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Peterson: Iowa State vs. Notre Dame is a giant opportunity for Cyclones to get on the national radar

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Jamie Pollard said Iowa State’s bowl opportunity worked out great
Randy Peterson, rpeterson@dmreg.com

AMES, Ia.  This bowl stuff could not have worked out any better for Iowa State. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for a positively-trending program like Matt Campbell’s, facing college football’s most famous brand.

Iowa State against Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando?

Oh yeah, I like It.

For Iowa State, it’s a chance to get that national love it probably hasn’t gotten enough of. It’s a program on the rise, playing a program as legendary as Notre Dame.

It’s a chance for the college football world to see what we’ve been seeing for the past 14 or so games — that Brock Purdy really is one of the five best quarterbacks in college football.

It’s a chance for everyone to see true freshman running back Breece Hall, who has rushed for 842 yards. That’s right. The rookie is 158 yards from reaching the coveted 1,000-yard rushing mark during a season, despite carrying the ball just 17 times during the first four games.

Wow.

As for Campbell — the 11 a.m. game is an opportunity for him, too. His Toledo-coached team beat the Cyclones in double-overtime in 2015, and he became the Iowa State coach in 2016.

I’m not saying something like that will happen. There are no rumors about the Irish’s Brian Kelly getting canned or anything like that, so hold your concern. The Notre Dame job, however, is one of the two or three that I’ve always thought could interest Campbell, but again, there’s no vacancy, and there’s no pending vacancy, either.

And anyhow, Campbell got a one-year contract extension last week. It shut up the Campbell to Florida State idiocy. It gave him something else to tell recruits when he met them last week. It was a boon to the bowl selection.

“Matt’s name was out there for jobs,” athletics director Jamie Pollard said Sunday afternoon. “The fact that he committed to stay at Iowa State was a big factor. As (Camping World Bowl officials) told us: You’ve got a national-brand coach, and he’s going to be coaching in this game.”

Sure, Notre Dame fans are hesitant to welcome this game. Heaven forbid the 10-2 Irish lose against a college football upstart. That’s national perception. It’s not what we who see the players, coaches and games daily believe — and playing well in this game can add to that proof.

“To be able to play an opponent like this, and that is how the season ends — we’re really fortunate,” Campbell said. “We get to play (in the Big 12 Conference) some tremendous programs that have great legacies.

“(Notre Dame) is a program that has one of the greatest legacies in college football. To be able to go and compete with them on this stage certainly says a lot about where we’re at and where we want to go.”

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So, congrats, Camping World Bowl, for having the courage to look past the head-to-heads in picking Iowa State for your game. You could have simply looked at the game schedule to see that the Cyclones lost against both Oklahoma State and Kansas State, but you didn’t.

You could have taken surprising Kansas State, but you chose the Cyclones — much to the consternation of Wildcats fans. You could have taken Oklahoma State — and rolled the dice that Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s top rusher would play, but you looked toward Ames.

Once the Alamo Bowl picked Texas, you went with the sure thing to face Notre Dame.

You went with Campbell, and I assure you he’ll be coaching in the game. He’s not going anywhere, except to the Fighting Irish videotape.

You went with a team whose stars are thinking only about this game, and nothing else. In other words, while a few might seek NFL scout input, they’ll be back for at least one more season.

“For our underclassmen, it’s the first game of next year,” Pollard said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to send a big message about what the future holds for Iowa State football.”

Genius, Camping World. You picked an Iowa State team that could be picked as high as second in the Big 12 next season. You picked a team that, with all the firepower returning on both sides of the ball, that should be on the verge of a breakout.

You went with Purdy and Hall, two of the most entertaining underclassmen in the nation. You went with Charlie Kolar, one of the top tight ends nationally.

You saw through the bowl-game differences between teams with 8-4 records and 7-5, and so did the Alamo. What’s that tell you?

Absolutely, it’s a wonderful opportunity. It’s a hey, look-at-me moment. These chances don’t come up often. Take advantage of it. Prove again, that this program is on the rise that we locals have been seeing.

“This is a program that has one of the greatest legacies in college football,” Campbell said of Notre Dame. “To be able to go and compete with them on this stage, certainly says a lot about where we’re at and where we want to go.”

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of five decades. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at Des Moines Register.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.

Source: Des Moines Register