Viewer’s guide: watch the big guys

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When a TV network opens its telecast for a football game, it doesn’t take long for them to highlight the “players to watch” on both squads. Seldom are those players linemen.

Whether watching on TV or in-person, most fans follow the ball when it’s snapped. Seldom do fans watch the linemen.

The men in the trenches operate in anonymity. Few people remember their names unless they blow a block or make a sack.

And, yet, it wasn’t surprising to hear what Coach Paul Rhoads said Monday about the key match-ups in Saturday’s game with Iowa.

“I think you’ve got to look at the trenches, especially in this game,” Rhoads said. “Iowa has always been so strong in the offensive and defensive lines and they are again this year. We looked improved on our defensive front and (we’re) still building on the offensive front.”

Most casual fans don’t truly understand line play. It’s hard to decipher. But those who know the game realize its impact. Line play sets the tone.

Frequently, one of the visitors to Iowa State’s practice is Cecil Rhoads, father of Paul and a high school hall of fame coach. During positional work on the practice field, Cecil is almost always camped out by the linemen. Like his son, he knows where the game is controlled.

“I think I’ll keep my eyes close to the line of scrimmage,” Paul Rhoads said of Saturday’s game. “I’m a ball coach and (we know) that’s where games are won and lost.”

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