Myth of Big 10 Size

Submitted by blueheron on October 5th, 2010 at 9:24 AM

[Ed (Misopogon): Bumped to diary for general diary-worthiness]

If, like me, you've heard "So and so is too small for the Big Ten" and wondered if that statement could be supported by data, you might find the following information interesting.

At the expense of some tedious data entry and time, I looked at the depth charts on the Rivals site for teams from several conferences.  Shown here are the average weights for the O- and D-lines.  (I thought those would be a reasonable proxy for overall team size.)

Conference O-Line D-Line
Big Ten 304.2 282.3
Big 12 303.9 273.0
SEC 308.6 279.5
ACC 299.6 273.9
Big East 298.7 272.0
Pac 10 297.7 273.6
CUSA 295.5 268.1
MWC 301.1 271.7
Sun Belt 289.5 256.1
WAC 297.9 262.3


  • Notice that our conference doesn't have the biggest offensive linemen.  That would be the SEC.
  • Our defensive linemen are noticeably bigger than those of other conferences (SEC excepted).  I suppose that might be a reflection of the SMASHMOUTH football favored by Wisconsin, MSU, et al.  Not sure, though...
  • You have to go to the Sun Belt (!) conference to get relatively small offensive linemen.  The Mountain West and WAC conferences are right there with the big boys.

Anyway, the numbers show that the Big Ten isn't anything special size-wise.

Big Linemen

Another of my favorite myths or areas of silliness is this remark, which you often hear in pre-game shows: "X's offensive line outweighs Y's defensive line by Z pounds!!!"  Of course it does.  Any reasonable person understands that offensive linemen have a bigger average size. For the conferences, the average difference ranged from 21.9 to 35.6 pounds.  Why state the obvious?

While we're on the subject of myths, one other thing:

The Badgers have just four offensive linemen in the NFL.

For all the glowing praise that Wisconsin's trained mastadons get, you'd think they'd have more players at those positions in the NFL. Four? Not overly impressive ...



October 5th, 2010 at 9:48 AM ^

I have also heard that it all turns to dick at midnight. This is at least a 9th grade quality joke.

At some point the quality of the weight gained will have to factored in, especially for defensive players. O-line can carry some bad weight due to the nature of the position but to be a good football player you must be able to move and bend your hips above all other things.


October 5th, 2010 at 9:45 AM ^

Personally I'd be curious to see some body fat percentages for various conferences.  This might be observer bias, but I've noticed a lot of other conferences big boys are also rather fat.  guts hanging out, hands on their hips and sucking air.  The pinnacle of this being Mount Cody from Alabama.  

I guess my theory is based on watching bowls.  It seems like every year one SEC line of slow moving chubby fellows gets tossed into the shark tank full of pissed off Wisconsin, Penn State or Iowa linemen who spend the entire game running the Power-I down the throat of the SEC Team without any problem.  

So basically Big10 is known as the power conference for producing big, angry linemen because our schools tend to snap up a lot of guys with the proper frames to hold the muscle, whereas some other conferences get a big boy and sent him off to KFC as part of his practice.


October 5th, 2010 at 10:19 AM ^

Dorrestein, Omameh, Molk, Schilling, and Lewan = 301 avg
van Bergen, Martin and Banks = 289 avg

Oh and if you add Craig Roh on defense, you get 280 avg

So our guys are not too small ... they fit right in


I guess the question for buleheron is: did you use starters, two deep, or every OL / DL on the roster? If the latter, then the actual starting line or two deep line average weights may be different.


October 5th, 2010 at 10:55 AM ^

You make a good point about our D-line.  They're not the "midgets" of RichRod myth.

As for your question, I looked only at the weights of the starters.  On defense, I used only D-linemen in the total.  (I didn't take the heaviest linebacker in cases where only three linemen were listed.)


October 5th, 2010 at 10:36 AM ^

Anyway, the numbers show that the Big Ten isn't anything special size-wise.

According to your numbers, the Big 10 has the largest D-Line and 2nd largest O-Line.  How does this not confirm that the Big 10 is bigger than most conferences?  What were expecting, the numbers to be 20% higher than everywhere else?


October 5th, 2010 at 10:56 AM ^

Ryano, I consider a few pounds insignificant when the average is around 300.

I certainly wasn't expecting big differences, but (again) the "TOO SMALL FOR THE BIG TEN" drumbeat seems relentless and I'll bet you'll find more than a few fans who honestly believe our boys are 10-20 pounds bigger, on average, than those of other conferences.  (These people might also obsess about how Indiana "kept the ball away from our offense.")

Remember when it was announced that McGuffie was headed for Rice?  Some people here (of all places) suggested that he'd be better off in a conference "where the players are smaller."



To all the jokers making fun of the title, yeah, I thought about that (and decided to keep it).  It reminds me of the time I was playing Taboo ( and described reading as "a recreational activity that you do by yourself" to a room of 30+ people.  The snickering began immediately.  :)  I was saved by someone who blurted out the correct answer after a few seconds.


October 5th, 2010 at 11:07 AM ^

Granted the O-line is more or less the same, but the Big 10's D-line IS 10 lbs bigger than the other conferences.  Given the large sampling size you have here, I consider that to be a huge difference.


October 5th, 2010 at 12:13 PM ^

I agree that there's a difference on the defensive side.  (Note that the SEC is pretty close.)  Whether it qualifies as huge is a judgment call, of course.

Even so, I don't think a 270-pounder would be "too small" for our conference.  A bit undersized, perhaps.

Most of the fuss seems to be about the O-line, so that's what most interested me.


Is my point clear?  All I wanted to show here is that the differences don't measure up to all the hoopla about the special Big Ten "road graders."  I've watched too many bowl games where the commentators can't seem to resist talking about "Big Ten size" and "SEC speed" (another topic).


October 5th, 2010 at 10:50 AM ^

If we take this analysis one step further, an argument can be made that Michigan may not face an offensive line bigger than UMass's for the rest of the year.  The interesting question is how the UMass O-line compares talent-wise with the other strong lines in the Big Ten.  Maybe a team with a run game like Wisconsin isn't as scary as it might otherwise have been?

Zone Left

October 5th, 2010 at 11:09 AM ^

That must taken some serious at work time! Very nice.
<br>A couple other posters alluded to it, but the biggest difference isn't size, it's size and athleticism. It's easy to find enormous people in America, but not many can move like Jake Long.


October 5th, 2010 at 11:23 AM ^

I wonder if there would be an actual substantial difference as you get further away from the LOS- LB's, RB's, etc. For instance, are Big Ten Linebackers more accustomed to filling the gaps along with their DLine bretheren, and therefore have more necessary girth?


October 5th, 2010 at 11:30 AM ^

What's the standard deviation of the data for weights?  It's hard to say one's significant over the other without more information about the spread of the weights.  

Also, it's possible to imagine a 400lb good ol' boy (ex. Terrence Cody last year) skewing the data in some of the sets.