No. 10 Iowa State vs. No. 25 Oregon: Fiesta Bowl preview, picks against the spread

Sam Cooper
·4-min read

Fiesta Bowl: No. 10 Iowa State vs. No. 25 Oregon

Time: 4 p.m. (Jan. 2) | TV: ESPN | Line: Iowa State -4.5 | Total: 57.5

How these teams got here

Oregon (4-2): Of all the Power Five conferences, the Pac-12 started its 2020 season the latest. Oregon’s first game wasn’t played until Nov. 7, a 35-14 win over Stanford. That kicked off a 3-0 start for the Ducks, who were playing without QB Justin Herbert, a first-round NFL draft pick. Though Herbert moved on to the NFL, the Ducks’ offense got a jolt with the addition of a creative offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.

Oregon got away with turning the ball over during its 3-0 start, particularly against UCLA and Washington State. Those turnover issues were costly in losses to Oregon State and Cal. Despite the losses, the Pac-12 North division was set to be on the line when the Ducks hosted Washington on Dec. 12, but UW couldn’t play due to COVID-19 cases. That game cancellation initially gave the division to UW, but UW was unable to play in the Pac-12 game, so Oregon made the trip to USC instead.

Oregon made the trip count by beating the No. 13 Trojans 31-24 at The Coliseum to win the Pac-12 for the second straight season.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 18: Oregon Ducks defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) celebrates during the Pac-12 Championship college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the USC Trojans on December 18, 2020, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. The game was played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Oregon defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux had five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack in the Pac-12 title game. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Iowa State (8-3): Iowa State is in the midst of one of its best seasons ever. The Cyclones shook off a Week 1 loss to Louisiana by playing really well in the Big 12. Early in the year, ISU upset Oklahoma en route to a 3-0 start. And after a 24-21 loss at Oklahoma State, Iowa State rounded out the regular season with five consecutive wins.

Wins over Texas and West Virginia in December gave ISU the Big 12’s regular-season title and set up a rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. Iowa State was in search of its first outright conference championship since 1912, but things went Oklahoma’s way this time and the Sooners won their sixth straight conference crown. OU built a big lead in the game and Iowa State’s comeback fell just short in a 27-21 loss. Still, a trip to a New Year’s Six bowl game is a big deal for the ISU program.

Players to know

Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux: Thibodeaux was one of the top recruits in the country in 2019 and he has lived up to that billing during his two seasons at Oregon. As a freshman, he racked up 35 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks. In six games this year, he has 32 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He was a monster in the Pac-12 title game vs. USC, compiling five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. Containing Thibodeaux will be a big key for Iowa State.

Iowa State RB Breece Hall: Hall had a strong freshman year in 2019, putting up 897 yards and nine touchdowns. This year, he took his game to another level. Hall leads the nation with 1,436 rushing yards. He topped 100 yards in eight of Iowa State’s 11 games and is second in the country with 19 rushing touchdowns. Hall scored at least two touchdowns in eight games this year, including in the Big 12 title game. Hall is second nationally in rushing attempts, but has still managed to put up nearly six yards per carry.

Iowa State running back Breece Hall runs the ball against West Virginia during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)
Iowa State running back Breece Hall runs the ball against West Virginia during the first half on Dec. 5, 2020, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)

What’s on the line

Oregon: A win over Iowa State would give Oregon a bowl victory in all three of Mario Cristobal’s seasons running the program. The team went 9-4 and beat Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl in 2018 and then went 12-2 with a Pac-12 title and a win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl in 2019. Though Oregon had a few disappointing losses this season, closing out a shortened season with another New Year’s Six bowl win would be a nice consolation prize. Oregon is 2-0 all-time in the Fiesta Bowl with wins over Colorado (2001) and Kansas State (2012).

Iowa State: This is the biggest bowl game in Iowa State history. The Cyclones have never appeared on this stage and have the chance to reach the nine-win mark for the first time since 2000 and just the third time in program history. Matt Campbell has been coaching Iowa State for five seasons and this is the program’s fourth straight bowl appearance. ISU last won a bowl game in 2017. Iowa State is just 4-11 all-time in bowl games.

Picks

Sam Cooper: Iowa State -4.5

Nick Bromberg: Oregon +4.5

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