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First look: Story lines, betting odds for Clemson vs Iowa State in 2021 Cheez-It Bowl

·3 min read

For as much as Clemson struggled offensively this season, the Tigers are bowl-bound with a chance to win 10 games for an 11th straight season. They face Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando.

It’ll be the first time the two programs have ever played one another. The Tigers are 6-7 against Big 12 Conference teams, beating Oklahoma in each of the 2014 and 2015 postseasons.

CHEEZ-IT BOWL GAME, TV INFO

Who: Clemson (9-3) vs. Iowa State (7-5)

Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando

When: 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 29

TV: ESPN

CLEMSON VS IOWA STATE POINT SPREAD

Iowa State opened a 1-point favorite in the game, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS A WIN?

While Clemson has never specifically played in the Cheez-It Bowl, the contest has had a number of different names where the Tigers were a featured team.

The squad’s last non-College Football Playoff Bowl was the Russell Athletic Bowl in 2014, one of the former names for the bowl. In that game, Clemson beat Oklahoma 40-6 to end the year with a 10-3 record. Prior to that, the Tigers lost to Texas Tech 55-15 in the Tangerine Bowl in 2002 then beat Colorado 19-10 in the Champs Sports Bowl in 2014.

PROGRAM ON THE RISE

The first time Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell met years ago, it was at an airport in passing. The two exchanged numbers and kept in touch. Though the two programs have never met in a game, the two coaches have formed a relationship, with Swinney commenting on the progress Campbell has made since taking over the Cyclones’ program in 2016.

In the short time span, Campbell has earned the program’s best winning percentage, posting a 35-28 record prior to the 2021 campaign, and was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

“I’ve admired what he’s done at a place where it’s not easy to go do what he’s done,” Swinney said. “He’s built an incredible culture there.”

THREE IOWA STATE CYCLONES TO WATCH

Breece Hall, RB: The junior has accounted for 65.8% of the Cyclones’ rushing attack, totaling 1,472 yards on the ground, to go along with 20 of the team’s 25 rushing scores.

Will McDonald, DL: Will McDonald has been a key part of the Cyclones’ defensive effort, leading the team in quarterback sacks with 11½, to go along with 32 tackles, 14 for loss.

Charlie Kolar, TE: As the second-leading receiver, Charlie Kolar has made 58 catches for 723 yards and five touchdowns.

THREE CLEMSON TIGERS TO WATCH

D.J. Uiagalelei, QB: The sophomore played injured during the latter stages of the regular season and finished with 2,059 passing yards and 296 rushing yards. Having almost a month off to heal up will do some good for the quarterback, who had made strides in his growth as the season progressed.

Mario Goodrich, CB: Before playing in the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Mario Goodrich will have one final game with the Tigers to end a season where he totaled 47 tackles, seven pass breakups and an interception.

James Skalski, LB: With absolutely no more eligibility left, the Cheez-It Bowl will officially be James Skalski’s final game for Clemson. He capped off a stellar six-year career with a team-best 97 tackles, 4½ for loss, and 2½ quarterback sacks during the regular season.

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