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PFF ranks Notre Dame’s OL best in the nation

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The loss of Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin, picks No. 6 and 50 respectively, is the most impactful talent drain from the Irish offensive line in recent years. But that hasn’t lowered the expectations for Harry Hiestand’s front five.

While watch lists and media days are taking up most of the attention, PFF College released their ranking of the ten best offensive lines in college football. And even without Stanley and Martin (and multi-year starter Steve Elmer) the Irish are ranked as the best in the land.

Here’s PFF College’s Top Ten Offensive Lines:

10. Florida State
9. West Virginia
8. Auburn
7. Indiana
6. Washington State
5. LSU
4. USC
3. Appalachian State
2. Stanford
1. Notre Dame

There are a few head-scratchers on the list, including the FBS newcomer Appalachian State and Big Ten doormat Indiana. But based on PFF’s analytic approach—and the fact that they grade every snap of every game—this is likely a more worthwhile list than any of the preseason lists finding their way into publication.

Leading the way for the Irish are left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson. Both come into the season with high expectations, as PFF has ranked both in college football’s top 100 players.

Here’s PFF’s analysis on why Notre Dame sits at No. 1:

Despite the losses of Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin to the NFL draft, I believe the Irish will have the premier college offensive line in 2016. Led by Mike McGlinchey  and Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame has the talent to be a dominant group.

I recently took a trip to South Bend to watch practice and workouts and was amazed by offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s efforts to use the “KISS” formula. Keeping it short and simple is what the Irish o-line looks to do, and they do it well. Using an old-school style of running off the ball blended with a modern style zone blocking allows the Notre Dame line to utilize their talent up front to create seams for their talented ball carriers.

Their favorite play — the “outside zone” — is a prime example. The offensive line looks to reach the defenders and if unable, they use the defense’s momentum against them and continue to run the defender creating those seams for the backs. Notre Dame had +61.6 run block rating and +18.1 pass block rating in 2015 and I have no doubt they will be among the top in both categories this season.

Notre Dame will battle two of the other top five offensive lines this season when they take on traditional foes USC and Stanford.