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Defensive Player to Watch: The Linebackers

Just stop Chuba.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard is the best running back in the College Football.

In fact, it’s blasphemous to argue against that statement. Hubbard is currently leading nation in rushing with 1,265 yards; the next closest is Boston College’s AJ Dillon with 968 yards.

Without a doubt, Hubbard is the biggest threat that the Cowboys are bringing to Ames on Saturday, and could be OSU’s key to pulling off the upset in Ames. If the Cyclones defense can contain Hubbard, they should have no problem with the Cowboys, but that’s a big if.

When it comes to stopping an elite running back, it has to be a team effort. In a three man front, it’s up to the linebackers in the second level of the defense to fit run gaps and force the running back to change direction and allow the safeties to make tackles.

We saw another elite running back in Darius Anderson come to Ames just three weeks ago, but left Ames with just 11 carries for 49 yards. O’rien Vance and Marcel Spears Jr. were the lead tacklers for Iowa State in that game.

O’Rien Vance will be back alongside Mike Rose, who had his best game of the season against Texas Tech, after leaving the West Virginia game with an injury and missed last week, but leading up to his injury he had been the best player on Iowa State’s defense.

This core is one of the best in the country at shooting gaps in the run game that are opened up by the defensive line. The Iowa State defense is built to stop teams that rely on their rushing attack, so I believe the matchup of Hubbard plays in their favor.

Hubbard is a back that uses a cut at the second level of the defense to break away into the open field. Staying disciplined and not biting at jukes will be the way that Iowa State will have to stop Hubbard. The other biggest way to contain Hubbard will be making the first tackle. Iowa State generally has a problem of missing tackles, they can’t do that on Saturday.

Last season, we saw another high level running back in the orange and black, Justice Hill. The Iowa State defense held him to just 66 yards on 24 carries. These two players are very different and Hubbard is a better back, but if Iowa State plays at the level they did last year, they should be in good shape.

It’s impossible to stop a player at the caliber of Hubbard, but they can certainly slow him down. If they can slow him down, I don’t think Iowa State will have any problem picking up their fourth win in a row.