Kirk Ferentz’ 2019 Iowa football squad will be facing some tough running backs this season. Who are the top 3 the Hawkeyes will see?
History has shown that if Iowa football teams can limit good running backs’ damage, they usually have a decent shot at winning the ballgame. Look back to 2018 when Iowa hosted their in-state rival and All-American running back, David Montgomery. That day, Montgomery had 17 carries for just 44 yards. He also hauled in 3 catches but was limited to a total of 15 yards there as well.
Making quarterbacks beat them has been the Hawkeye defense’s main objective. They’ve typically always been good at stopping the run and last year was no different. Phil Parker’s defense was ranked 12th in the nation at stopping the run, allowing just 109.5 yards-per-game.
Iowa will be facing a much more challenging schedule this season and they will need to be able to limit the opposing running backs once again. Let’s take a look at the top three backs the Hawks defense will see.
3. Isaiah Bowser, Northwestern
Bowser stepped up in a big way last season when Jeremy Larkin was forced to retire due to being diagnosed with cervical stenosis. It’s unfortunate, really, that Larkin’s career ended that way, but Bowser made sure the Wildcats backfield was in good shape. He appeared in 11 of Northwestern’s 13 games and became the starter in Week 3.
He immediately burst onto the scene carrying the ball 24 times for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. The following week against Wisconsin, he had 34 carries for 117 yards and another score. Bowser had perhaps his biggest game against the Iowa football team in what ended up deciding the Big Ten West division. That day he was a workhorse with 31 carries for 165 yards and a touchdown. He also hauled in 3 receptions for 33 yards. Keep in mind he did all this as a true freshman.
Bowser is going to be the starter without a doubt in 2019 and the Iowa football team will have to contain him if they would like to have a chance to win on the road in Evanston.
2. Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
Rodney Smith was supposed to be the feature back for the Gophers last season but was lost to a season-ending injury in the second game of the season. Similar to the Northwestern backfield, Mohamed Ibrahim stepped up nicely for Minnesota as a redshirt sophomore. On the season, he carried the ball 202 times for 1,160 yards and 9 touchdowns.
He wasn’t much of a threat in the receiving game, hauling in just 4 catches total for the year. That being said, Ibrahim put up some monster games in 2018. Specifically against Ohio State on the road, carrying the ball 23 times for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns. Iowa contained him pretty well allowing him to rush for just 62 yards on 13 attempts but he ran all over Purdue (18 car, 155 yds), Wisconsin (26 car, 121 yds), and Georgia Tech (31 car, 224 yds).
Minnesota potentially boasts the best backfield in the Big Ten with the return of Rodney Smith this season, so Iowa will have to do a good job of accounting for everyone on the field.
1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Was there any doubt? The unanimous All-American will be a junior this season and has done nothing but produce since starting as a true freshman. Last season, Taylor carried the ball an astonishing 307 times for 2,194 and 16 touchdowns.
The only game Taylor didn’t rush for at least 100 yards in last season was on the road against Northwestern. The Wildcats limited him to just 46 yards rushing on 11 attempts but he ran for a ridiculous 321 yards on 33 carries against Purdue. Against Iowa, Taylor had 25 carries for 113 yards and just 2 receptions for 6 yards.
Iowa did a nice job of containing him but Taylor is going to get his yards behind that offensive line. As long as they can avoid the big plays in a hostile environment, Iowa should have a fighting chance to grab a win at Camp Randall in 2019.