This is the latest in a series of articles previewing Big Ten football in 2012. A rough schedule of previous and upcoming preview articles is provided at the end of this article.
They are the anchors of good offensive performance and the unsung heroes of offense: the offensive line. However, many football fans know that the difference between a successful touchdown drive and a quick punt is whether the line pushes back the defense and opens holes for the running backs.
In a tough running conference like the Big Ten, having a strong and deep offensive line is key to winning a division title and going to Indianapolis. The difference between the perennial contenders and the usual teams at the bottom of the conference race is usually not star power, but toughness along the lines.
However, having a superstar performer on the line is still critical despite the importance of having depth. A superstar can draw double teams and other attention away from other solid linemen who can then dominate weaker opposition.
Each of the following ten linemen are just that type of difference maker. For their teams, the road to offensive efficiency starts with these guys.