Not enough attention is usually paid to offensive lines in the build-up to every college football season, but this unit is one of the most important positions on the field. While the skill positions get all of the attention, the trenches are finishing the dirty work in clearing rushing lanes or protecting the quarterback from opposing pass rushers. Ohio State and Georgia top the Athlon Sports ranking of the best offensive lines in the nation, followed by Michigan, Baylor and Oregon in the top five.
How did we come up with these rankings? A couple of factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2022 all factored into the rankings for the offensive line. While some teams may have experienced a down year last season, a new assistant, top recruit or a change of scheme can make a huge difference. These rankings reflect projections for '22, not solely what teams accomplished in '21.
College Football's Top 20 Offensive Lines for 2022
1. Ohio State
It’s a close call between Ohio State and Georgia for the top offensive line in college football for 2022. A small edge goes to the Buckeyes, as new assistant Justin Frye inherits three potential All-Americans – tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones and center Luke Wypler – to form the foundation of this unit. Donovan Jackson and Matthew Jones are likely to man the guard spots. Ohio State allowed only 17 sacks over 13 games last fall.
The left side of Georgia’s line must be retooled after Jamaree Salyer and Justin Shaffer departed, but talent isn’t an issue in Athens. New assistant Stacy Searles inherits three starters, and guard Tate Ratledge is back after missing nearly all of 2021 with an injury suffered in the opener against Clemson. Sedrick Van Pran is one of the SEC’s top returning centers, and Warren McClendon should be penciled in at right tackle. Broderick Jones is a rising star at left tackle. Xavier Truss, Devin Willock, Ratledge and Warren Ericson are likely to fill out the guard spots.
Strong play in the trenches helped to lift Michigan to the Big Ten title and CFB Playoff for the first time under coach Jim Harbaugh in 2021. And as a result of their strong play, this unit won the Joe Moore Award as the best offensive line in college football. Winning that award for the second year in a row is possible, especially with three starters back for co-offensive coordinators Matt Weiss and Sherrone Moore. Ryan Hayes is back to anchor the line at left tackle, and Olusegun Oluwatimi – a transfer from Virginia – is among the nation’s best at center. Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter are likely to start at guard, and Trente Jones holds the edge to replace Andrew Stueber at right tackle.
In addition to solidifying the quarterback spot with Bo Nix or Ty Thompson, the Ducks need to reload at running back and receiver. However, one spot Oregon won’t have any concerns about this fall is the offensive line. New coordinator Kenny Dillingham inherits a group that returns four full-time starters, including standout Alex Forsyth in the middle and T.J. Bass at guard.
Dave Aranda’s decision to change coordinators and shake up his offensive staff after a disappointing 2021 season paid big dividends for the Bears last year. After allowing 31 sacks in ’20, Baylor allowed just 18 last fall and upped its per-carry average to 5.4 (from 2.7). Coordinator Jeff Grimes and line coach Eric Mateos can build off last season’s production with four starters returning, including standouts Connor Galvin (LT) and Jacob Gall (center).
6. Texas A&M
8. Notre Dame
11. Oregon State
16. Air Force
20. Ole Miss