Countdown to the National Championship: How Oregon and Ohio State's offensive lines stack up
In the days leading up to the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, the Emerald will take a unit-by-unit look at Oregon and Ohio State, determining which team has the edge going into the showdown on Jan. 12 in Dallas. Today, we’ll look at each team’s offensive lines.
Coming into its Rose Bowl matchup, the Oregon offensive line had weathered almost every setback it faced this season. During Oregon’s eight-game winning streak, the rushing attack averaged 255 yards per game and Marcus Mariota had only been dropped 13 times. On Jan. 1 that type of consistency followed.
With Hroniss Grasu back in the lineup at center, the Ducks’ offensive line paved the way for 301 yards rushing against Florida State. In a 59-20 rout of the reigning National Champions, Oregon averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns on the ground.
With Grasu starting for the first time since Nov. 8, the line was the healthiest its been as a collective group since September. In addition, true freshman Tyrell Crosby – who took his first snap at the collegiate level in the second game of this season – had his best performance to date, according to Pro Football Focus.
The normal narrative was completely flipped in the Buckeyes’ matchup against Alabama. Normally the Crimson Tide defensive interior is the unit controlling the game. However right from the start, it became apparent that Ohio State’s offensive line had the physical tools to match.
The ground attack for the Buckeyes amassed 281 yards in its 42-35 Sugar Bowl win. A telling factor was the improved play from an offensive line that has garnered a large dose of criticism this season. Even when starting center Jacob Boren went down in the first quarter, there was no fallback. Three plays later, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot was running in for a three-yard touchdown.
It’s the type of progression that looks similar to Oregon’s to a degree. Before the season, the Buckeyes just had one returning starter at the position and in its only loss of the season to Virginia Tech, surrendered seven sacks. Since, Ohio State quarterbacks have only been sacked 11 times. Left tackle Taylor Decker and guard Pat Elfein both received All-Big 10 honors.
However, a noticeable difference between both groups has been health. Ohio State’s line has started the same five players for 14 consecutive games.
Advantage – None
Both rushing attacks average over 240 rushing yards per game. In its last two games, Oregon ballcarriers have combined for 602 yards on the ground. Ohio State’s have combined for 582. How do you grant an edge to either one of these offensive line units. If there’s one thing we know, its that the front seven from each defense will face a problem that no team has solved since Oregon’s loss on Oct. 2 and Ohio State’s loss on Sept. 6.
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