Iowa State bowl game possibilities, predictions

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell lifts the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl trophy after Iowa State beat Oregon 34-17 Saturday. 

Welcome to bowl (speculation) season.

The Cyclones are bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season; a feat never accomplished in school history.

But where exactly is Iowa State’s bowl game? Short answer: we won’t know until Sunday once all of the conference championship games conclude.

A lot depends on the outcome of the Big 12 Championship between Oklahoma State and Baylor, along with the usual Big 12 champions Oklahoma and where it falls.

Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said Monday on the Cyclone Coaches Show, Iowa State athletic’s weekly radio program, the Cyclones are in a position to lobby to be placed between the Cheez-It Bowl, Texas Bowl or the Liberty Bowl with a 7-5 record.

But Pollard expressed confidence Iowa State’s strongest possibilities will be either Orlando or Houston.

“I think it will be one of those two places now, quite frankly,” Pollard said Monday on the Cyclone Coaches Corner. “Either Orlando or Houston.” 

But until Sunday’s official announcement, here are the four most likely bowl destinations Cyclone fans should be aware of, along with predictions from the Iowa State Daily football writers.

Cheez-It Bowl (Dec. 28 in Orlando, Florida)

This game was once called the Camping World Bowl, but that bowl no longer exists. Thus, the Cheez-It Bowl takes its place.

The Cyclones played in the old Camping World Bowl in 2019, losing to Notre Dame 33-9.

The Cheez-It Bowl is a game slated for a Big 12 vs. ACC team and is the third-highest bowl given to the Big 12. With the Sugar Bowl and Alamo Bowl slated above to the likes of Baylor, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma, it’s all based on how the championship shapes out.

If Oklahoma State beats Baylor in the Big 12 Championship, the Cowboys could be in contention for the College Football Playoff, setting up the potential of moving Baylor to the Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma to the Alamo Bowl.

Texas Bowl (Jan. 4 in Houston, Texas)

The Texas Bowl will be held at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans, in early January after being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This bowl is slated under the Cheez-It Bowl in terms of notoriety, with the Big 12’s No. 4 team after the championship is decided usually given priority in this bowl.

The Texas Bowl will feature a Big 12 vs. SEC match-up.

For those looking for some outside confidence, Brett McMurphy of Action Network has Iowa State facing Mississippi State in the Texas Bowl in his updated bowl projections.

Oklahoma State and Texas A&M played in the most recent Texas Bowl in 2019, with the Aggies winning the game and finishing the season 8-5. 

The Cyclones and Kansas State are the two in the mix for this one.

Autozone Liberty Bowl (Dec. 28 in Memphis, Tennessee)

This would be quite the poetic ending for some of this senior class to play in the Liberty Bowl to finish the 2021 season, with Iowa State playing in the Liberty Bowl in 2017— the first bowl game of the Campbell era and the program’s first since the 2012 season.

Iowa State won the Liberty Bowl in 2017 over the Memphis Tigers in a 21-20 victory. The Cyclones were also in the Liberty Bowl in 2013 but lost to Tulsa 31-17.

Allen Lazard was named the Liberty Bowl MVP in 2017 with 10 catches for 142 yards and a touchdown.

The Liberty Bowl is slated behind the Texas Bowl in terms of conference standings priority and likely has Iowa State, Texas Tech and West Virginia in the mix.

And like the Texas Bowl, it’s slated as a Big 12 vs. SEC match-up.

Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Dec. 28 in Phoenix, Arizona)

Out of all the possibilities for the Cyclones, this would be the least likely.

The Guaranteed Rate Bowl, played at Chase Field — home of the Arizona Diamondbacks — is typically slated for the lowest-eligible Big 12 team, in which case Texas Tech or West Virginia could be given this bowl.

This bowl is a Big 12 vs. Big 10 match-up, and similar to the Texas Bowl, the Guaranteed Rate Bowl was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Matt’s Prediction: Texas Bowl vs. Texas A&M

Sam’s Prediction: Texas Bowl vs. Mississippi State

James’ prediction: Cheez-It Bowl vs. Clemson