Fiesta Bowl Picks: Oregon vs. Iowa State
Oregon Ducks (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (8-3 SU, 6-5 ATS)
Date and Time: Saturday, January 2, 2021 at 4PM EST
Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Point Spread: ORE +4.5/ISU -4.5 (BetOnline - Ridiculously fast payouts!)
Over/Under Total: 57
The Oregon Ducks come to State Farm Stadium to take on the Iowa State Cyclones in the Fiesta Bowl on January 2. For the Cyclones, it was a big season that saw them up near the top of the Big 12 standings, losing their last game to Oklahoma, 27-21, in the conference title game. Prior to that was a big five-game winning streak and eight wins in their previous 9. The loss to Oklahoma was a bitter one, but they’d love to cap their season with a big win here. To do so, they’ll have to beat the up-and-down Ducks, a team that is just 4-2 but is also the Pac-12 champions for the second straight year. In their last game, they beat the undefeated Trojans, 31-24, to get in this spot. Who can come out ahead in Tucson?
It’s a unique season in many ways, creating a bowl season where we are seeing some things for the first time. First off, the Cyclones are playing in their 12th game of the season, whereas this will only be the seventh for the Ducks. It’s a little difficult to process that disparity, where a person could say Oregon is the fresher team, having played about half a season’s worth of football. In contrast, ISU has played pretty much a complete season. On top of that, you have a little momentum edge for Oregon, beating USC by seven as underdogs to win the conference title. At the same time, Iowa State’s game against Oklahoma was a disheartening and deflating affair. And at least players on Oregon have played in Arizona before with two conference teams in the state. Iowa State, however, has a roster filled with guys who have never played on a field within two states of Arizona.
Why Oregon May Have a Shot
A defense that hadn’t really been holding up very well lately was a huge part of the Ducks’ win over USC on the 18th. The Trojans’ aerial dynamo Kedon Slovis had over 300 yards, but a key pick was big, and the pass-rush has Slovis on his heels in stretches. Granted, the Trojans’ run-game isn’t as much a featured part of their offense, and they were missing their top back, but the Ducks really clamped down hard on the run-game, giving up negligible production. And that type of stoutness up front would go a long way in this game toward stopping the Cyclones’ run game, more specifically college football’s leading rusher Breece Hall. If Hall is able to control the game, the margin for error for the Ducks becomes painfully-small.
While ISU can run the heck out the ball, they’re also good at stopping the run. But this season, we have seen some leakiness aerially out their defense. Oregon has largely abandoned the run-game in recent weeks. Though it was supposed to be a team strength with proven producers like CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, they’ve grown largely into an aerial offense, with Tyler Shough leading the way. In the Pac-12 title game, coach Mario Cristobal used Anthony Brown, as well, as the BC transfer threw two TDs in limited red-zone time against USC. The offense doesn’t appear to match up that badly with the Cyclones’ defense. Maybe Shough and the offense can build on the confidence they got by winning the conference title game.
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Advantages for the Cyclones
While Shough is a first-year starter, Iowa State QB Brock Purdy is a third-year starter and more experienced in big games. He has a pretty good season, working with a nice cast of weapons, in addition to a line that usually did a very good job. Breece Hall is a legit weapon, a real workhorse, and a game-changing back. Purdy is also pretty nifty with his legs. Tight end Charlie Kolar and receiver Xavier Hutchinson lead a deep cast of passing targets for Purdy. Seeing Oregon’s defense struggle with the teams they have, there’s no reason to think that they’d necessarily thrive against a balanced Iowa State offense that acquitted itself well in the Big 12.
Giving up fewer than 22 points a game in this conference is also no small feat for Iowa State. With a monstrous front and a lot of menace in their front-seven, opposing teams have found running the ball to be futile at times. They’ve given up some yardage through the air, which is hard to avoid in the Big 12. It’s still a defense that can be disruptive to aerial-offenses, with four picks from Mike Rose along with others who can exploit errant quarterbacks. When watching this defense hold Oklahoma to 3 second-half points and shut down a lot of other good offenses, Oregon has better have their best day of the season on offense in this game. In the end, the Iowa State defense has done to teams what the Oregon defense has largely been unable to do, even when operating in the bottom reaches of the conference.
Take the Cyclones
Despite Oregon winning their conference and Iowa State not winning theirs, I think the Cyclones were a little closer to being who they wanted to be this season. All the things they were hoping for were more or less realized, while Oregon had to make it work in spite of a lot of factors not cooperating. I think ISU is the more-developed team with the clearer identity and with the roles spelled-out more teamwide. This same time next year could be a whole different story, but I see the Cyclones winning and covering the spread on the 2nd.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Iowa Cyclones minus 4.5 points. Bet your games at -105 odds instead of -110 at BAS Sportsbook! Take the 5 minutes to sign up! You’ll be so glad that you did!