A former NFL linebacker is “juiced up” for the Cheez-It Bowl.
OutKick contributor Bobby Carpenter – an Ohio State product and 2006 first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys who played seven seasons in the league with the Cowboys, Rams, Dolphins, Lions and Patriots – explained this week why he is super excited for tonight’s Cheez-It Bowl matchup between No. 19 Clemson (9-3) and Iowa State (7-5).
“This is why I think it’s intriguing,” Carpenter said. “Not a great season for Iowa State, 7-5. I guarantee you, (Iowa State head coach) Matt Campbell is not feeling great about how it went down. This was supposed to be the year that they get it done, and they lose to Iowa early in the season and things kind of snowballed a little bit, and now (star running back) Breece Hall opts out for the game. So, it’s less than ideal when it comes to that. But, they’re going to be fired up, they’re going to be ready to go. If you would have told them at the beginning of the season, you’re going to play Clemson in a bowl game, they probably would have thought they were making the College Football Playoff.
“Now, this isn’t the playoff, and Clemson obviously wasn’t as good – they were 9-3, lost to Georgia, struggled a little bit in the ACC, had a couple losses, but finished really, really strong.”
After a 2-2 start, the Tigers won seven of their final eight regular season games, and their offense that was much-maligned early in the season made improvements down the stretch, averaging 36.4 points per game over the last five games following the loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 23.
Clemson’s attack will face a tough test against an Iowa State unit that ranks 10th nationally in total defense (309.2 yards per game allowed).
“Now, they’ve had some departures. Brent Venables is gone, defensive coordinator, they’ve lost some offensive staff as well. They’re in a state of transition, losing both coordinators,” Carpenter said. “Let’s see how far D.J. Uiagalelei has come. Let’s see how far that Clemson offense has come against a pretty good, when they put it together, Cyclone defense.”
Carpenter added that the Cheez-It Bowl features two teams he considered potential playoff teams at the outset of the season, and he thinks it will be a clash between two programs with similar mindsets in terms of culture and player development.
“This is a matchup that I would’ve said, at the beginning of the season, this could’ve been maybe a semifinal matchup,” Carpenter said. “Even after Clemson lost to Georgia, you’re thinking, ‘Man, Clemson’s defense is good. Got some dudes out there.’ And Iowa State, they had all this offensive firepower. They’re going to be, like I said, without a little bit of it with Breece Hall opting out, their star running back moving on. But they still have a lot of guys there.
“They talk about not having five-star recruits but five-star culture, and so this will be a battle of that because both of these programs I think pride themselves on culture and developing players. Clemson probably gets a little better players, but I think that this is something that’s going to be really big and very, very exciting.”
Clemson is a 1.5-point favorite heading into the Cheez-It Bowl, which is set for a 5:45 p.m. kickoff at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.
“This is a bowl game of the week outside of once we get to the weekend and the New Year’s Six and semifinals and all those things,” Carpenter said. “So for a midweek bowl game, something that’s going on that maybe might not attract a lot of your attention, may I steer you towards this game because I think it should be a good one. The line’s really tight, and it’s two teams that at the beginning of the year had high expectations.”
"This is a matchup that I would've said at the beginning of the season -this could've been a semi final matchup." @bcarp3 on the @cheezitbowl between #Clemson and #IowaState pic.twitter.com/QbdFXLWvDT
— OutKick (@Outkick) December 28, 2021
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