Big East 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 5

Twenty down, five to go ...

No. 5 Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

Making the case: It is harder to quantify the impact an offensive lineman has on his team because there are not any specific stats tied to these players. No catches, receptions, rushing yards, interceptions, sacks, hurries or tackles. But when you see a good one, you know it immediately. In the case of Pugh, we could easily see just how much of a difference-maker he was to the Syracuse offense once he returned to the lineup after missing the first four games of the season with a shoulder injury. In those first four games, Syracuse ran for an average of 148.8 yards per game.

In its last nine, Syracuse averaged 206.1 yards per game. Now, Pugh is not the only reason for the improvement. As you saw earlier in the countdown, Jerome Smith came on strong and the Orange made a concerted effort to really ground and pound as the season wore on. But everything goes hand in hand. Pugh certainly helped those efforts, and he was rewarded with a spot on the All-Big East first team for the second straight year. After the season ended, he declared himself for the NFL draft, where he is expected to be an early-round selection.

Preseason ranking: No. 9

The countdown