The most important day of the college football season gets started with the Camping World Bowl between the Iowa State Cyclones of the Big 12 and the no. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Game time is set for noon EST on Saturday, December 28 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
Oddsmakers view the Fighting Irish as 4-point favorites over Iowa State. There is also an over/under of 55 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this year’s college bowl game betting odds.
With all due respect to the Camping World Bowl, this is not the bowl game the Fighting Irish hoped they would be playing in after playing in the College Football Playoff last year. But road losses to Georgia and Michigan derailed Notre Dame’s season. On the bright side, Brian Kelly’s team put together an impressive campaign, going 10-2, including six wins against teams playing in bowl games.
The hope for the Irish is that they’ll be able to put last year’s Cotton Bowl blowout against Clemson behind them. Kelly is 4-4 in bowl games at Notre Dame, including a Citrus Bowl over LSU at Camping World Stadium two years ago, so some of the older Fighting Irish players should feel comfortable being back in Florida.
As for Iowa State, they are heading to a bowl game for the third straight season, a feat accomplished only once before in program history. The Cyclones got back to a bowl despite an up and down season. ISU lost some tough games this year with their five losses coming by a combined 21 points. However, the Cyclones struggled to prove they can beat quality teams, only beating one bowl-eligible team in 2019.
Of course, playing in a bowl game against a ranked Notre Dame team will give Iowa State a chance to change that. The Cyclones can also get themselves to eight wins for the third straight season. For a program that’s struggled to sustain success, that’s a big deal for Matt Campbell and company, so the Cyclones should be eager to prove themselves on a big stage against a marquee opponent.
I’ve been a fan of Campbell and Iowa State for the past few seasons, but something just seemed off about the Cyclones this year. I know that their propensity for close losses makes them a decent choice as a 4-point underdog. But I think Notre Dame is a level above most of the teams the Cyclones lost to in a somewhat underwhelming Big 12 this year. Kelly should have the Irish ready to play, so I’ll lay down the points and take Notre Dame to cover.
Part of Iowa State’s problem this year was a lackluster rushing attack that put too much on sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy. To his credit, Purdy put up some monster numbers, throwing for over 3,700 yards with 27 touchdown passes. However, they struggled to establish a steady ground game for large chunks of the season. I’m also now sold on ISU’s receiving corps. It’s solid, but the Cyclones are lacking in explosive playmakers.
Even with Purdy at quarterback, I’m bullish on how the Cyclones will fare against the Notre Dame defense. The Irish gave up less than 19 points per game this year, and that’s against a schedule that included eight bowl teams. Notre Dame’s front-7 is more than strong enough to stop a mediocre ISU rushing attack, putting everything on Purdy’s shoulders. Without dynamic playmakers on the outside, I can’t trust the Cyclones to create many explosive plays. That will force them to sustain long drives in order to score. That’s possible with Purdy, but it won’t be easy against the Notre Dame defense.
Meanwhile, there will be a lot of pressure on the Iowa State defense to make this a low-scoring game. The Cyclones have hung their hat on defense in past years, but they were more modest on that side of the ball this season. Iowa State gave up close to 30 points per game over their final six games when the competition level went up a tick. That makes them a little hard to trust against a top-15 team like Notre Dame.
Much like ISU, the Fighting Irish have a top-notch quarterback in Ian Book. At times, the Irish struggled to move the ball on the ground, largely because they lack depth in the backfield behind Tony Jones. However, Book is good enough to make up for it and has the experience to avoid mistakes, throwing just six interceptions this year. Book also has great chemistry with lead receiver Chase Claypool, who caught 12 touchdown passes this year and will be a handful for the ISU defense.
All things considered, I think Notre Dame is a little better than Iowa State on both sides of the ball. The Fighting Irish held eight of their 12 opponents to 20 points or less, and I’m not sure Iowa State has enough support around Purdy to fare much better. I’m also not sure if the Iowa State defense can keep the Notre Dame offense under wraps for 60 minutes. Look for the Irish to pull away in the second half and cover the 4-point spread.