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Head-to-Head: Camping World Bowl

| Friday, December 27, 2019

Notre Dame Passing

The Irish passing game has started to click in recent weeks, with Ian Book surpassing 230 yards passing in three straight games. After losing Michael Young to the transfer portal, Braden Lenzy, Tommy Tremble and others have stepped up to support Book in the passing game. It has been a banner season for Chase Claypool, who elected to play in the bowl game though he’s likely to hear his name called early in April’s NFL Draft. Despite these positives, Book has averaged under 200 yards per game passing on the road this year, a stark contrast to the 259 yards he averages at home. The Irish need to find a way to get their passing game going outside Notre Dame Stadium, especially against a Big 12 team with a quarterback that can throw the ball as well as almost anyone.

EDGE: Iowa State

Notre Dame Rushing 

It seems tough to judge a Notre Dame run unit which saw sparks of genius followed by noticeable lulls throughout the year. That said, Iowa State’s rush defense is ranked No. 35 in the nation, allowing only 1,606 total rushing yards in a conference with some high-powered offenses. For reference, Notre Dame played Virginia Tech, ranked No. 27 in the nation, at home, and Ian Book led the squad in rushing yards with 50. Don’t be surprised if the Irish struggle to get things moving on the ground this weekend. 

EDGE: Iowa State

Notre Dame Offensive Coaching 

News broke right before National Signing Day that offensive coordinator Chip Long would be leaving Notre Dame. That certainly hurts when the Irish are about to face one of the better defenses in the Big 12. Long helped lead the offense to the highest-scoring average of any team during Brian Kelly’s Irish tenure, while Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock led the Cyclones defense to rank 42nd nationally in total defense, giving up 362.2 total yards per game. That’s an impressive feat against a Big 12 schedule featuring the likes of Oklahoma (second nationally in total offense), Texas Tech (11th), Texas (15th) and Oklahoma State (16th). Quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees will be calling plays for the first time with Kelly to support, and he at least has superior talent at his disposal. However, given Rees’ greenhorn status, and a month for Heacock to prepare, Iowa State may be able to hold the Irish in check.

EDGE: Even

Notre Dame Offensive Special Teams 

It was a spectacular season to many for the Irish special teams. After losing four-year starting kicker Justin Yoon and star punter Tyler Newsome, many wondered if the Irish would find a special teams group that could keep the Irish competitive. The Irish got that and then some from kicker Jonathan Doerer. Doerer was a perfect 54-54 on point-afters and missed only one of his eight attempts from within 39 yards. He made almost all the kicks the Irish could have expected to make, and even added a 54-yard field goal as well. It has been a banner season for Doerer. Freshman punter Jay Bramblett has been solid, as well — he’s shown great skill holding for Doerer on the field goal unit, and has pinned opponents deep, routinely flipping the field for the Irish. Punt returner Chris Finke has also shown some talent in recent weeks. The Irish special teams were, all in all, a pleasant surprise this year. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

Iowa State Passing 

Iowa State features the prototypical high-powered offense one would expect from a Big 12 team. Even though their run game is lacking — ranked 96th nationally with 140.3 rushing yards per game — their passing attack makes up for it. Sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy is fifth in the nation in passing yards with 3,760 and 20th in pass efficiency, having thrown 27 touchdowns to nine interceptions. The Irish are fifth in the country in passing efficiency defense, a statistic that, while certainly due to a veteran and talented secondary, is skewed by the level of competition they faced down the stretch. Even so, defensive coordinator Clark Lea has done a solid job against the one-dimensional offenses the Irish have faced. Although Iowa State has been resilient against tough competition this season, and they’ll be excited to play Notre Dame for the first time in program history, a month for the defense to prepare should give the Irish a slight advantage.

EDGE: Notre Dame

Iowa State Rushing 

The Cyclones boast a relatively balanced offensive attack — relying heavily on freshman Breece Hall, who has averaged 76.6 yards per game — to pace the Iowa State run game. That said, they still rank 94th among FBS teams in running the ball and are up against a team that, although showing weaknesses at times, has generally contained the explosive backs they’ve met throughout the season.

This one could come down to the health of Notre Dame’s defensive line. The loss of seniors Julian Okwara and Daelin Hayes and sophomore Jack Lamb to injuries throughout the season means other players will have to step up. The leadership of the Khalid Kareem and explosiveness of the secondary gives the Irish a slight edge.

EDGE: Notre Dame

Iowa State Offensive Coaching

Iowa State is predictably solid on offense, considering the high scoring tendencies of the Big 12. The Cyclones rank tied for No. 20 in the nation in total offense and No. 32 in offensive efficiency. USC is ranked No. 17 in offensive efficiency, and the Trojans were able to make things happen on the ground and in the air when they travelled to South Bend this year. So offensive coordinator Tom Manning has built an offense he can put to work. That said, the defense seems to have been the closest thing to a constant the Irish have had all year, and the unit has come up in big spots throughout the season. It’s hard not to give Clark Lea the edge here. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

Iowa State Offensive Special Teams 

The Cyclones haven’t been particularly strong on special teams, but they’ve managed to record a respectable season, led by redshirt junior punter Joe Rivera. In his first year as the starter, Rivera has averaged just under 40 yards per attempt, highlighted by a career-high 65-yarder against Kansas State to close out the regular season. In fact, he kicked over 50 yards in all but two of the final games of the season. Meanwhile, redshirt junior kicker Connor Assalley has also contributed to scoring efforts, hitting 12 of his 16 attempts. That said, when the size of Chase Claypool or Khalid Kareem come barreling at you, it’s hard to imagine staying as composed.

EDGE: Notre Dame

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