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Defensive Players to Watch: Iowa @ Iowa State

A pair of stingy defenses headline this matchup

Syndication: The Ames Tribune Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

As expected, both Iowa and Iowa State had successful defensive performances in week one. Against lesser competition, both defenses stymied their opponents from the opening kick until the final whistle. Will we see more of that this week as two of the nation’s best units go at it? I certainly think so. Again, let’s start with the Hawks.

Iowa: Jay Higgins

After the loss of Jack Campbell to the NFL, you may have thought that Iowa would struggle a bit to find a replacement. If last week was any indication, that is most certainly not the case. Higgins led the Hawks with SIXTEEN total tackles (12 solo) and even added a pass deflection.

Iowa definitely hasn’t taken a step back in the middle of the defense, and with a fairly inexperienced QB and 5 running backs taking snaps in week one, the Cyclones will have their hands full dealing with Higgins locking down the fort.

When Iowa State has the ball, you’re definitely going to want to follow #34 on the other side of the ball. He’ll be all over the field and beelining to the ball every snap.

Iowa State: Tyler Onyedim

I suppose following the suit of “who was the best player last week” I’d probably have to pick Jeremiah Cooper for the Cyclones, but I think I’ll go with big number 11 coming off the edge.

There are 2 specific reasons I’m going with TO in this one, so let’s jump right into it.

1. Iowa struggled to run the ball last Saturday. If Iowa State wants to limit Iowa like Utah State did, Tyler will be the spearhead of that operation.

Utah State was in the backfield a lot in the run game last week. The Aggies wrapped Iowa up in the backfield 9 times, and only one of them was counted as a sack.

2. Cade McNamara (at least last week) wasn’t a threat with his legs

Cade’s biggest strength vs the Aggies in week one was his ability to get rid of the ball quickly. I don’t think Iowa State will be as ineffective at generating sacks, and with there still some uncertainty around his injury, I’ll be interested to see how the Cyclones’ defensive front (specifically Onyedim) handles this next task.