It's playoff time. Let's rank some stuff.
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With the beginning of the 2018 FCS Playoffs just a few days away, I wanted to dive into a few positional group rankings. Some of these are easy to get a feel for, based on pretty basic metrics, but I wanted to start with one that's a little tougher to quantify: offensive lines.
Based on a mixture of run-blocking stats, sack rate stats and my own personal opinion of watching all these teams, I looked at all 24 playoff teams and ranked the 10 best offensive line units. Here's what I came up with.
The Southland is often pigeonholed as an FCS extension of the Big 12, but Nicholls has charted another playoff return in 2018 thanks to good defense and a strong, reliable run game. The Colonels' offensive line is blocking for a run game that's averaging 5.21 yards per carry.
9. Jacksonville State
Jacksonville State's underrated offensive line tuned up OVC defenses for more than 5.0 yards per carry this season. We're looking forward to watching the Gamecocks in the playoffs.
8. Stony Brook
Between Donald Liotine and Jordan Gowins, the Seawolves wield arguably the most potent run game in the CAA. The offensive line blocking generates a healthy 4.79 yards per carry, all while opposing defenses know that Chuck Priore's squad is a run-first team.
7. Montana State
True to form, Montana State has once again relied on its defense and run game to power its playoff hopes. The Bobcats' offensive line is powering a run game that ranks second in the Big Sky with 5.72 yards per carry. They've only allowed nine sacks on the season.
6. North Dakota State
It's tough to rattle off an undefeated season without having a great offensive line, and unsurprisingly, the Bison have one of the best in the country. NDSU pushes people around up front, averaging slightly over 6.0 yards per carry. The protection for Easton Stick is good, but not elite.
Wofford's option attack gives the Terriers the far-and-away best run game in the SoCon. Its dominant offensive line and ball-control strategy makes it a tough team to jump on top of.
4. South Dakota State
At 6.49 yards per carry, the boys from Brookings actually have a better per capita run game than their rivals to the north.
3. UC Davis
The Aggies' offensive line clears a respectable 4.93 yards per carry for the Davis run game. Where they really excel is in pass pro — UC Davis has allowed 10 sacks all season, which is the same number as North Dakota State. However, UC Davis has 503 pass attempts, which is more than twice the number of dropbacks as the Bison. That's a pretty incredible sack rate.
2. Kennesaw State
When you're running the offense the upstart Owls have, you're not going to get far without a strong, versatile offensive line. Kennesaw leads the playoff field (by a wide margin) with 4,113 rushing yards this season; the nearest playoff qualifier happens to be Kennesaw's potential second-round opponent, Wofford, which checks in with 3,634.
1. Eastern Washington
The Eagles' run game has looked downright scary in the final weeks of the season. Some of that is because Eric Barriere is acclimating to his newly permanent role as EWU's starting quarterback, but most of it is because Eastern's offensive line is just smashing people at the line of scrimmage. The Eags (7.08 ypc) are the only playoff team averaging over 7.0 yards per carry; the next closest are South Dakota State and Wofford, who both check in at 6.49.
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