Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State vs. No. 15 Notre Dame: Camping World Bowl analysis, prediction

Cyclones won't be intimidated against Fighting Irish

Iowa State takes on No. 15 Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl.
Iowa State takes on No. 15 Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl.

ORLANDO, Fla. — My thoughts on Saturday’s Iowa State-Notre Dame matchup in the Camping World Bowl.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Captain obvious — No. 15 Notre Dame (10-2) has good football players. That’s hardly any sort of revelation.

Notre Dame’s had good football players basically since college football’s inception.

But when asked about the Fighting Irish, that was the first thing out of the mouths of Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell and defensive coordinator Jon Heacock.

“When you study them, the first thing you see is outstanding players all over the field,” Heacock said. “The offensive line is tremendous, the quarterback is playing at a high level and making great decisions, they have great skill at wide receiver and the tight ends are as good of a group as we’ve seen all season. The running backs are physical guys who work the ball down field.”

The offense — The offensive line has only given up 14 sacks all year and has allowed Notre Dame’s rushers to record 5.0 yards per carry.

Quarterback Ian Book has proved to be a prolific dual-threat quarterback — not unlike some of the quarterbacks Iowa State sees in the Big 12.

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Book has thrown for 2,787 yards and 33 touchdowns and has rushed for 516 yards and four touchdowns.

 

“You look at Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, you look at Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer and add in a little bit of Jalen Hurts,” Heacock said. “He’s kind of a combination of all the guys we’ve played. He brings it all together and that’s what makes him challenging.”

Linebacker Mike Rose said while Book isn’t especially tall at just 6-foot, he’s built well at 212 pounds.

Rose said if Book does get outside the pocket and decides to run, it’s important to wrap him up because he does have the ability to break a tackle.

“They didn’t win 10 games just by showing up,” Heacock said. “They have a great group of players that they’re working with. Book has the ability to make plays. He can make all of the throws and he has the ability to extend plays with his legs. He’s a veteran guy out there who is confident in what he does.”

Game plan — While what the players do is impressive, the Notre Dame coaches do an excellent job of putting the players in position to make plays.

“From a scheme standpoint, you see a really balanced team,” Heacock said. “There are no breaking points with Notre Dame’s offense. Those guys have done a tremendous job and they’re never the same in anything. They put you in a lot of conflicts and they force you to be disciplined and be in gaps and zones. It’s a great challenge.”

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The defense — Notre Dame’s defense is just as impressive as its offense and is, in some ways, its mirror.

The defense has combined for 30 sacks and 85 tackles for loss. All of that production starts up front with the way they can disrupt plays at the point of attack.

Iowa State Cyclones

Get started — Iowa State’s offense is like trying to start a lawn mower after winter. You have to prime the motor, pull on the ripcord a half dozen times and baby it along until it becomes self sufficient.

The Cyclones have had a problem with starting games slowly dating back to last season’s Alamo Bowl, a 28-26 loss to Washington State.

Iowa State didn’t score a single point until the fourth quarter against Baylor in September and only scored 14 first-half points against Oklahoma in November while the Sooners put up 35. Iowa State lost those games by a combined three points because, like a lawn mower fresh out of the garage, once the offense starts, it doesn’t stop.

Campbell and his offensive staff just need to find a way to get it going right away.

Quarterback Brock Purdy is clearly capable — he had the most passing yards in the Big 12 this year with 3,760 while completing 66 percent of his passes, which was the second best completion percentage. He also threw for 27 touchdowns, which is the third best.

Running Back Breece Hall has been on a tear since he became Iowa State’s primary running back after the fourth game.

So, in essentially what amounts to eight games, he rushed for 842 yards and nine touchdowns.

Iowa State also has the playmakers on the outside to get the job done in all-Big 12 selection Deshaunte Jones as well as Tarique Milton and La’Micahel Pettway.

Not to mention All-America tight end Charlie Kolar.

It’s not about firepower for Iowa State. The Cyclones have that.

It’s getting that firepower started fast.

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Stellar defense — Defensively, Iowa State is what it is: a very solid and fundamental team that likes to keep the ball in front of it and not allow the big play.

Iowa State had banged-up players at the end of the season — most notably safety Greg Eisworth. The time off from the end of the season to the bowl has allowed Eisworth and the others to get healthy.

“We’ve played this defense now for a couple of years and we’ve sorted through what our guys can and cannot do,” Heacock said. “It’s been beneficial to get guys healthy — that’s been a big benefit. We were a beat-up team down the stretch and the time has allowed our guys to get healthier. These guys do different things and don’t sit and allow you to play your defense. You have to do some things that are different.”

Camping World Bowl prediction

Notre Dame 31, Iowa State 27

Iowa State has proved over the last couple of years it isn’t intimidated by the name on the front of the jersey or the ranking next to the name. But this Notre Dame team is stacked from top to bottom and mobile quarterbacks have given Iowa State’s defense some fits this season.

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