December 29, 2021

Iowa State Cyclones vs Clemson Tigers: 2021 Cheez-It Bowl Gambling Guide - Dec. 29

The Cheez-It Bowl between the Iowa State Cyclones (7-5) and the Clemson Tigers (9-3) feels like the first big matchup of the 2021 bowl season. While Clemson had a down year according to their standards, nobody was more disappointing than Iowa State this year. 

Iowa State lost early in the season, and their championship aspirations were quickly pulled out from beneath them. The same could be said about Clemson after losing to Georgia during Week 1, but the Tigers were able to eventually turn their season around, and now they are looking for their 10th win of the season. While the Cheez-It Bowl is not the most prestigious bowl game, it always has a great matchup, and this year is no different.

If you decided to gamble, we would love for you to tail our picks. If you do that, we just ask that you do so responsibly.

How do these teams match up, and who has the edge? Well, let's find out.

Why Iowa State Can Cover:

Betting Trends:

  • 2-4 ATS in last six games
  • 5-7 ATS this season
  • The total has gone OVER in six of the last nine games
  • 1-8 SU in last nine games as an underdog

Iowa State entered this season ranked inside the top 10, and there was a lot of playoff buzz around the Cyclones this season. Instead, they lost two of their first four, and they were never able to find any sort of consistency. 

After the Week 4 loss to Baylor to make them 2-2, Iowa State went on to average 35.5 points per game, but they also lost three times in that stretch. Part of the reason that Iowa State's offense had so much success was due to star running back, Breece Hall. After a breakout 2020 season, Hall came back in 2021 and rushed for 1,472 yards and  20 touchdowns. 

Unfortunately, Hall has opted out of this game, and Matt Campbell will need to turn elsewhere to keep the 21st ranked scoring offense moving. Quarterback Brock Purdy did not have the season that he envisioned, but Purdy completed 73.1% of his passes for an average of 8.1 yards per pass. 

The Cyclones' offense does not jump off the screen, but they are picking up 447 yards per game and 6.6 yards per play, both of which are inside the top 20 in the country. Despite Clemson having one of the best defenses in the country, Iowa State is just efficient enough to cause problems, even without Hall. 

Now, Iowa State's second-leading rusher is Purdy with 224 yards rushing. Behind him is Jirehl Brock who only has 35 career carries. Luckily, Clemson's secondary has been exposed at times this season, and Iowa State's best chance at winning the historic Cheez-it Bowl is through the air. 

Honestly, that might be a good thing to stick with the pass. Clemson is only allowing 2.9 yards per rush and 100.8 rushing yards per game. Even with Hall, Iowa State would have a hard time running between the tackles in this one. 

Why Clemson Can Cover:

Betting Trends:

  • 4-1 ATS in last five games played
  • 4-8 ATS this season
  • The total has gone OVER in four of the last five games
  • 7-0 SU in last seven when playing as a favorite

For as much as people wanted to kill off the Clemson program like they are some background character in an HBO show, they finished the season pretty strong. Since their last loss to Pitt, Clemson is outscoring teams by an average of 20.8 points per game, and they are putting up 36.4 points in that same span. 

Before the loss to Pitt, the Tigers were only scoring 20.5 points per game, and the only reason it is that high is because of a 46-point ass-kicking of SC State. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei had a rough first half as it took him until Oct. 30 to throw his fifth touchdown pass of the season. It is around that point when Clemson shifted their focus to the run. 

Will Shipley has been on a tear since the Florida State game as he is averaging 103.7 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per rush. The Cyclones are 35th in yards per rush and 27th in rushing yards per game, but It is easier to trust Clemson's offense against Iowa State's defense than the other way around. 

Although Brent Venables is already at Oklahoma, the defense will be the reason Clemson potentially wins tonight. The Tigers' defense is third in scoring, second in points per play, fifth in yards per play, and 10th in total yards per game. 

We are going to find out who Dabo Swinney actually is now that Venables is at Oklahoma and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott is the new head coach at Virginia. However, Clemson's defense is significantly better than Iowa State's biggest strength, and their biggest strength is not even playing. If Clemson's defense can survive without the leadership of Venables, then Iowa State is in some big trouble. 

Cheez-It Bowl Best Bet:

*Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

It seems almost impossible for Clemson to have gone through the first seven games of the season without covering once. Well, that is exactly what happened. However, Clemson went on to cover four of their last five, and the first of which was against Florida State. 

Us Florida State backers in that game do not like to talk about what happened, but it seems like that game served as the turning point for Clemson. Including the Florida State game, Clemson is covering by an average of 9.75 points per game.

The wide receiver room has been decimated for Clemson, but Joseph Ngata is expected to play for the first time in three games. I do not expect the passing game to serve as the reason why Clemson will win, but they can use all the talent that they can get. 

Without Hall, Iowa State does not have a game-breaker on the roster to turn to. With the Spread being so low, Clemson is the easy play. That defense is just going to be too overwhelming for Iowa State. 

Pick: Clemson -1 (-110)

Photo: Getty Images