Fiesta Bowl Overview – Key players and matchups for the state of Oregon-Iowa

It has been 20 years since Iowa State finished ranked at the top of AP 25. That finish no. 25 2000 was one of only two times in the history of the Cyclones program ended as a ranked team, while the second goal number 19 ended in 1976. .

With that as a backdrop, the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl against Oregon on Jan. 2 (4pm ET on the ESPN / ESPN app) will be the final game for what will almost certainly pass as the state of Iowa (8-3) ever.

Still, it’s fair to ask if any team should have received the invitation at all.

Iowa State, which finished 10th in the college playoff playoffs, received the final New Year’s offer for six ahead of a team from coastal Carolina who has a more deserving resume. The Chanticleers finished the year undefeated (11-0) as the Sun Belt champions and recorded an away win against Louisiana. That game was noted because it was the only defeat in Louisiana of the season, and the Ragin ‘Cajuns won the state of Iowa earlier in the season with 17.

Even with this unjustified omission of the commission, the Cyclones are more deserving of a place than no. 25 of Oregon (4-2), who received an automatic Pac-12 bid by winning a conference title game in which he played only because Washington was unavailable due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Here’s what to see on January 2 in Glendale, Ariz:

Key player of the state of Iowa: RB Breece Hall. As a sophomore, Hall was named a finalist for the Doak Walker Prize, which is awarded to the best runners in the country, after leading the state with 1,436 yards in the chase. He is one of only 12 players nationally to have crossed the 1,000-yard mark, and his 19 quick touchdowns have been taken by only Alabama’s Najee Harris (24). Oregon’s quick defense allowed 4.21 yards per carry, ranking 30th among 55 Power 5 teams.

Key player for Oregon: DE Kayvon Thibodeaux. One of two All-Pac-12 first team selections for the Ducks, Thibodeaux is among the most dangerous passersby in the country. He led the team in both bags (3) and in the fight for loss (7.5) and is the type of talent who will deserve special attention from the state of Iowa as he puts together a game plan. Ever since he arrived as one of the most wanted defensive players in the state, Thibodeaux has justified his charge.

Matchup to watch: Since Hall deserves so much attention, it is possible that the ducks will have to rely more on individual matches in the secondary than they would otherwise. That possibility makes the match between Oregon corners Mykael Wright, the second player of all teams in the first team of all conferences, with Iowa state receiver Xavier Hutchinson (60 catches, 726 yards) interesting to watch out for. Cyclones also have a dangerous tight end in Charlie Kolar (39 catches, 538 yards), which can cause a lot of problems.

X factor: An unknown component of this game that is (hopefully) unique to this season is that the state of Iowa enters the game by playing 11 games and accumulating the bumps and bruises that come with playing all season. Oregon has only played seven and, in theory, should be a fresher team. Is that an advantage for Oregon? Maybe. Does the state of Iowa have an advantage because it takes longer to practice and play? Also, maybe.

Motivation factor: It’s fair to ask whether the usual motivating factors apply at all this year given how different the entire season has been, but one thing is clear: this is rare air for the state of Iowa. The loss to Oklahoma in a Big 12 title game may have been deflationary, but the opportunity to come back with a New Year’s six and finish the season was ranked in the top 10 digits to keep the Cyclons ready to go. For the Ducks, this ground has been plowed in the past and as a Rose Bowl title defender, this kind of game is an expectation.