Oregon Ducks Football To Face Best Defensive Lines In College Football In Big Ten

The Oregon Ducks will face several Big Ten Conference teams who have claim to have some of most talented defensive line players in all of college football. Those games could be instant classics given the matchup of a high-powered Duck offense taking on the best of the Big Ten.
Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Curtis Samuel (4) is gang tackled by the Oregon Ducks defense in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Ohio State won 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Curtis Samuel (4) is gang tackled by the Oregon Ducks defense in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Ohio State won 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks will face several Big Ten Conference teams who have claim to have some of most talented defensive line players in all of college football. Those games could be instant classics given the matchup of a high-powered Duck offense taking on the best of the Big Ten.

The importance of winning the battle in the trenches is not lost on Oregon coach Dan Lanning. He shared his thoughts on the defensive line play following the Ducks’ Spring Game earlier this year.

“I have to go back and watch the film and see exactly how it was. There were certainly some advantageous matchups, but there are some guys out there who can certainly play for us,” said Lanning. “If you want to win football games, you have to win it in the front on both sides of the ball. I am excited about those guys we have in that group. There’s some young guys that I expect to step up and have bigger roles than they did last year, but also a group on both sides that we can continue to develop.”

Oregon's defensive line is also one of the most formidable in the country. On a list from PFF, Oregon landed at No. 10 while the three of the Ducks' Big Ten foes also made the list of top-ten defensive lines (full list at bottom).

Oregon Ducks defensive end Jordan Burch (1) celebrates after a sack during the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes
Sep 23, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks defensive end Jordan Burch (1) celebrates after a sack during the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports / Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10. Oregon Ducks

This is the fourth Big Ten school that makes the list. Coach Lanning and his coaches have worked tirelessly to build a roster of athletes that are bigger and faster and can compete against the Big Ten. Suffice it to say their efforts have been rewarded. The Ducks’ starters at edge and interior line weigh at least 270 pounds and the average weight is over 300 pounds. The fact that this group of four is outstanding against the run is not surprising as all earned run-defense grades above 70, with three above 75.

The only returning d-line starter for Oregon is edge defender Jordan Burch. He is tasked with mentoring Matayo Uiagalelei, a former top-40 recruit who played over 300 snaps as a true freshman. The Ducks are well known for their success in attracting talent through the transfer portal and that includes the defensive side of the ball. Derrick Harmon (Michigan State) and Jamaree Caldwell (Houston) look to be key contributors in the upcoming season. Harmon was ranked fourth among Big Ten defensive tackles while Caldwell was fourth in the Big 12.

No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State is the third Big Ten school on this list. The bad news is the loss of two edge defenders, Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac, to the NFL Draft. The good news for Nittany Lions’s fans is that they have two highly rated athletes that are ready to step up and fill the void. Abdul Carter had an outstanding 2023 season as an off-ball linebacker and is moving to an edge defender this upcoming season. His athleticism is off the charts as noted by his pass-rush win percentage of 24.1, that led all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) linebackers. That same rate would have placed him third among edge defenders. Dani Dennis-Sutton was ranked fourth against the run and brings all the talent of a former five-star recruit. Penn State will also benefit as they return its top-four interior linemen who all graded out well in PFF’s rankings.

Despite the Big Ten Conference connection, the Ducks do not play Penn State this year.

No. 2 Michigan Wolverines

Some may think Michigan will have a tough time repeating as national champions, but don’t tell that to the Wolverines’ defensive line. They still claim the best tandem of defensive tackles despite the loss of Kris Jenkins to the NFL. Replacing Jenkins is Mason Graham, touted as the best interior defensive lineman in the country. Joining him is Kenneth Grant who is ranked in the top-15 tackles in the Power Five.

The Ducks and Wolverines meet on November 2 in Ann Arbor. This game will almost certainly have Big Ten championship and playoff implications in play and the defensive lines for both schools will look to dominate the battle at the line of scrimmage.

No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes

The good news in Columbus is that three defensive linemen opted to remain in school for their senior years rather than enter the NFL draft. Edge defenders, Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau join interior linemen Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton on a defense that should play a crucial role in the Buckeyes’ chase for a Big Ten championship and a spot in the college football playoffs.

The Ducks will get a first-hand look at this team when they host Ohio State in Autzen Stadium on October 12.

Full list below:

1. Ohio State

2. Michigan

3. Miami

4. Georgia

5. Ole Miss

6. Notre Dame

7. Penn State

8. Texas

9. Clemson

10. Oregon


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Mark Lantz

MARK LANTZ