Three weeks after the regular season finale against Stanford, it is game week once again for Notre Dame football. The Irish are preparing for their trip down to Orlando, where they will play the Iowa State Cyclones in the Camping World Bowl.
Iowa State has a formidable offense that features one of the best passing attacks in the country. The good news for Notre Dame is that the Irish defense has been one of the top units in the country defending the pass.
If you have not had a chance to do so yet, check out our early look at the bowl game. That article delves deeper into the matchup between the Iowa State offense and the Notre Dame defense.
The Cyclones have a bunch of playmakers on their offense that defensive coordinator Clark Lea will need to game plan for. Here is a look at some of the key matchups for the Irish defense in the Camping World Bowl.
Notre Dame Secondary vs. Iowa State Receivers
One of the main topics of conversation regarding this game is the Iowa State passing attack going up against the Notre Dame pass defense. It will be strength versus strength, and the winner of this matchup will probably win the game.
The Cyclones’ top receiver is senior Deshaunte Jones. This season, Jones had 72 catches for 832 yards and two touchdowns. His performance this year earned him second team All-Big 12 honors.
Jones also has the two longest receptions on the team this year. He had an 84-yard catch against Louisiana Monroe and a 75-yard catch against Texas.
Alongside Jones are La’Michael Pettway and Tarique Milton. Pettway leads the receiver group with six total touchdowns this season. He finished the year with 51 receptions for 622 yards.
Milton is the big-play threat for the Iowa State offense. His average of 20.9 yards per reception was by far the best on the team in 2019. In fact, even if you took away his longest catch of the season (73 yards), he would still have the highest average by a margin of over five yards.
Notre Dame Back Seven vs. Charlie Kolar
The Cyclones may play in the Big 12, but their tight ends are the same quality that you would find in the Big Ten.
Their top tight end and one of Brock Purdy’s favorite targets is sophomore Charlie Kolar. This season, he caught 48 passes for 675 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.
Kolar was one of three Iowa State players who were named to the All-Big 12 first team this year. The Irish defense cannot afford to lose track of him on critical third downs or in the red zone.
Notre Dame Front Seven vs. Breece Hall
Iowa State running back Breece Hall is one of the most electric freshmen in college football.
At 6’1”, 205 lbs, Hall doesn’t quite yet have the build of a three-down back, but he still has a significant workload. He carried the ball 169 times this season and finished the year with 842 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
The Cyclones also use Hall in the passing game. He averaged about 1.5 catches per game and finished the season with 207 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.
Hall earned second team All-Big 12 honors for his breakout performance this season and has a very bright future ahead of him.
Given the threat that the Iowa State passing game poses, I could see Clark Lea implementing a game plan similar to the one used against USC. If that is the case, Hall could have a big game against the Irish.
Notre Dame Defense vs. Brock Purdy
All analysis of Iowa State this season starts with quarterback Brock Purdy. He entered his second season as the team’s starting quarterback after winning the job early in 2018.
My in-depth analysis of Purdy: the kid can sling it.
Purdy completed 66.3 percent of his passes this season and threw for 3,760 yards and 27 touchdowns. He is currently ranked fifth in the FBS in total passing yards, but one of the players ranked ahead of him has already played in a bowl game.
Purdy also has a significant usage rate in the running game. He was second on the team in total carries (86) and finished the season with 265 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
When opposing defenses sell out to stop the Iowa State passing attack, Purdy can hurt them with his legs. He becomes an even greater threat to run when the Cyclones are in the red zone.
Clark Lea and the Irish defense will have their hands full trying to slow down the Iowa State passing attack in the Camping World Bowl. As I mentioned earlier, the Irish are definitely equipped to do so. It will just come down to execution.