Stanford might boast the nation's best offensive line. It is loaded with talent, starting with the All-American tandem of Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. Martin stands a daunting 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds while DeCastro isn't far behind at 6-foot-5, 310 pounds. Both are projected to be first-round NFL Draft selections.
Three new starters meshed nicely this season around the duo and the Stanford line allowed just nine sacks on Andrew Luck this season and paved the way for the nation's No. 24 rushing attack at 207.9 yards per game. But it isn't just the talent that makes this line so hard to prepare for, it's how the sets and packages differ from anything else the Cowboys have seen that will pose the biggest challenge.
"This will be the best offensive line we have faced since I've been here," Young said. "They're very, very physical and we're trying to simulate that in practice as best we can but it's hard to do when you're using your scout team. Our starting offensive line is helping us out and running some plays.
"It's just totally different than the Big 12. Texas, Missouri and Kansas State will run the ball a little but Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are spreading you out and throwing it all over the park. There is no question we haven't seen anything like what they'll do with their line packages and it's going to be a tough thing to adjust to."
The smashmouth, pro-style approach is most similar to Texas and K-State but Stanford presents problems with its packages that the others don't.
"I really think this will be the best offensive line we've seen all year long. The thing that sets them apart is they bring extra offensive linemen in to have sets with six or seven of them out there. There's a lot of weight out there, you know? It's definitely go to present a new challenge for us but overall their line is the best we will have seen," defensive end Jamie Blatnick said.
You read that right, the Cardinal sometimes puts as many as seven o-linemen on the field at the same time in jumbo packages. Stanford calls it "The Hulk." Players upward of 300 pounds come in where fullbacks and tight ends should be, putting an emphasis on brute force to move the ball. That weight ratio is something even the OSU defensive backs know they will need to help with.
"We've been paying a lot of attention to that and we're getting a feel for what they like to do and the situations where they do it," safety Markelle Martin said. "For us, we have to be on our toes with personnel groups and matchups. If they bring in another lineman or two, we'll pull a safety down and stuff like that. We just have to pay attention and we also have to bring our pads. We have to be physical with them because we know they will be."
Martin detailed more reasons the Stanford line is of a higher caliber than what OSU has faced.
"They're really big and physical and they do a good job of communicating with one another when defenses blitz them," he said. "They move well and they slide in their protection extremely well. When they pull guards, they pull them with a purpose. It's an impressive group to watch. We just have to pay close attention to what they're doing, how they're trying to protect Luck and keep him off the ground. It is the best o-line we will have faced without a doubt."
The ability to best their line starts with the Cowboys' defensive front and Bassett said OSU fans can rest assured in how thorough they've been in their preparation and they're ready to get physical themselves.
"We're ready for a street fight because that is what it's going to be," he said. "Whoever can take the most punches and comeback firing is going to win. We plan on that being us."