It’s a well-worn cliché, but it’s one that applies just as well here as it has to any battle that Stanford’s offense has faced this year: That of the unstoppable force against the immovable object.
Stanford’s offense has scored 30 or more points in each of its 12 games since its season-opening loss at Northwestern, while Iowa’s defense has allowed only one opposing offense go over 30 this season. Iowa’s rush defense sits at 11th in the nation, but the Hawkeyes haven’t faced a top-25 rushing offense all season. Stanford clocks in at No. 18.
Something has to give.
Iowa’s linebackers seem fairly confident that they’re well-prepared for what Stanford’s offensive line is going to throw at them and that they’re not going to be the unit that will give. In fact, they don’t necessarily think that Stanford’s offensive line or Outland Trophy winner Joshua Garnett will pose any unexpected or extra challenges.
“When you play enough games at this level, everyone kind of meshes — everyone is very similar on the line,” said Iowa linebacker Cole Fisher. “Everyone has got big linemen, everyone has speed on the line.”
“For years, we all practiced against [2015 first-round pick] Brandon Scherff, last year’s Outland Trophy winner, and I don’t think I’ve gone against anyone who’s hit as hard as that guy,” he continued. “So I guess I’ve seen the best.”
When asked if there was almost a “been there, done that” feel to the Stanford offense due to its similarity to Big Ten offenses and the Iowa offense, Fisher also agreed.
“Our offense does that as well, so I guess that’s the only thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Usually we don’t like to brag about it, but when we go against [our] offense, we like to think of ourselves as maybe getting them most of the time.”
“They’re just another good offense,” added linebacker Josey Jewell. “Not to say that they’re not any better than anyone else, but yeah, playing in the Big Ten, we do have big offensive linemen.”
But that’s not to say that they expect it to be a cakewalk — they don’t seem to think that Stanford will be an exceptional challenge, but they’re certainly not thinking that the Cardinal will just roll over, either.
“Towards the end of the game, [most lines are] starting to give up, starting to become a little soft,” said defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson. “With this offensive line, I don’t see that. They’re very physical. I don’t see that as getting soft. It’s going to be a hard game.”
That’s high praise, coming from a lineman that goes against some of the more physical teams in the nation on a weekly basis in the Big Ten. But the confidence is still there for Johnson, too — for him, it’s not “if we shut Stanford down”; it’s “once we shut Stanford down.”
“With their running game, once we shut that down, we can make them pass and we have a very good secondary,” Johnson said. “We can take care of that.”
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.