It’s a bit strange to see Clemson not in play for a national title. The Tigers were one of the four teams selected in each of the last six years, winning two titles and reaching the national championship game on two other occasions.
Now, they draw an Iowa State team without its best player, as Cyclones running back Breece Hall has opted out of the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29.
Clemson is moving forward without both of its coordinators. Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was named the head coach at Virginia and defensive coordinator Brent Venables is off to Oklahoma. It is a tricky call for those who bet online on how to factor in the coaching changes for this game.
Both teams fell short of the expected win totals. Clemson’s was listed at 11½, meaning anything short of an undefeated run through the regular season would have left the Tigers shy of that total. Iowa State had the second-best odds to win the Big 12 and an expected win total of 9½. A 2-4 record in one-score games derailed what could have been a memorable season for the Cyclones.
Clemson Tigers vs. Iowa State Cyclones
Game: Clemson (9-3) vs. Iowa State (7-5)
Location: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
Day/Time: Wednesday, Dec. 29, 5:45 p.m. ET
|Clemson||-1 (-110)||44 (-110u)|
|Iowa State||+1 (-110)||44 (-110o)|
Clemson Tigers: Special Year on Defense
It didn’t get much attention because the Clemson Tigers’ six-year run as Atlantic Coast Conference champions ended, but leading the ACC in total defense for the third year in a row shouldn’t be downplayed.
Third-leading tackler Joseph Charleston missed eight games, Jake Venables was out for seven games, Mike Jones Jr. transferred to Louisiana State, Lannden Zanders saw action in only one game and Bryan Bresee was only there for four games. Clemson went from potentially having its top 12 tacklers back from an elite defense to just getting 93 games (out of a possible 144) from that group. Despite that, Clemson allowed fewer yards than they did a year ago.
The Tigers didn’t have as many splash plays on defense, as both sacks and tackles for loss were down. Seven of the top 13 tacklers are either freshmen or sophomores, so Clemson heads into the bowl ranked ninth nationally in total defense.
It would have been fascinating to watch how the Iowa State trio of quarterback Brock Purdy, running back Hall and receiver Xavier Hutchinson would have fared against this Clemson defense. Howeve,r Hall, who had a chance to become the first repeat Big 12 rushing champion in a decade, opted out.
It was quite the final act for the highly respected Venables, who is now the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.
Led by the impressive defense, Clemson has covered against the college football spreads in four of its last five games.
The total has gone under in five of the Tigers’ last six games against teams from the Big 12 Conference.
Three Players to Watch
Defensive end Myles Murphy leads Clemson with 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has thrown for 2,059 yards (nine touchdowns and nine interceptions) while rushing for 296 yards. Running back Will Shipley rushed for 678 yards despite missing three games. Clemson is 5-0 when he rushes for at least 80 yards.
Receiver E.J. Williams (knee) is questionable. Offensive linemen Matt Bockhorst (knee), John Williams (knee), Tayquon Johnson (pectoral) and Dietrick Pennington (knee), defensive linemen Bryan Breese (knee) and Justin Foster (back), defensive backs Charleston and Zanders (shoulder), tight end Braden Galloway (shoulder), receivers Justyn Ross (foot), Frank Ladson (groin) and Joseph Ngata (foot) are out.
TE Kolar Ready for Iowa State Swan Song
With all the talented skill players on the Iowa State roster, it would be easy to forget about senior tight end Charlie Kolar, winner of the Campbell Trophy (Academic Heisman).
It was hard not to notice Kolar during the latter stages of the season. He had eight catches, including a pair of touchdowns, in a loss to Texas Tech. He torched Oklahoma for 12 catches and 152 yards, then added 65 yards on five catches as the Cyclones snapped a two-game losing streak with a 48-14 win over Texas Christian. Only five FBS tight ends had more catches than Kolar’s 58 and now he gets to add to his career total of 164 receptions.
There may or may not be more tears when tight ends Chase Allen and Charlie Kolar suit up side-by-side one last time for Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl https://t.co/mGtyeq1xTs
— CR Gazette Sports (@CRGazetteSports) December 19, 2021
Iowa State is 23-11 when Kolar has at least two receptions. Clemson is seventh nationally, allowing 2.8 yards per rushing attempt, and now without the dynamic Hall, it is quite possible Iowa State is forced put the ball in the air often against the Tigers.
Iowa State is 2-4 against the college football odds in its last six games.
Three Players to Watch
Quarterback Brock Purdy has completed 73.1 percent of his passes for 2,984 yards. He is also the second-leading rusher for Iowa State. Defensive end Will McDonald has 14 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. He had three games with at least two sacks this season, the Cyclones winning all of them. Xavier Hutchinson has 82 catches and needs 47 yards to become the first 1,000-yard receiver at Iowa State since Hakem Butler in 2018.
Skipping the game is Hall, the leading rusher in the Big 12 for the second season in a row wgi had an NCAA-record 24 consecutive games with a rushing touchdown. He had 253 carries this season; the next-closest ISU back in terms of rushing attempts is Jirehl Brock’s 23.
Betting on the Game
The Clemson Tigers were three-point underdogs the last time they played a team from the Big 12 Conference. Clemson defeated Oklahoma 37-17 on Dec. 31, 2015, in the national semifinals (before losing to Alabama in the title game).
Clemson has covered against the Las Vegas odds in its last eight December games.
Iowa State is 1-8 in its last nine games when listed as the underdog.
The total has gone over in six of the last nine Iowa State games.