Clemson vs. Iowa State Odds & Picks: Defense to Lead Tigers to Cheez-It Bowl Victory

Clemson vs. Iowa State Odds & Picks: Defense to Lead Tigers to Cheez-It Bowl Victory article feature image

Jacob Kupferman and Brian Bahr/Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): Phil Mafah (26) of the Clemson Tigers and Jaylin Noel (13) of the Iowa State Cyclones.

  • The Cheez-It Bowl between Clemson and Iowa State is setting up to be one of the more intense battles of bowl season.
  • The Tigers are -1 favorites, according to updated odds, as the over/under sits at 44.5.
  • Collin Wilson breaks down this college football bowl game and shares his top bet below.

Clemson vs. Iowa State Odds

Wednesday, Dec. 29
5:45 p.m. ET
Clemson Odds
-110o / -110u
Iowa State Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Cheez-It Bowl
Wednesday, Dec. 29 · Orlando, FL

The preseason trajectory for Iowa State and Clemson football was the College Football Playoff. Instead, the two will meet in the midweek non-New Year's Six Cheez-It Bowl.

The Tigers started the season with a loss to Georgia and did not cover the spread until the eighth game of the season. For the first time since the inaugural year of the playoff, Clemson will not play in a postseason game with national title implications.

Both coordinators have left for head coaching positions, but the core of the roster has avoided opt-outs and COVID-19 as of writing.

Iowa State had one of the best seasons in program history last year, winning nine games, including a solid victory over Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. With one of the highest TARP ratings entering the season, expectations were high for the Cyclones.

A 7-5 season fell well below the preseason win total of nine, and now star running back Breece Hall has opted out of the bowl game. Now, a roster full of seniors will play their last game together under head coach Matt Campbell.

Clemson Tigers

Despite the loss of coordinators on both sides of the ball, head coach Dabo Swinney promoted from within to fill the positions.

Brandon Streeter will take over as offensive coordinator after being on staff since 2015. A former Liberty and Richmond play-caller, Streeter was in line for the position and called plays during the semifinal loss to Ohio State last season.

The defense now has co-coordinators, as safeties coach Mickey Conn and analyst Wes Goodwin have been under the departed Brent Venables for a number of years. There will be no schematic changes to the 11 personnel on offense or the defense that splits snaps between a 4-3 and 3-3-5.

Clemson finished the season winning eight of its last nine games, breaking through a low offensive ceiling and surviving injuries to key players on defense. The Tigers posted at least 30 points in their final five games, led by a bruising rush attack by Kobe Pace and Will Shipley.

Kobe Pace

— Seldom Used Reserve (@seldomusedres) November 30, 2021

The Tigers finished top-30 in Line Yards and Stuff Rate on offense, but the passing game continues to be one of the worst in the country. DJ Uiagalelei led Clemson to a Passing Success Rate rank of 119th that includes interceptions against UConn and South Carolina State.

There are a number of factors that put the Tigers passing attack on the decline, starting with 21 drops and 19 sacks on the season. Uiagalelei crumbled under pressure, with an adjusted completion percentage drop of 27% with a crowded pocket.

Venables leaves behind one of the best defenses in the nation. Clemson finished third in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and Finishing Drives, complemented by top-20 ranks in Havoc and coverage.

With James Skalski in his sixth season of lining up and calling plays as middle linebacker, the Tigers are prepared for changes in the coordinator ranks.

The defense is fourth in Standard Downs Success Rate and has been elite in shutting down the explosive play. Clemson has faced 154 opponent possessions, and only eight have been explosive (defined as averaging 10 yards per play).

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Iowa State Cyclones

Head coach Matt Campbell will be tasked with finding a rushing attack that does not include Hall, the star running back who created 74 missed tackles this season.

All of the carries will belong to Jirehl Brock, as both Deon Silas and Eli Sanders will avoid burning a redshirt. Brock averaged just 2.1 yards after contact and created only three missed tackles on 23 rushing attempts.

Clemson specializes in getting opponent offenses off schedule, leaving the success of Iowa State on the arm of Brock Purdy.

Brock Purdy 🤝 The Matrix

— Action Network Colleges (@ActionColleges) November 20, 2021

Purdy posted more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws this season and took a career-high 21 sacks.

The key to the Iowa State passing attack through two- and three-tight end sets is keeping the pocket free of defenders. Purdy has thrown for 15 touchdowns in a clean pocket versus three with pressure.

While the Cyclones will rely on Purdy's arm for scores, the defense struggled against the rush.

The 3-3-5 scheme ranks outside the top 70 in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and was often dominated in passing downs. When opposing offenses fell behind schedule, the Iowa State defense posted a passing downs rank of 74th in Success Rate and 124th against explosiveness.

The Cyclones limited their regular-season schedule to just 18 red-zone touchdowns on 30 opponent trips inside the 20-yard line. If Clemson is able to run the ball with success, the most crucial element of this game is the Tigers' red-zone attempts.

Clemson vs. Iowa State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Clemson and Iowa State match up statistically:

Clemson Offense vs. Iowa State Defense
Rush Success6271
Line Yards2970
Pass Success11949
Pass Blocking**5349
Big Play11131
Finishing Drives7073
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Iowa State Offense vs. Clemson Defense
Rush Success723
Line Yards726
Pass Success2214
Pass Blocking**5541
Big Play158
Finishing Drives443
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling3252
Middle 811020
SP+ Special Teams734
Plays per Minute47102
Rush Rate54.1% (71)48.9% (103)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Clemson vs. Iowa State Betting Pick

While the turnover at the coordinator positions is a risk for Clemson, the most important turnover aspect is Purdy in passing downs.

Not only has the senior posted 11 turnover-worthy plays, but the designed run and scramble attempts have produced seven fumbles. Three fumbles came in a crucial Big 12 loss against Oklahoma. Purdy's only three-interception game came in the Week 2 rivalry loss to Iowa.

Although the Action Network projection is set at a pick, there are plenty of advantages for Clemson on the field. The defense is stacked to stop any rushing attempts, and the lack of opt-outs from NFL talent shows the commitment the Tigers have to winning the bowl game.

A defense that thrives on chaos will face an Iowa State offense that is 47th in Havoc Allowed.

Clemson's offensive bread and butter has been the ground game, but poor rankings against the rush will be the undoing of Iowa State. There is a massive difference in recruiting classes over the past several years by these two programs, and without Hall running for Iowa State, the Tigers will take home all of the Cheez-Its.

Pick: Clemson -1 or Better

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