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O-Lineman Win Games: College Football Handicapping

The “Big Uglies” can lead to college football profits

Doug Upstone

The glamour position of football is the quarterback, followed by running backs. These are the players that get all the love (and hate) and pub from the media, fans and football bettors. However, longtime college football announcer Keith Jackson and every football coach that ever walked the sidelines above peewee level knows it all starts up front, as Jackson used to say, with the “Big Uglies”.

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An offense line can set the pace of a game, running the ball down opposing teams’ throats by opening chasms Levi Johnson and is temptress could walk thru hand and hand. The same would also be true in the passing game, providing the accomplished quarterback time to answer email, plus update Facebook and Twitter pages.

The opposite could also be true of the college football teams that are rebuilding offensive lines due to graduation or defection. A talented quarterback may be taking his life into his own hands trying to avoid the onslaught of defenders (see Jimmy Clausen tape at Notre Dame), to look downfield to complete a pass.

What about the star running back who needs a compass to run north and south, since there are no holes to run thru and becomes accustomed to bouncing everything outside.

In the rest of this article, we’ll look what teams have the most and fewest returning offensive linemen and what impact that could have on their universities upcoming season and for those betting on football.

The best place to start is teams that have all five O-linemen back along with their starting quarterback.

Ball State
Colorado
Florida State
Fresno State
Louisiana Tech
Minnesota
South Florida
Wisconsin

Specifically, the Seminoles and Badgers are expected to be teams not only competing for the top of their respective conferences, but also nationally. Guard Rodney Hudson for Florida State and tackle Gabe Carimi at Wisconsin, are on virtually everyone’s first team All-American list. Wisky’s John Moffitt is believed to be no worse than the third best guard in the country.

Colorado’s offense should be further improved this upcoming campaign and Fresno State’s pounding running game should create more havoc on the WAC.

New coaching staffs are in place in South Florida and Louisiana Tech, which could see the shifting of players up front, making improvement less certain. Ball State and Minnesota might have all these individuals back, but that doesn’t mean they were that good to begin with. Collectively, this entire group is worth following.

The next grouping is five offensive linemen back, with a different starting signal caller.

Georgia
Kansas
Memphis
Northwestern
Oregon
Rice

With this contingent, the head coach and his offensive staff will try to build around these players before heading into conference action. These behemoths are being counted on to open holes and keep the opposition off new quarterbacks. These large fellas actually have a great deal of pressure on them as opponents will game plan to have more defensive players at the line of scrimmage to create chaos with blocking assignments and to confuse new field general or make backs less instinctive when carrying the pigskin.

Memphis and Kansas have new head coaches, lending itself to period of adjustment for new blocking schemes. The rest of the squads will have to set the tone for the makings of a successful season and earn the trust of those following football betting lines.

The next patch is teams with only one lineman having starting experience from a year ago. A smart quarterback’s knowledge of the offense and ability to hit open receivers proficiently can take some of the pressure off until this unit gels.

VanderbiltSouthern MissKentucky and Hawaii all fit the aforementioned situation, with the Golden Eagles from Hattiesburg, MS having the best opportunity to prosper with the quarterback duo of Austin Davis and Martevious Young being able to chuck the ball to 6’6 DeAndre Brown, C-USA’s finest pure pass catcher. Coach Larry Fedora is offensive-minded and has the best chance for achieving success with somewhat limited options.

Bobby Johnson resigned at Vanderbilt just last month, making a prickly predicament that much worse and Joker Phillips will quickly learn that lacking experience in the offensive line is no joke in the SEC.

That brings us to Air Force and Florida Atlantic, who have no O-Linemen that started the majority of games a year ago. Though hardly ideal, the Air Force and all military universities face a somewhat similar issue most years. Unless a linemen ends up being unusually skilled (which is unlikely since they could go somewhere else and just play football), few underclassman play early in their careers.

The zone blocking scheme the Air Force employs is more about cohesiveness than blowing somebody up across the line of scrimmage.

Plus, the Flyboys have two good quarterbacks for their offense, each with a different skill set to help offset having five newbies that will block for them. Nonetheless, it might pay to watch this team in September as play against BYU, at Oklahoma and at Wyoming and watch the stats to see if the Falcons come together quickly.

It might be long season for Florida Atlantic. Technically, the Owls don’t have returning starting QB, however senior Jeff Van Camp was forced to play the last five games due to injury of decorated Rusty Smith. However, around him are five fresh faces in the line and five of top six pass catchers have graduated.

When the bowl season comes around, invariably the talk of commentators will turn to “the offensive line carried this team for much of the year” or “this club failed to meet expectations because the offensive line didn’t block as presumed”. Use this information as a good starting point for the upcoming college football season.

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