“The team that wins the line of scrimmage – wins this game….” Coach speak, pundit speak, and certainly blogger speak – so it must be true. As a stats compiler and tweeter, the play at the line of scrimmage doesn’t have a lot of objective stats to show. Certainly, yards per carry, or sacks allowed, or many other skill position stats can paint a picture of a team’s strength and weakness at the line of scrimmage.
Pro Football Focus does offer subjective “grades” of just about every facet of football team, and line play is no different. Let’s look at some of the key metrics that the PFF gurus publish. To preface, these grades and stats are who is returning from 2020. Let’s look at the UGA Offensive Line versus the Clemson Defensive line.
Clemson is returning the third most defensive line snaps in Power 5 behind TCU and Syracuse. The 66.6 average PFF defensive grade for the returning Tigers O Line is 6th best (tied with Alabama). Clemson’s 138 total pressures and 28 sacks is the first in Power 5. They are experienced at getting after the quarterback.
On the other side of the ball, UGA is replacing Trey Hill at center, but the offensive line has been extremely well recruited by Coach Kirby Smart. Several players will be getting more playing time and some at new positions, but this position group is poised for success.
The unit ranks 12th in Power 5 in returning games, but 4th in Average PFF Grade of 70.5 behind Virginia Tech, Washington, and Kentucky (the most returning games among these teams). Though the Dawgs rank high in game count, the 2,530 snaps are good for only 35th in Power 5 returning production.
Let’s look at UGA’s Defensive Line for the Offensive Line for the Tigers. Georgia’s 81 games played and 1,995 D Line snaps ranks 13th and 23rd in Power 5 returning experience. Georgia’s 50 pressures and 4 sacks ranks 37th and 43rd in Power 5.
On the Clemson side of this matchup, 92 returning games from their offensive line is good for 2nd most returning Power 5 teams. Interestingly, the 2,235 snaps is only good for 39th.
Dawgs D Line PFF Defensive grade of 65.7 ranks 8th in Power 5 in Returning Production. The Tiger’s Offensive PFF Grade of 63.4 is ranked 25th.
Clemson will be starting a new center in Mason Trotter and will have a challenge with Jordan Davis lining up opposite him. UGA will clearly need to win this battle and move DJ Uiagalelei off his spot.
A few things about PFF grades, they are independent of outcome. Graham Coffey and I learned that and a lot more earlier this year in an interview with Brent Rollins from PFF. He went deep on the possibilities of the 2021 UGA offense and gave great insight on a lot of what PFF does. Check out that episode of Dawg Sports Live here. Thank you to PFF and if you are into these numbers - you can sign up for their premium stats subscription https://www.pff.com/news/30-off-sale-promo-code-kickoff30-saves-30-off-pff-subscription-2021