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It's the left side of Stanford's offensive line vs. the right side of Iowa's front seven.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports


If there's a common theme leading up to the Rose Bowl it's the amount of respect that Iowa and Stanford share between one another. This is understandable, considering they have a common style of play despite the Cardinal being in a conference where all the rage is what Kirk Ferentz would call "sexy offenses." Oregon has their Chip Kelly spread, Wazzu has Leach's air raid, Cal has the Bear raid and Washington has Chris Petersen. Stanford has none of those things.

No, Stanford has the punch you in the mouth offense. Because before there was Kevin Hogan, Christian McCaffrey, and David Shaw there was Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhart, and Jim Harbaugh, who were the precursors and architects of the Cardinal football team we see today. They play "Manball" and the blueprint that Harbaugh drew up has led to three Pac 12 Championships, a Rose Bowl victory, and four BCS/NY6 bowl appearances.

That being said, you might be curious as to why the running back isn't the featured unit, considering Christian McCaffrey accounted for nearly 33% of Stanford's offense. Well, with all due respect to Christian McCaffrey, who is an amazing athlete, he wasn't named a first team All-American RB by a number of publications. You know who was named a first-team All-American? A unanimous first team All-American? Left guard Joshua Garnett. #51 is Joshua Garnett:

A senior who stands at 6'5, 321 pounds, Garnett won about every award imaginable for an offensive lineman including the Morris Trophy (Pac-12 Lineman of the Year) and the Outland Trophy. CBS has him ranked as the fifth best offensive guard prospect for the NFL Draft and praises his quickness, arm length, and strong hands. Here's a quick compilation video of some highlights:

During the NFL Draft, you often hear the term "lateral quickness" used (and abused) by draft analysts. Garnett has lateral quickness. He is often leading the charge for McCaffrey and takes great angles to set up his blocks, especially when stretching the field to the outside. He will push you around and if you get off balance he will fall directly on you which, I imagine, is relatively painful.

The bad news for Iowa is that Garnett isn't alone in his awesomeness. He's accompanied by left tackle Kyle Murphy, a 6'7, 301 pound senior that was named first team Pac-12. He's also a legitimate NFL prospect, considered the eighth best left tackle by CBS and projected as a second or third-round draft pick. They praise his size, arm length (always a problem for Iowa linemen doncha know), quickness and effectiveness in pass protection. The only available highlights for Murphy come from last year's Foster Farms Bowl when Murphy (#78) was at right tackle.

Having such a strong offensive line, especially on the left side, is the primary reason for McCaffrey and Hogan's success. The Cardinal rank FIRST (!) in time of possession, 18th in rushing offense, 4th in team passing efficiency, 15th in passes had intercepted and 35th in sacks allowed, giving up just under 1.5 sacks per game. It will be up to Parker Hesse, Nate Bazata and to a lesser extent Ben Niemann to try to try to stymie that side of the field. This is a tall order. Literally and figuratively.