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Mitchell Northam | NCAA.com | October 1, 2019

The best offensive lines in FCS football this season, by the numbers

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Offensive linemen play arguably the most unglamorous role in football. There’s no one stat they can hang their hats on, highlights are ultra-rare, and they’re not often given the credit for a team’s success.

But a quarterback can’t throw the football if he doesn’t have time to decipher the defense. And running backs can’t run through holes if they don’t exist.

It’s difficult to determine who has the best offensive line units in all of FCS, but we gave it a shot.

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By looking at a few stats, we determined that so far this year, Davidson, Youngstown State and North Dakota State are armed with the best offensive lines. Let’s give a round of applause for these big fellas.

To find out who had the best offensive line, we looked a few things.

  • First, teams had to have played in at least four games this season to be eligible. Sorry, Ivy League.
  • Next, we looked at the top seven teams in these stat categories: sacks allowed, rushing yards per-game, tackles-for-losses allowed, third down conversion percentage and red-zone offense (minimum 10 attempts).
  • Sacks allowed and TFL’s allowed shows how often opposing defenses can get past an offense’s front line to make a play. How well and offense does on third downs and in the red-zone shows that the offensive lines can protect or pave paths when it matters most. And rushing yards per-game shows how well the big guys up front can bulldoze a defense off the field by making holes for their running backs.

We looked at the top seven teams in each of these categories and tallied them up. Youngstown State was a top seven team in each mark, while North Dakota State and Davidson were top seven in four-of-five.

Sacred Heart, Wofford, Montana State and Jacksonville each appeared twice.

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Sacks allowed

Davidson has been the absolute best here and hasn’t allowed a sack all season. It’s worth noting that the Wildcats have only attempted 50 passes all year, but they’re also 3-1, so the formula seems to be working.

Chattanooga, Sacred Heart and Wofford have allowed just one sack this season, while Montana State, Youngstown State and Jacksonville State have allowed two each. North Dakota State checked in at 13th in this stat, allowing four sacks this season for 12 yards lost.

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Rushing YPG

The best rushing offense in the country is in Cobb County, Georgia at Kennesaw State. The Owls have ran into the end-zone 21 times this year, racking up 369.8 yards per-game. However, Kennesaw State didn’t appear in any other top sevens for the stats we looked at.

Wofford was second here with 344.3 rushing yards per-game, Davidson was third (329.8), Youngstown State was fourth (296.3), North Dakota State was fifth (286.8), Montana State was sixth (275) and Furman came in seventh (265.5).

TFL’s allowed

Youngstown State and North Dakota State checked in at the top here, each allowing just 11 tackles behind their line of scrimmage this season. The losses for the Bison have been less significant though, as they’ve lost just 32 yards on those tackles, while the Penguins have lost 50 yards.

Sacred Heart has allowed 14 tackles-for-losses; Jacksonville, South Dakota State and Davidson have each allowed 15; and Central Connecticut State has allowed 16. In terms of yards suffered from TFL’s, Davidson is right there with NDSU, losing just 33 yards.

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Third Down Conversion Percentage

Davidson is the best in the country on third downs, converting 55.4 percent of their attempts.

Not too far behind is James Madison at 53 percent, North Dakota State at 52.3 percent, Montana at 52.1 percent, Cal Poly at 51.7 percent, and then Southern Illinois and Youngstown State, each at 50 percent.

Red-Zone Percentage

Among teams who have at least 10 red-zone scoring attempts, there’s a seven-way tie at the top. Albany, Youngstown State, Illinois State, Norfolk State, North Dakota State, North Dakota and UNI are all perfect at 100 percent in the red-zone this season.

Youngstown State is the best among those teams though, and third in the nation, in rushing scores in the red-zone with 13.

Davidson checked in at 14th in red-zone conversion percentage at 94.1 percent. The Wildcats have come up short without a score just once in those situations.

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