Contestants: Mitch King, Matt Kroul, Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard (Iowa); Ladi Ajiboye, Nathan Pepper, Jordin Lindsey, Cliff Matthews (South Carolina)
The Hawkeyes boast the nation's tenth-best rushing defense, thanks in large part to a stout defensive line. Mitch King and Matt Kroul, Iowa's defensive tackles, are great run stuffers. Considering that we come into this game with one of the nation's worst rushing offenses, we likely won't be able to run between the tackles against Iowa. King will be especially difficult to contain; while a bit undersized, he's had a good enough year to make a unanimous selection for first-team All-Big 10.
Iowa doesn't like to blitz, so they also rely on their line to generate a pass rush. They haven't always generated a lot of pressure this year, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them have some success against our suspect offensive line.
South Carolina's defensive line, much maligned in 2007 after contributing to one of the country's worst rushing defenses, showed marked improvement this year. Our rushing defense ranks 37th at 128 ypg. Whereas we've continued to have trouble with teams like Florida that run the spread (our national ranking was much higher before we played that Gators and Clemson), we've been generally effective stopping teams that utilize traditional rushing attacks.
Our group also generates a potent pass rush and contributes to the occasional big play, such as Nate Pepper's fumble return for a TD against Ole Miss or Jordin Lindsey's INT return against Arkansas.
While I wouldn't call it a large advantage, Iowa is a little better than us here. We have a very good defensive line, but the fact is that Iowa has one of the best around.
When it comes to line play in this game, a lot of variables come into play. Can our offensive line play well enough to keep Iowa from generating a pass rush? Can we at least run well enough to move the chains in short yardage situations? Those are big ifs considering how our offensive line matches up against Iowa's defensive line. As far as our defense goes, I think we're capable of slowing down Shonn Greene early in the game, but what worries me is that if our offense falters and can't sustain drives, our defense will wear down by the second half. If that happens, we're probably toast unless we've built up a big lead by then.