Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Iowa State Cyclones Pick 12/28/19
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (7-5 SU, 5-6-1 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, December 28th, 12:00 PM
Camping World Bowl
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
Point Spread: ND -3.5 / ISU +3.5 (Bookmaker)
Over/Under Total: 55
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Iowa State Cyclones meet in Orlando in the third ever Camping World Bowl. The game was initially called the Sunshine Classic but has since known as the Blockbuster, Carquest, MicronPC, Mazda, Champs Sports, and Russell Bowl. This will be the first-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Iowa State, with the Irish having played only three Big 12 opponents over the past seven seasons, with a split against a Texas and a big win vs. Oklahoma during the undefeated regular season of 2012.
CONSISTENCY WITH CAMPBELL
The Cyclones come in with a 7-5 record, needing one more win to make it three seasons in a row to finish 8-5. This accomplishment has been an especially impressive job by head coach Matt Campbell considering Iowa State had ended the previous eight years with a losing mark. Going into 2018, 17 of the Cyclones’ last 18 losses had been as an underdog, but this year they have more so struggled as a favorite, having lost three games this season when expected to win by oddsmakers.
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BROCK AND ROLL
After losing two players that had over 1,000 yards apiece (RB David Montgomery and WR Hakeem Butler), a drop off in numbers was expected from the Iowa State offense in 2019 but they have instead kept things going in the right direction, ending their season ranked 9th in passing, 21st in yards per game and 26th in scoring. A lot of that success can be attributed to dual-threat sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy, who has seen a noticeable increase in all offensive numbers and on the season has completed 66.3% of his passes while throwing for 3,860 yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 27:9. He has made his presence known as the ground as well, with eight rushing scores on the season.
The top threat in the passing game in terms of receptions and yards is junior Deshaunte Jones, who leads the team with 72 and 832, respectively. Somehow with all that attention, Jones has only gotten into the end zone twice this season and has just six scores in his past 37 games played after catching six touchdowns passes alone in 2016. Leading the team in touchdown receptions is sophomore tight end, Charlie Kolar. He’s posted all of his scores in the past nine games, which is a relatable streak of scoring success considering wide receivers La’Michael Pettway (17 receptions for 214 yards and two touchdowns over the previous three games) and Sean Shaw, who has three touchdowns on just eight receptions over his past four games. The hope is that Tarique Mitchell, who leads the team in yards per catch with a mark of 20.9, can become a scoring threat as well as he has gotten into the end zone just once in the past eight weeks.
David Montgomery finished his three-year Cyclone career last season, ending up 6th all-time on their rushing list. He has been sorely missed this year, as the team has struggled to a rushing offense ranking of just 96th in the country. Breece Hall is easily the leader of the pack, and after starting the season with only 18 carries for 84 yards and zero scores over the teams’ first four games, Hall has come on strong since with 758 yards and nine touchdowns in their past nine. Johnnie Long is the second backfield option with 238 yards and three scores on the season, but unlike Hall, his production has essentially grinded to a halt as he has only 11 carries with no touchdowns over his past five games.
DOUBLE DIGIT SUCCESS
Notre Dame ended their season with a 10-2 record, hitting the double-digit win mark for the fourth time in the past five seasons. Unfortunately, 2019 may be remembered as another lost chance, as they again faltered when it mattered most with losses in their two biggest games of the year against Georgia and Michigan. Unfortunately, this is par for the course under head coach Brian Kelly and will likely rear its ugly head again next season when they go on the road against Wisconsin and welcome Clemson to South Bend.
The Irish offense is led by senior quarterback Ian Book, who on the season has thrown for 33 touchdowns compared to six interceptions while also contributing an additional four scores on the ground. The 33 TD passes rank second all-time in Notre Dame history for touchdowns through the air in a single season, and he has helped to contribute to that total of late, throwing sixteen scores through their final four games, which helped them end their season unblemished after losing at Michigan. The one area Book will look to improve on is passing accuracy, as after putting up a completion percentage of 68.2 in 2018 he hasn’t been able to find that rhythm this season, putting up a rate of just 59.3% and throwing for over 63% in a game only twice all year.
Book has three primary targets through the air; wide receivers Chase Claypool and Chris Finke along with tight end Cole Kmet. Claypool is easily the best of the bunch and could be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, leading the Irish with 59 receptions for 891 yards and 12 touchdowns with eight of those scores coming in the past four games. Finke has come on strong of late, starting the season with just ten receptions in his first five games but putting up 25 catches over his past five games and three touchdowns over his previous three. The tight end Kmet has made the most of his opportunities on the field after starting the year injured, scoring in six of their last nine games and putting up 12 receptions for 155 yards over their previous two.
RUNNING OUT OF GAS
The Notre Dame running game has hit a snag in the second half of the season thanks in large part due to injuries. They’ll be hoping the additional time off will give players like Tony Jones Jr. and even once heralded Jafar Armstrong a chance to heal before taking on Iowa State. Jones started his season strong with 557 yards, four touchdowns, and a 7.95 yards per carry through the first six games of the year but has since struggled after getting hurt against Michigan and, as such, has gone for just 165 yards and one rushing touchdown over his past five matchups. C’Bo Flemister has been the secondary back of late and has scored five touchdowns on eight games played this season, but hasn’t been able to make as much of an effect elsewise, rushing for just 132 yards on 42 carries for 3.1 ypc average. Unfortunately, no other Irish running back has scored a rushing touchdown since week one, so Jones Jr. especially will be relied upon heavily as the focal point of their rushing attack against the Cyclones.
THE FINAL DECISION
Notre Dame has proven time and again that if they can get on the scoreboard with consistency, they will be successful, having won 31 straight games in which they score more than 20 points and an unfortunate 1-6 in their last seven games when scoring 20 or less. I don’t believe they will have much of an issue against an Iowa State defense that ranks nationally 66th against the pass and 52nd in scoring, especially considering that six of the Cyclones seven wins came against FCS Northern Iowa, 5-7 UL Monroe and the bottom four teams in the Big 12. ISU is just 5-25 in their last 30 games against ranked teams, and that streak of inferiority will continue on Saturday the 28th when Notre Dame gets the win and cover in the Camping World Bowl.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -3.5
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