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Alamo Bowl: Iowa State vs. Washington State Preview and Prediction

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Oklahoma State

Here is everything you need to know about the 2018 Alamo Bowl in our Iowa State vs. Washington State preview and prediction. 

Game info

8:00 p.m. Central Time, Friday, December 28th, 2018, AlamoDome, San Antonio, Texas

TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, Tom Luginbill) 

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network/Learfield (John Walters); Washington State IMG Sports Network (Matt Chazanow)

Fun Fact: Mike Leach spent 10 seasons as the head coach of Texas Tech and went 3-1 against Iowa State during his tenure. Meantime, Iowa State’s eight regular-season wins are the most since 2000 and ties for the modern-era school record.

 

Key players

Washington State

QB Gardner Minshew

Minshew was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year after he led the country in passing yards per game (373.1), total offense (381.7), 300-yard games (11), 400-yard games (six), was second in passing yards (4,477) and fifth in touchdown passes (36). Minshew beautifully ran Mike Leach’s spread offense and also finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

OLB Willie Taylor

He is tied for second on the team with four sacks (.5 behind the leader Domini Silvels) and had two sacks in the final three games of the season against Washington and Colorado. Taylor came on late and according to PFF College ratings, he is the 6th-best OLB in the Pac-12, along with being the 2nd-best OLB pass rusher in the conference. Taylor also had 17 QB hurries on the season.

Iowa State

WR Hakeem Butler
Butler leads the team in receptions (51), receiving yards (1,126) and TD catches (9), ranking 14th nationally in receiving yards per game (93.8) and 26th in the nation in TD receptions (9). In the last eight games, Butler is averaging 101.0 ypg, 23.3 ypc and has 6 TD. Butler also leads the nation with 22.1 yards per reception and has 10 plays of 40 yards or more, which ranks third nationally.

S Greg Eisworth

The Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year is going to be busy going up against this high-octane passing offense that is going to throw, throw and throw again. He led the Cyclones with 7.6 tackles per game (ranking 7th in the Big 12) and had arguably his best game against Oklahoma when he piled up 14 tackles, one tackle for loss and a forced fumble. He can play in the run and the pass, as he also had four tackles for loss and one sack on the season. 

 

Key storylines

Washington State

Pass, pass, pass and score, score, score. That’s the obvious answer for Washington State, so let’s go outside the box. Washington State’s defense needs to get to Brock Purdy. They’re facing a true freshman QB who will be in this environment for the first time. Despite all the focus on WSU’s offense, the defense has been effective when needed, especially with sacking the quarterback and forcing turnovers. The Cougars had 35 sacks this season which ranked 1st in the Pac-12 and their 20 forced turnovers ranked third in the conference. If they can get to Purdy early, either getting him under pressure or an interception, it will set them up for a night of success. 

Iowa State

The Cyclones need to take advantage of their opportunities in the red zone, which they have the majority of the season. Iowa State ranked second in the Big 12 in red zone offense this season and is going up against a Washington State defense that ranks 9th in the Pac-12 and 91st in the country in red zone defense. Even though Iowa State’s defense is really good, they’re going to give up points against Mike Leach. So they’ll have to keep pace and that means getting touchdowns not field goals when you’re inside the Cougars’ 20-yard line. 

Prediction

Iowa State 38, Washington State 31

Washington State had its chance of winning the Pac-12, but ended up with a loss to Washington to end the regular season. The Cougars are not nearly as motivated as Iowa State, who is coming off a second-straight impressive season under Matt Campbell, who continues to build the program one season at a time. Plus, all reports are that the Cyclones fans are flooding San Antonio, while Washington State fans… not so much. The Cyclones will have home field advantage. I also love the idea of ISU defensive coordinator Jon Heacock having nearly a month to prepare for this game. His defense was able to slow down some of the most potent offenses in the country this season, and I can see that very thing happening, relatively speaking, on Friday night in the AlamoDome. Lastly, as good of a coach as Mike Leach is, bowl games are not his forte. His teams are 1-3 in bowl games at Washington State and his offense has averaged under 20 points per game in the last three.

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