- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Each Friday during the season, we'll be taking a look at a Big Ten player to watch when the games kick off Saturday.
This week's selection: Iowa sophomore RB Damon Bullock
Saturday assignment: home vs. Iowa State, 3:30 p.m. ET
Bullock momentarily put to rest the top concern in the state as he triggered Iowa's rushing attack with 150 yards on 30 carries against Northern Illinois, including the game-winning 23-yard dash with 2:15 left. After recording just 10 carries all of last season, Bullock showed he can handle a full load and remain effective throughout a game. He actually got stronger as the game went along, rushing for 80 yards in the fourth quarter as Iowa rallied for an 18-17 win at Chicago's Soldier Field.
The key for Bullock is following up his debut Saturday against in-state rival Iowa State, which handed Iowa a heartbreaking loss last year in Ames. Iowa State ranked just 98th nationally against the run in 2011, surrendering 193.5 yards per game on the ground. The Cyclones allowed 160 yards in their season-opening win against Tulsa. This marks an important opportunity for Bullock to further establish himself as Iowa's top back at a position that has seen an incredible amount of turnover in recent years. Although there are high hopes for true freshman Greg Garmon, Iowa needs multiple options and ideally wants to rely on a more experienced player like Bullock. Remember, while Iowa has struggled to keep running backs on the field and/or in the program, it has consistently developed them into capable Big Ten ball-carriers. If the opener was any indication, Bullock could be the next in line.