College Football Preview 2011: Part 1, Offensive Lines

75 days is all that separates us from the first kickoff of the 2011 college football season. It is amazing how fast the spring has gone, and like so many, I can not wait for the beginning of the season.

This year I will be doing a series of articles about the upcoming college football season, covering a variety of topics and eventually giving you a few predictions of my own.

Today I start with an article about offensive lines in college football, and the importance of having a good and experienced one.

The most under-appreciated position in football is on the offensive line, where the true success of a running back or quarterback is written. A team with a truly great offensive line is often incredibly difficult to stop, even with mediocre skill position players. Having the ability to run through holes, or having time to throw is incredibly important to the success of an offense.

While a talented offensive line is important, even more important is experience. Playing on the offensive line as a true freshman is almost unheard of in college football. It takes often two or three years to become a starter because of the difficulty to learn the position.

Throughout the history of college football, teams with more experience historically outperform those with less experience on the offensive line.

Today lets look through the teams this year and look for those with a lot of experience, and those lacking it to see if we can perhaps pick out who might exceed expectations in 2011, and who might fall short of it. While having returning skill position players is important, if you have to rebuild the o-line, then the team could fall flat offensively from the lack of protection  up front.

Is Gene Chizik in for a rough 2011?

Teams with less than 60 offensive line starts:

Auburn- 15

Florida- 27

Arkansas- 48

Tennessee- 50

Arizona- 1

USC- 26

Oregon- 56

Stanford- 50

TCU- 36

Louisville- 25

Syracuse- 57

Pittsburgh- 53

Cincinnati- 39

Kansas State- 42

Iowa State- 52

Texas- 36

Iowa- 58

Nebraska- 39

Michigan State- 55

Penn State- 52

Georgia Tech- 38

Boston College- 49

What can learn from this? Maybe Auburn is in for a hard fall? Maybe Florida won’t be back this year? Maybe Texas is not ready to make a big leap? Maybe Nebraska won’t be great in there first year in the Big 10? Maybe Michigan State is going to return to the middle of the pack? Maybe Arizona and USC are not ready to compete for a Pac Ten title? Maybe Oregon will need more rebuilding than we thought? Maybe TCU is not BCS bound again this year?

Could Trent Richardson's Crimson Tide be in contention for a second title in three years?

Teams with 90+ Offensive Line Starts:

Alabama- 90

Oregon State- 91

Colorado- 97

Boise State- 94

BYU- 106

SMU- 158

Tulsa- 116

West Virginia- 92

Missouri- 101

Kansas- 97

Northwestern- 137

Virginia Tech- 98

Clemson- 119

Florida State- 117

What does this mean? Maybe Alabama is a legit National Title contender? Maybe Boise State can make up for the lost skill position players? Maybe SMU and Tulsa are dark horses in CUSA? Maybe West Virginia and Missouri will surprise us again this year? Maybe Virginia Tech and Florida State are BCS contenders this year from the ACC?

Now of course this isn’t an exact science, but I think its interesting to look at the teams that are pegged top ten preseason and see if they fall into one of these categories. Also see if there are any fringe top 25 teams that you might take as a sleeper.

Overall experience is also important for a team and I’m going to list some outliers on that chart as well to see if any of these teams pop up again. (Teams Ranked 1-120 in FBS)

Are Jimbo Fisher and the Noles ready to make the next step in resurecting the Florida State program?

Overall Top 25 Experience:

Mississippi State #16

UCLA #7

Colorado #23

Arizona State #24

Boise State #19

BYU #11

SMU #1

Tulsa #3

Texas A&M #8

Northwestern #2

Florida State #18

Michigan #19

Overall Bottom 30 Experience:

NC State #95

North Carolina #109

Georgia Tech #112

Wisconsin #92

Indiana #103

Iowa #119

Could Gary Patterson be looking at a bump in the road in 2011 before the Horned Frogs make the leap to the Big East?

Texas Tech #99

Iowa State #105

Kansas State #106

Louisville #119

Nevada #93

Hawaii #101

Fresno State #113

Auburn #120

Mississippi #107

Florida #98

Arizona #105

USC #102

Washington #102

California #96

TCU #116

Overall it looks like some of the same faces popped up again, just simply judging from only experience (and all the data I have on it not in the article) here are some teams that might be overrated, and who might be underrated:

Overrated?

TCU, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Auburn, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, USC, California, UNC, NC State, Georgia Tech

Underrated?

Mississippi State, UCLA, Arizona State, BYU, Texas A&M, Michigan, Northwestern, Clemson, Miami, Florida State

The good news is that these stats matter, but unfortunately they are not always right. I’d be willing to bet that more of these teams end up fitting into their assigned category than not, but of course many will not, for better or for worse.

Hopefully this is just something to think about for the upcoming season, and just the beginning of us uncovering some of the teams that might be great this year, and those who might disappoint us.

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One Response to “College Football Preview 2011: Part 1, Offensive Lines”

  1. Key online…

    […]College Football Preview 2011: Part 1, Offensive Lines « 5 BOROUGH SPORTS[…]…

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