Football Four to Watch: Top Opposing Players

BY MITCH SMITH | JULY 28, 2010 7:20 AM

A five-part series, also check out:
- 07/26/10: Four to watch: Freshmen
- 07/27/10: Trap games
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As the Hawkeyes begin a new season of college football, The Daily Iowan takes a look at four of the top players Iowa will face.

4) Evan Royster, Penn State running back

If Penn State plans to get revenge on the Hawkeyes this season, it will rely on Evan Royster to shoulder the load on offense.

Although Iowa's defense has held Royster to fewer than 100 yards in all three career contests, he has the ability to make big plays for the Nittany Lions.

The senior has rushed for more than 100 yards in 12 career contests, and he is only 480 yards away from being Penn State's all-time career rushing leader.

3) Greg Jones, Michigan State linebacker

When talking about Greg Jones, the numbers and awards speak for themselves.

The Spartan senior anchored the Michigan State defense last season, earning consensus First-Team All-American and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Jones is one of the best linebackers in the country, if not the best. He's an explosive defender with a nose for the football. He recorded nine sacks and a Big Ten-best 153 tackles in 2009.

Despite his being sackless in his three career games against the Hawkeyes, overlooking Jones would be a big mistake for Iowa.

2) John Clay, Wisconsin running back

A strong offensive line combined with a physical running back can be a deadly duo for any opposing defense.

Wisconsin has that threat.

2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay returns along with a veteran offensive line led by 323-pound John Moffit.

Clay showed how good he could be last season, rushing for 1,517 yards (12th-best in the nation) and scoring 18 touchdowns in the Badgers' 10-3 season.

The Wisconsin running back could be even better this season after having surgery to alleviate the chronic pain in both his ankles.

The key for him this season is to show he can still be a physical rusher by making big plays against tough defenses.

He rushed for more than 100 yards in every Big Ten game last season — except the Ohio State and Iowa games. If he wants to be one of the best running backs in the country, he has to perform at the highest level against the best squads in the conference.

1) Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State quarterback

There may not be a more athletic player in the Big Ten than the Ohio State signal caller.

The junior quarterback continued to grow last season, passing for 2,094 yards and running for 779 while leading the Buckeyes to a Rose Bowl win and an 11-2 campaign.

Pryor's dual-threat ability makes him one of the most dangerous players in college football — not to mention he has a strong receiving corps and veteran offensive line returning this season.

Pryor isn't the best passer in the Big Ten, but he showed a lot of growth last season.

Of his 11 interceptions last year, eight were in the first seven games of the season.

He also capped off his sophomore campaign with perhaps his best performance of his career to date, throwing for 266 yards and two touchdowns in a Rose Bowl win against Oregon.

Everyone knows Pryor can run. The key will be for him to limit his interceptions and make smart decisions passing the ball.

If Pryor continues to grow, the Hawkeyes could be on the outside looking in when it comes to a Big Ten title.

Correction appended 07/28/10:

In an earlier version of this story, it was stated that Penn State running back Evan Royster has never fumbled the ball. This was incorrect, and Royster had fumbled last year against Iowa. Thank you to our sharp-eyed readers, the DI regrets the error.

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