Match up to watch

Max Dible

This game will be about one thing: whether or not the ISU offensive line can create room for its three young running backs to operate while at the same time protecting quarterback Sam Richardson.

The two go hand in hand. A balanced attack will be required to keep the stout Iowa defense honest. The Cyclones tried to get the running game going against Northern Iowa, rushing the ball 32 times. But for all their efforts, they produced only 77 yards on the ground. 

That level of efficiency will put far too much pressure on the ISU passing game, which will again have to contend with a talented secondary headed by junior Greg Mabin, a future NFL prospect. 

If Iowa doesn’t have to respect the run threat, defensive end Drew Ott and company will pin their ears back and look to tee off on Richardson as frequently as possible. 

The ISU offensive line has been touted by coaches as one of the most improved units this year, but talent aside, there simply isn’t much depth.

Right guard Daniel Burton is expected to return to the lineup Saturday; huge news for a line that started the season with plans to rotate eight players in and out regularly — but had only six of them available the night UNI rolled into Ames. 

An argument can be made that every game is won or lost in the trenches, but in this match up particularly, the battle of the ISU offensive line against the UI defensive line will carry heavy implications as to the eventual winner.