The Valero Alamo Bowl gives us one of the first game this bowl season between two ranked teams, as the no. 24 Iowa State Cyclones of the Big 12 face the no. 13 Washington State Cougars of the Pac-12. Game time is set for 9:00 EST on Friday, December 28, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Fans can catch all the action on ESPN.
Washington State is currently a 4-point favorite over Iowa State. The over/under for the game is set at 54.5 points. Click here to check out betting odds and game previews for all of this year’s bowl games.
Washington State should be eager to get back on the field after their regular season ended in disappointing fashion. Just one win away from a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Cougars lost a snowy Apple Cup to in-state rival Washington. Despite going 10-2 this season, Wazzou was no doubt upset about failing to reach the conference title game for the first time.
On the bright side, the Cougars are heading to a bowl for the fourth straight season. Washington State has won at least nine games in each of those four seasons, as Mike Leach has this program rolling. Of course, Washington State has just five bowl appearances and only one bowl win since 2003, so playing in the Alamo Bowl is a big deal for the Cougars.
The same can be said for Iowa State, who will be playing in the prestigious Alamo Bowl for the first time. Matt Campbell and the Cyclones took another step forward in 2018. After a rough 1-3 start to the season, Iowa State won seven of their last eight games, matching last year’s win total of eight wins and improving their conference record by a game.
After beating Memphis in last year’s Liberty Bowl, the Cyclones have a chance to win bowl games in consecutive years for the first time in program history. A win would also give Iowa State a 9-win season and virtually guarantee them a top-25 ranking at the end of the season. Neither of those things has happened at Iowa State since 2000, giving the Cyclones a chance to make history on several fronts in their first-ever meeting with Washington State.
This looks like a classic matchup between a high-powered offense and a strong defense. As usual, I’m going to give the edge to the defensive team, especially when they’ve had extra time to prepare. It’s also worth noting that Iowa State has won a few games via a shootout this season. Ultimately, I think the Cyclones have more ways to win this game, so I’ll gladly lean toward Iowa State and the points.
Obviously, Washington State had one of the best offenses in college football this year. The Cougars averaged better than 38 points per game while quarterback Gardner Minshew finished fifth in the Heisman voting after throwing for over 4,400 yards. No one can dispute that the Cougars have a passing attack that’s hard to stop.
However, it’s worth noting that Washington State only played five bowl teams this year, which isn’t a lot for a power conference team. In those five games, they only averaged 27 points per game. They were also held under 20 points by both Cal and Washington, the two best defensive teams they faced this season. That’s at least a tiny red flag, especially for a team that is purposefully one-dimensional, often ignoring their running game.
To be fair, I’m not sure if the Iowa State defense is on the same level as Washington or Cal. But I think that they’re close. The Cyclones conceded just 22.5 points per game, which is impressive for a team that faced seven bowl teams, including some of the best offensive teams in the country. Remember, ISU held West Virginia to 14 points and 152 total yards. In fairness, they also got burned a few times. But the Cyclones won’t be intimidated by Wazzou’s offensive prowess, and I think they’ll welcome the challenge.
Meanwhile, the Iowa State offense deserves some credit as well. The season turned around when freshman Brock Purdy took over at quarterback, as the Cyclones went 7-1 down the stretch with him leading the way. Outside of a road game against Texas, Purdy kept the ISU offense humming all season. Running back David Johnson also deserves plenty of credit. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season, giving the Cyclones a balanced attack.
Of course, the Washington State defense had an underrated season, giving up just 23 points per game. However, it’s fair to bring up their strength of schedule again. Teams with losing records like USC, Oregon State, and Arizona all scored at least 28 points against the Cougars. That makes me think a team like Iowa State will give them some trouble.
Ultimately, I think Iowa State could potentially keep up in a shootout or force the Cougars into a low-scoring game. Either way, this will be a competitive game that should stay close for four quarters. To me, that type of game favors the Cyclones, which makes it easy to lean toward Iowa State and the points.