan State. the previous season, Ohio State allowed 19 sacks. This season, Ohio State’s offensive line will be anchored by center Billy Price, a preseason First-Team All-Big Ten selection by Athlon Sports, even though he was criticized by some Ohio State faithful for being a weak link in critical spots last season. To his left will be returning starters Jamarco Jones and Michael Jordan, and right tackle Isaiah Prince will return as a starter as well. Stability will be the key for the Buckeyes, with just one new starter to slide in up front to protect quarterback J.T. Barrett and open up running room for breakout running back Mike Weber (who already had a 1,000-yard season as a freshman in 2016).
The offensive line, though still with a slight room for improvement, should once again lay the foundation for a power running game. The Buckeyes led the way on the ground last season in the Big Ten with an average of 5.47 yards per rushing attempt. No other Big Ten team had more than 4.87 yards per rush. In 2015, the Buckeyes averaged a Big Ten leading 5.62 yards per rush. The last time Ohio State averaged fewer than five yards per rushing attempt in a season was 2011. Having Ezekiel Elliott helped in that span, but the offensive line has been one of the more underappreciated models of consistency for Ohio State since Urban Meyer was named head coach.
Say what you will about Barrett as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate or what new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson brings to the table, but it will be Ohio State’s offensive line that ultimately makes or breaks the championship hopes for Ohio State in 2017.
And no, Ohio State would not beat the Browns. We’re not even going to entertain that discussion.