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Iowa Potluck, Monday: The Running Game

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Is it possible for this sandwich not to suck?

Nope

Maid-Rite Sanwich

A few years back Zagat came out with an article attaching each state with the sandwich it is most known for. While Iowa should have gotten the tenderloin (fuck off, Indiana), Zagat gave us the loose meat sandwich (Maid-Rite). Quite frankly, it is awful.

Which brings us to Iowa’s rushing offense. Since Kirk Ferentz’s first class in 1999, Iowa has had 15 offensive linemen drafted, including four in the first round. When you combine that with Ferentz’s preference for a ball control offense, it would make sense for Iowa to have an above average running game, right? Not really. More often than not, Iowa finishes in the bottom half of the conference in rushing (by most any measure: S&P+, yards/game, yards/attempt, etc.).

In 2015, despite numerous injuries to RBs and OL (oh, hey, there Minnesota excuses), Iowa managed to finish in the top half of the conference in most every rushing category, despite not having a single back go over 1000 yards (Jordan Canzeri finished 16 yards shy of 1000 yards).

For 2016, Iowa has two returning running backs with starting experience (LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley), and five returning linemen with starting experience (I would list them, but no one cares).

Will the Hawkeyes have a top half of the conference rushing offense? Also, is there something your favorite team is known for, and should be good at, but just never delivers?

Candystripes: If Indiana can put together a decent running game with a similar makeup, I see no reason Iowa shouldn’t be able to do something similar. As for what Indiana should be good at but never delivers, upsets. le sigh

Jesse: I think they’ll have a top half rushing offense, but my caveat is that I have no doubt that the Big Ten rushing will be kind of a mixed bag this year. With experience, a decent returning QB to keep defenses honest, and what looks to be an easy enough slate of defenses, I think Iowa can capitalize on momentum in that department. Top 7 team in rushing? Sure, sign me up. Top 3? Maybe. That’s where I’ll probably stop guessing.

As for Nebraska? Turnovers? Close losses as of late? Interceptions by mobile QBs who aren’t paying attention? Those are things we do. I’d argue we should have a semblance of a consistent defense, but LOL that’s been sketchy for a while. Wait, this was way more negative than expected. Uh... KICKER UNIVERSITY EVERYBODY!

Aaron Yorke: Hey, it’s amazing was a competent quarterback can do for a running game. Since C.J. Beathard is back along with a bunch of lineman, I’ll say that Iowa finishes in the top half of the conference in rushing offense once again.

Hopefully Penn State will be there as well, because the Lions appear to have a star tailback in Saquon Barkley. Along with linebackers, Penn State had been known for having its tailbacks go high in the NFL Draft, only to wash out after two or three years. Sadly, the backs being produced recently have not performed well enough to go early in the Draft. Guys like Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch were complimentary pieces at best. Barkley will hopefully break the trend while making an impact at the next level as well. Until then, Penn State will continue to be Linebacker U. Not bad, but we could do with a reputation on offense as well. And heaven knows we’re not doing anything with quarterback talent. That’s part of what makes Matt McGloin so magical.

Townie: I like Iowa’s chances this year. Daniels is a stud running back and as you say, you are returning a lot of talent on the offensive line.

Penn State is known for our linebacker play. But lately, the linebacking corps is too thin. We lost our starting middle linebacker, Nyeem Wartman-White, in the second quarter of the Temple game last year. It added insult to the injury of losing to Temple.

Our other leader, Brandon Bell, was only healthy for 11 games. He stoo

Without Nyeem, our linebackers were young. The only linebacker to start at least 13 games was Jason Cabinda, a sophomore. We were forced to play guys like Manny Bowen, a true freshman. He’s going to be a great player for us, but last year he had 18 tackles in 13 games.

The fact that a true freshman linebacker is in 13 games for Penn State is a problem.

Andrew Kraszewski: Top half shouldn't be difficult, especially with a senior returning starter QB who has decent wheels of his own and should keep the whole offense running smoothly.

MSU picked up a reputation from the Rose Bowl season of having a viciously effective secondary, but the truth is since Isaiah Lewis and Darqueze Dennard left, the unit hasn’t really deserved that reputation. Big play vulnerability has been minimized only by the fact that few college teams heavily feature vertical passing anymore, but there's been a loooot of coverage mishaps in the last two seasons.

MNW: I'm thinking of all the teams that possibly should have top-half rushing attacks. OSU, Michigan, maybe PSU/Northwestern, Minnesota, possibly Nebraska, why not Michigan State, Indiana if the offense becomes "just run around and do shit"... Sure, seems like I can talk myself into top-half. Add in the fact that yeah, Beathard is a pretty good QB [Big Ten standards apply] and Iowa's O-line is Iowa's whole line, and I don't think it should be all that difficult unless AIRBHG realizes that WE HAD A DEAL, DAMNIT.

Northwestern is known for delivering pain and suffering to its fans. It is very good at that.

More seriously, it feels like a "smart school" should be able to attract good kickers and punters. We have only had Jeff Budzien in that category in the last decade or so.