So here we are. This is the final game that the 2019 incarnation of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will ever play. It’s fine. I’m fine. I’m totally okay with the football season coming to an end. I greatly look forward to other sports. Is it hot in here? It’s hot in here. Why am I sweating? No I’m serious — I’m excited to get caught up on all the things I missed during the football season. Like, you know...the books. I am gonna doing some really good booking...no, I mean...reading? I’m really gonna do the book time reading things and maybe build a birdhouse or...Jesus who am I kidding!?
I’m gonna miss the hell out this stupid, beautiful game.
This is the part of Saturday’s contest that in the month leading up to it, was covered the most. The Iowa St. Cyclones, have been mostly an afterthought or used as a pejorative. Though in certain circles, where the foam for the hand picked, locally roasted coffee, is from vegan soy milk and the craft beer is gluten-free; the Iowa State Cyclones are quite trendy. If you ask the right people, between a flopping stoppage in a premier league futball game and the flourishing twirl of a mustache, they’ll tell you all about what Matt Campbell is doing on the plains of Ames, Iowa.
Let’s get something out of the way to start... I’m not impressed. I’ve now watched quick cuts of every game Iowa State has played this year. A lot of things are presently being written/said about Iowa State to either elicit fear or create intrigue, where it really shouldn’t. It’s important to remember that this is a five loss football team that could have been a six loss one if not for a triple overtime win against Northern Iowa (FCS). But I suppose that’s part of the hipster appeal. If they were legitimately good or interesting, that would make them mainstream and a hipster can’t have that. It’s important when you’re trying to defend something terrible that no one can dispute you, much like the terrible hipster band Animal Collective. Fear not loyal readers, I’m here to alleviate any concerns you may have before the Camping World Bowl. Let me present exhibit A:
Watching this game hurt my eyes. Kansas State won by two scores and threw 4 passes in the second half. This is the sort of dumpster that Matt Campbell teams tend to dive around in. Matt Campbell is like Scrooge McDuck, only he’s diving into a vault filled with rotten garbage and calling it a 5 loss season. Campbell is 26-24 at Iowa State and I have to sit here and listen to every media member treat him like he’s still the next hot coaching commodity. “It’s hard to win at Iowa State,” they’ll say, and “it’s impressive what he’s done,” they’ll say.
Bullshit, I say.
Matt Rhule took over a Baylor program that was smoking crater that was nuked from orbit by the NCAA and went 11-2 in his second season. Matt Campbell hasn’t even made it out of September with fewer than two losses.
Cyclone defensive coordinator Jon Heacock runs a 3-3-5. You heard Brian Kelly in his presser talk about how unique it is compared to the other defenses the Irish usually play. That’s because they have to trot out five DB’s every week to play the seven on seven style offense that they see in the Big 12. What happens when Iowa State plays a team that resembles a viable balanced offense? Well Iowa State hasn’t beaten in state rival Iowa in the four years the current staff has been there and are 1-3 against Kansas State. So yes, it was nice of Brian to mention their, ahem, “uniqueness”.
Most of the pressure they get comes from the linebackers. O’Rien Vance (#34) leads the team in sacks from the middle linebacker position. Frosh rush end Will McDonald (#9) is a kid to watch — he’s had 5 sacks in the last 3 games and you definitely notice the difference on the line now that he’s earned more snaps. They aren’t especially proficient at getting pressure on the QB, they are in the bottom half in sacks and bottom third in QB pressures. They only have 6 picks on the year, which is 111th in football. Hell Notre Dame had five picks against Michigan in 2012. Is that relevant? No, but Muck Fichigan right? Heacocks defense...okay, we gotta pivot off that last name, I just can’t... Jonny’s defense is giving up 25.3 points per game, which is pretty indicative of what they give up game to game to be honest. That’s just 2 more points per game than BVG’s boys in 2016 gave up and a full point less than 2015. Since the 2017 that’s buttered the bread of this staff, the defense has been regressing.
2017- 20.9 ppg
2018- 22.9 ppg
2019- 25.3 ppg
Offensively things look good on the surface. It’s the most prolific scoring offense Campbell has ever put out, averaging 34.1 points per game. I like Brock Purdy, I really do. The kid absolutely balled out against Oklahoma and I see a lot of similarities between him and Ian Book. Both kids leave a little to be desired in terms of arm strength, and both have some pretty decent wheels. The key difference is the absolutely CAVERNOUS difference in terms of skill players around them. Sweet baby Jesus in his manager and all the angels above, is Iowa State devoid of skill players. There is not a single player on offense that runs faster than a 4.55, not a one.
Tarique Milton (#1) is quick out of the slot but he doesn’t have any top end speed, I saw multiple occasions where linebackers caught him in space. La’Michael Pettway(#8) needs a runway to reach the speed limit and their TE Charlie Kolar (#88) is a classic plodder. Their running back Breece Hall (#28) is the best recruit to come through Ames since Alan Lazard, but we’re talking a less heralded Tony Jones Jr. here (both were 4*, Hall was ranked 339, Jones 325). And even if Hall is technically the most talented kid on the roster, it’s not like they utilize his 4.6 speed. Iowa State doesn’t even pretend to want to run the ball. They’ve had four games under 100 yards rushing, and just one of more than 200(La.-Monroe). So I’m definitely interested to see what Clark Lea has in store for their one dimensional offense.
So what do I think is going to happen? Do I buy into the players being lackadaisical in practice reports story line? Should I be nervous after writing over a 1000 words besmirching the Iowa State football program? Notre Dame is going to smoke this team. This is the seventh best team the Irish have played this year. Ask yourself, is 7-5 Iowa State better than any of the following: Georgia, Virginia, Michigan, Virginia Tech, USC, Louisville? I’d take arguments for Louisville but Iowa State doesn’t have anyone like Tutu Atwell. Notre Dame will, without question, be the best defense Iowa State plays this year. Offensively, only Oklahoma will have been better. This team, goofy practice nonsense practice reports be damned, should be focused and I do not see how Iowa State is going to keep pace with the inaugural Tommy Rees called offense. The Irish win this game by double digits. Book it.