Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
It's entirely fair and correct to promote the football-moving machines known as Jordan Lynch and Dri Archer. But the MAC Championship Game is also featuring two incredible units unduly important to success: offensive lines.
There just aren't many stats for offensive lineman, at least readily available to the proletariat. But here's what we do know: the numbers boasted by Lynch and Archer would be impressive but not as eye-popping as they are today without those O-Lineman.NIU's offensive line is in the top 10 in sacks allowed (10) and third in tackles for loss allowed (3.83 per game). For Kent State, they're 30th (16) and 16th (4.42/game).
In the all-MAC awards, Kent State's Brian Winters was honored as a first-teamer, and NIU's Tyler Loos got second team. You'd think more large men from these teams would've gotten more accolades and maybe that speaks to the depth of O-Lines across the MAC, but they all block extremely well.
Kent State's line has three seniors: the aforementioned Winters, Josh Kline and the aptly-named Kent Cleveland, with juniors Phil Huff and Pat McShane rounding them out in the middle. The experience exists in bunches and all five men have accounted for every start this year. Cleveland and Kline also started all of 2011, with Cleveland starting nine games and Huff starting a bit too.
Compare that to NIU's line: zero seniors. Prolific starter Logan Pegram was to be the lone returning starter/senior but has missed all of the season with a broken leg. The result was two freshmen earning starting time: Aidan Conlon and Andrew Ness. Ryan Brown, Jared Volk and Loos rounded out the Huskies line, although wouldn't you know it, Loos was lost for the year in the Toledo game, throwing Matt Krempel into the mix. That they're missing this much up front and had to rebuild the protection on the fly only speaks further volumes as to what Northern Illinois has done this year.
Coaches say it all the time: win the line of scrimmage, win the game. Coaches know more about football than me, so I'll take their word for it. You won't be watching the lines, perhaps not very much, but just know that when those giant holes open up for the ball carrier, (or in the case of Archer, a mouse-hole will suffice) you know who to silently thank.