Clemson has played a lot of different opponents in the 126-year history of its football program. Their bowl opponent will be a new one.
The Tigers will square off against Iowa State for the first time ever when the teams meet in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. That was made official Sunday.
Here are a few things to know about the Cyclones this season:
ISU began the season as a top-10 team
Iowa State has been on the rise in recent years under head coach Matt Campbell, who’s led a program that was dormant in the Big 12 before he arrived to five winning seasons in six years. After matching the most wins in a season in program history last year with nine, ISU began the season ranked No. 7 in the preseason by The Associated Press.
The Cyclones haven’t quite lived up to those expectations. They dropped five games during the regular season to finish behind Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings, though four of those losses were decided by just one possession. ISU ranks 34th nationally in total offense and 10th in total defense.
They beat one of the best teams they’ve played
Most of ISU’s losses have come against ranked teams, four of which the Cyclones have played this season. But they didn’t come away empty-handed against some of the stiffer competition.
ISU’s best win came in October over Oklahoma State, which finished No. 9 in the final College Football Playoff rankings released Sunday after coming up just inches short of a conference title in a dramatic Big 12 championship game loss to Baylor. The Cyclones’ 24-21 victory gave them a victory over the second-highest ranked team they’ve played this season.
Baylor, which got all it wanted from ISU in a 31-29 win back in September, finished two spots ahead of Oklahoma State in the final CFP rankings.
Clemson will be the Cyclones’ latest ranked opponent. The Tigers came in at No. 19 in the final CFP rankings after ending the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
They have the Big 12’s leading rusher
The Cyclones also rank in the top 60 in rushing thanks almost exclusively to one of the best running backs the program has ever produced.
Junior Breece Hall figures to test Clemson’s No. 8 rush defense as the Big 12’s leading rusher. He’s amassed 1,464 rushing yards this season, which is actually less than the 1,572 he rushed for last season en route to All-America honors but is still good for fifth-most of any FBS player. The two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year has rushed for 3,933 yards and 50 touchdowns during his time with the Cyclones.
He’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark six times so far this season, including a season-high 197 against Kansas State. Clemson, meanwhile, yielded more than 148 rushing yards to just three teams during the regular season and allowed 58 net yards over the last three games on the ground.
They have the conference’s leading passer, too
ISU also has a quarterback more than capable of making plays through the air when defenses start paying too much attention to Hall. In fact, there hasn’t been a better quarterback in the Big 12.
Brock Purdy leads the conference with 2,984 passing yards, and only Texas’ Casey Thompson and West Virginia’s Jarret Doege have thrown more touchdown passes than Purdy (18). Most importantly for ISU, he’s also been the league’s most efficient quarterback with a completion rate of 73.1% on a league-high 269 attempts.
He’s thrown for at least 250 yards in six games, including four straight to end the regular season. Purdy threw for 307 yards against Oklahoma State before tossing for a season-high 356 at Texas Tech last month. He’s also limited his turnovers, throwing just seven interceptions to this point.