The Daily Iowan

Big Ten football power rankings: defensive linemen

The Big Ten has some of the country’s best defenses, and it starts up front.

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Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Nick Bosa (97) bats down a pass by Michigan State Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke (14) during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Nick Bosa (97) bats down a pass by Michigan State Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke (14) during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

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Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Nick Bosa (97) bats down a pass by Michigan State Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke (14) during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Adam Hensley and Pete Ruden

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Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Adam Hensley teams up with Sports Editor Pete Ruden to break down the Big Ten’s best defensive linemen heading into the 2018 season.

5) Raequan Williams, Michigan State

The Spartans’ 2017 Iron Man winner earned his trophy for a reason. Williams is built like a tank, standing at 6-4 and weighing nearly 300 pounds. Plus, he’s played in 16-straight games, so health isn’t a concern.

Williams was an effective run stopper, clogging holes all along the offensive line. The redshirt junior had 2.5 sacks last season and 6 tackles for a loss at nose tackle. He was a main factor leading to Michigan State’s conference-best 95.3 rushing yards allowed per game mark. There’s a chance Williams might jump to the NFL after this season, especially if he can keep up his disruptive ways.

4) Joe Gaziano, Northwestern

Remember Nick Bosa, the threatening defensive end from Ohio State who is ranked No. 1 on this list? Gaziano tied him for the Big Ten lead in sacks in 2017, bringing the quarterback down 8 times behind the line.

He was also a threat in the passing game, breaking up 5 passes.

Serving on a Northwestern defensive line with the likes of Jordan Thompson and Samdup Miller, the Wildcats’ D-line is clearly one of its biggest strengths heading into the season.

If Thompson and Miller command attention as they should, the door could be even more open for Gaziano to make plays.

3) Rashan Gary, Michigan

Michigan might mess around and have the best defensive line in the conference, let alone one of the best in the country, and Gary is going to be one of the main reasons.

In 2017, he was one of six Wolverines with at least 10 tackles for a loss. Gary notched 11.5 of those and also registered 5.5 sacks, big improvements from his freshman campaign in 2016.

Gary has only scratched the surface of his potential. The 6-5, 281-pound linemen could easily see his sack totals double in 2018.

2) Chase Winovich, Michigan

Sure, Maurice Hurst ​— one of the best defensive linemen in the conference in 2017 — is gone, but that doesn’t mean the Wolverines don’t have a good D-line.

And it starts with Winovich.

He was a monster last year, leading the conference with 18 tackles for loss and ranking second with 8 sacks.

He also recorded 70 tackles on the year — a huge mark for a defensive lineman.

With another All-Big Ten defensive end that can put the pressure on any quarterback in Rashan Gary, the Wolverines’ front four will have offensive coordinators scared all season.

1) Nick Bosa, Ohio State

Bosa is the league’s best defensive lineman, hands down. And it’s not out of the question to consider him the best in the country.

NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah called Bosa a “complete player with no glaring weaknesses” and called him “one of the best pure pass rushers” he’s evaluated. He’s drawn several comparisons to current NFL players, but one hits close to home: brother Joey, who also played at Ohio State.

Bosa totaled 8.5 sacks in 2017, 3 more than he had the previous season. He also tallied 16 tackles for a loss, deflected two passes, and forced a fumble. The junior is CBS Sports’ top prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft for a reason.

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