The Tigers and Cyclones are set to clash in the Cheez-It Bowl on Wednesday December 29th (5:45pm ET). While most of the media focus since the end of the season has been on the coaching carousel and recruiting news, we connected with Mattias Schwartzkopf of SB Nation’s Iowa State site, Wide Right and Natty Light, to help us preview the bowl game.
STS: Iowa State was pre-season No. 7 in the AP poll. Like Clemson, they expected more than the Cheez-It Bowl this postseason. They were 5-2 after a big win over Oklahoma State, but they lost three of their last five games to finish 7-5. What went wrong in the latter half of the season for the Cyclones and what’s the buzz around the team coming into this game?
WRNL: Lack of attention to detail. Matt Campbell preaches about winning in the margins and doing the little things to win ball games. Iowa State hurt themselves by not doing the small things and then they would find themselves down in games early on that they shouldn’t have been and then they have to expend a ton of energy to get themselves back in the game. Not to mention the Big 12 was much improved compared to a season ago — not saying Iowa State wasn’t but other teams took a step and caught Iowa State’s number.
As for buzz, I would say hopeful and excited for the future. While obviously we would love to win a bowl game, heck we don’t have many bowl game wins in our history so we will take them. But just as much as we want to win we are excited about the next era of Cyclone football, the post-Brock Purdy era.
STS: Quarterback Brock Purdy is averaging 249 passing yards per game with an incredible 73.1% completion percentage and a 18-7 TD INT ratio. Purdy has had a great run as a four-year starter for the Cyclones. What are some of his strengths and weaknesses? What has he meant for this program leading them through one of the more successful stretches in school history? What’s next for him after the bowl game?
WRNL: Strength is really just his ability to fight. It sounds silly but you can go back to the games I alluded to earlier where the Cyclones had to fight their way back into the game. He was the one giving everything he had to make sure Iowa State had the best opportunity to win. During the Oklahoma game he got his ass kicked all day long and was still there at the end of the game with an opportunity to tie the game.
Weakness: Arm strength. He just lacks the ability to really push the ball downfield. Iowa State has gotten away with it for this long but it’s another element to the offense that Iowa State is missing and also an ability that may keep him from a big NFL chance.
Brock Purdy has meant everything to Iowa State and our fans. He basically has been the face of the Iowa State transformation. For this generation of Iowa State fans (and maybe some that are older), Brock Purdy will always be a name they will bring up instantly when they think about Iowa State football. Heck, he owns all the quarterback records and more at Iowa State. He truly is the GOAT of Iowa State football. As for what is next, hopefully he can land somewhere decent in the NFL and learn the game at the pro level and maybe someday get his opportunity.
STS: This off-season, we’ve had probably the wildest coaching carousel I’ve ever seen. Clemson lost both coordinators! Somehow Iowa State managed to retain Head Coach Matt Campbell despite him being a prime candidate for several major job openings (namely Oklahoma and Notre Dame). Not only that, but Offensive Coordinator Tom Manning remains with the program even though he seems like a very attractive hire — if not for a head coaching spot then at least an OC role at a bigger program. Are you surprised you got through the chaos unscathed? How much do Matt Campbell and Tom Manning mean to the Cyclones?
WRNL: Things got a bit dicey there, I really think we are one Oklahoma touchdown in Bedlam away from Matt Campbell being the coach at USC and Lincoln Riley still in Norman. I was pretty nervous. I still haven’t trained my mind to know we are going through these rumors every offseason. He’s not going to be in Ames forever and we just need to enjoy this while we have him and know that the Iowa State program is in a better spot today than it has ever been.
Tom Manning has been under some fire from fans this season. The offense had some issues that really could have won them some more games if a real plan and adjustments were made but it seemed like Tom Manning was caught with his pants down. Now he has an opportunity to correct those issues this upcoming season. So we shall see if he can get back into the fans’ good graces.
STS: Despite retaining the coaching staff, change abounds for Iowa State as the conference changes around them. What are you thoughts on the new-look Big 12 which will have BYU, Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston instead of Oklahoma and Texas in a few years? While losing Texas hurts from a money perspective and losing Oklahoma obviously removes a prime playoff contender, could the conference actually be deeper and more fun?
WRNL: I am not sure about deeper but it could be a lot of fun. While like you said Texas and Oklahoma are losses in their own way it’s like getting rid of your annoying college roommate that gets everything they want and is spoiled but just sucks at everything they do in life (Texas). Your life becomes a lot more simple. Hell from a basketball standpoint the conference will be loaded with firepower. Football-wise it may take some time but eventually, I think the new teams recruiting levels will ramp up and we should get some quality football out of the group. Obviously, Cincy being in the playoffs this season doesn’t hurt anything either.
STS: Focusing on the upcoming matchup, what is the biggest advantage that Iowa State needs to exploit to leave feeling the cheesiest?
WRNL: I mean both defenses are great but Clemson’s defense is phenomenal. I am not sure there is much to exploit. I think Iowa State’s defense will be able to hold up well, but it’s going to come down to the ability of Iowa State to score on Clemson. I am not sure they will be able to run the ball so the Tigers may see a heavy dose of TE Charlie Kolar up the middle and create a mismatch on linebackers.
STS: Conversely, what is an area where you worry Clemson can take advantage of the Cyclones?
WRNL: Iowa State’s secondary. It has taken its lumps late in the season and now has one less playmaker back there due to Isheem Young transferring. I will say a prayer every time Clemson tosses one deep.
STS: According to DraftKings, Iowa State is favored by 1.5 points and O/U is 45.5 (implied score of 23.5-22) (**UPDATE - Clemson is now favored by 1 point**). Do you think this is a fair spread and O/U? What do you believe is the most likely outcome?
WRNL: This is going to be a defensive matchup. I think Iowa State has the better offense of the two but Clemson has the better defense. Something is going to have to give. I can easily see a 17-10, 20-17 type of game. Clemson has become the favorite following the Breece Hall news and I think that is justified.
Give me Clemson 17-14 but would not be shocked if it was the other way either.
A big thank you to Matthais for answering these questions to help us preview the Iowa State Cyclones. We hope you enjoyed the back-and-forth. Be sure to follow Matthais on Twitter and read our answers to their questions.
Disclaimer: Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.