The Cheez-It Bowl kicks off on Wednesday with an intriguing match-up between the ACC and Big 12. The Clemson Tigers will face the Iowa State Cyclones in what is a big opportunity for both programs. Each of these teams started 2021 in the preseason top 10. Now they face in late December with the winner having a chance to end the season ranked after not living up to preseason expectations.
2021 Cheez-It Bowl Preview
Iowa State will have a chance to earn a signature victory over one of the nation’s top programs. The Cyclones sit at 7-5, with four of their losses coming by one score. A win in the Cheez-It Bowl will ease some of the sting from a disappointing season with so many close defeats. On the other hand, the Tigers will be looking to earn grab their 10th victory in a season that is looked at as a step back. That just goes to show the standard Clemson has set for themselves over the past six years.
Keys for the Cyclones
Confidence and execution will be the biggest keys if Iowa State wants to end its season on a high note. An early lead could prove vital for the Cyclones against the more talented Tigers. The perennial ACC leaders will be breaking in new coordinators on both sides of the ball. That means a quick start would be huge for Matt Campbell’s team as Clemson may be figuring some things out. The Cyclones will have to do so without their best player, as Breece Hall won’t be participating in the 2021 Cheez-It Bowl.
That means youngster Jirehl Brock will get the bulk of the carries for the Cyclones. The sophomore has just 23 carries on the year but is averaging five-and-a-half yards per touch. The offense will be led under center once again by Brock Purdy. The senior signal-caller is the program’s career leader in yards and touchdowns. He has a chance to prove just how good he is against a stout Clemson defense. As far as their own defense, the Cyclones are led by sack master Will McDonald who has brought the opposing quarterback down 11.5 times this season. His 29 career sacks are the most in program history.
The Tigers will not take their Big 12 opponent lightly. After a rough start to the 2021 campaign, Dabo Swinney‘s team ended the season on a five-game winning streak. They will of course be breaking in new coordinators, so it will be interesting to see how fluid and efficient they are to start the game. The offense struggled mightily early in the season, but they have leaned on an improving run game over the final two months. Will Shipley and Kobe Pace have both performed very well down the stretch. D.J. Uiagalelei did not have the season at quarterback that most expected him to. However, he has played better over the five-game win streak as well.
On defense, the Tigers have been as tough as they usually are all season long. They allow just 15 points per contest. The Cheez-It Bowl is likely to turn into a defensive struggle. Each of these teams builds their success on that side of the ball. They both allow just 310 yards of offense to opponents. Myles Murphy will try to harass Purdy in the Iowa State backfield and add to his eight sacks on the season. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers’ talented defense performs in their first game without new Oklahoma Coach Brent Venables calling the shots.
Leaving with the Hardware
This has all the making of a slug-fest in Orlando. These two teams are very similar in how they are built to succeed this season. Each of these teams wants to run the ball and control the flow of the game. They are also both very tough on defense, so points will be at a premium. In a battle of two teams that were highly regarded heading into the year, this one could be decided by who can limit their mistakes. Whichever quarterback can get into a rhythm early may go a long way in determining this one as well.