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Keys to Victory: 2021 Cheez-It Bowl | No. 19 Clemson vs. Iowa State

December 29, 2021

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Each week we give you a look at the game's history, three keys to success, plus Swanny's prediction.

The Match-Up:

No. 19 Clemson (9-3, 6-2 ACC) vs. Iowa State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12)

The Cheez-It Bowl will be Clemson's first bowl game in Orlando since 2014, and the circumstances come with a multitude of historical parallels. That year, Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris left to become the head coach at SMU before Clemson's Russell Athletic Bowl date with Oklahoma. Clemson promoted Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott into co-offensive coordinator roles and hired Brandon Streeter as its quarterback coach, and the group led a masterful performance in a dominating 40-6 win against the Sooners.

Series History:

This is the first meeting between Clemson and Iowa State.

Stat of the Week:

Clemson enters today's contest at 9-3 in search of its 10th win of the 2021 season. A win would give Clemson 11 consecutive 10-win seasons, placing the Tigers alongside Florida State (14 from 1987-2000) and Alabama (14 from 2008-21) as the only programs ever to reach double-digit wins in 11 straight seasons.

Chasing History:

Head Coach Dabo Swinney is attempting to earn his 150th career win in his 14th season (including an interim stint in 2008) to move past Barry Switzer (149) for sole possession of the third-most wins through the first 15 seasons of a coaching career in FBS history.

Swinney (149) is also attempting to join Urban Meyer (165) and Bob Stoops (160) as the only coaches in FBS history to win 150 games in the first 15 seasons of a head coaching career. Next season's results will also count for Swinney as he closes in on Meyer and Stoops.

Key 1: Goodwin's Opening Act

Listen, I can get into the ins and outs of position matchups like we usually do heading into Clemson's weekly games, but has there ever been a more intriguing hire than Wes Goodwin as the Tigers' new defensive coordinator?

Simply put, there may be a name out there, perhaps at a program I'm not familiar with, that would raise the eyebrows of fans at said university, but at a program that's been on a run like Clemson? I just don't think it has happened.

For Goodwin, today marks his moment in the spotlight, and if the Tigers look the least bit lost on the defensive side of the ball, you can expect criticism to rain down on Dabo Swinney for the hire. If it all goes well today, fans will be satisfied, but as you know, one brick doesn't make a house. 

If Goodwin is as 'in-sync' with Venables as it sounds like he might be, maybe there is no drop-off. Nonetheless, watching the reserved-- dare I say nervous, Goodwin (at least in press conferences) on the sidelines today will be fascinating.

Key 2: Wide 'Outs'

Just when you thought Clemson's wideout group might be getting healthy with the return of E.J. Williams, Swinney announced that the former Yellowhammer State star is on the shelf with COVID-19 issues. 

The Tigers also lost Ajou Ajou and Frank Ladson to the transfer portal since the end of the regular season. Fortunately, Beaux and Dacari Collins have grown during their first year on campus, and assuming Joe Ngata can go this afternoon, the trio of lengthy wideouts will still give D.J. Uiagalelei options downfield.

Additionally, it doesn't hurt that Clemson seems more dedicated to the ground game recently. Although there is a new offensive coordinator as Brandon Streeter takes over the offense, the Tiger rushing attack could be a big key with the issues at wideout.

Key 3: Tempo

Speaking of the new OC, I think one change we could see is more tempo against Iowa State. Streeter said things would look a bit different in our first chance to catch up with him after getting the job.

"Whenever you have a role like offensive coordinator, you're going to have your twist to it," Streeter noted earlier this month. "You're going to want to do things or emphasize things that might not have been emphasized in the past."

One of those areas to me would be the tempo. Tony Elliott was cerebral-- perhaps to a fault at times, but his record and success speak for itself. Yet, tempo can keep a defense off-balance, minimize substitutions, and create an advantage for the offense. 

Might that be something we see today? I'm anxious to find out-- but I do think it could help Uiagalelei by shortening the time he has to 'think' between plays.


This is a weird spot to pick a contest given the changes at Clemson, plus with Iowa State's star running back Breece Hall opting out of the game, who knows how it all plays out today.

Honestly, with Clemson losing both coordinators, for the first time in a while, there feels like there might be some instability in the program, but Swinney was quick to put that to rest yesterday.

"Well, we've got a great young nucleus of players. Got just about everybody back. Not a single lineman that's going to play that's not back. All the running backs are back. Eventually, we'll get all of these receivers back. We have got an unbelievable tight end room. We have got a great young quarterback that's gotten better and better through the year. We've got a great recruiting class coming in, nine mid-years.

Got a pretty good defensive line. Every one of them, I don't think – well, we might lose one, but they could all be back. Everybody inside's back. We may lose a corner. Definitely going to lose one. We're going to lose one safety, a couple of linebackers, but we have got all these great young guys that have gained a lot of experience. We have our kicker back. He's pretty good.

We've got a couple pretty good, young snappers that nobody knows about that can zip that sucker back there. We've still got another Swinney to hold the ball. We've got a great coaching staff. We still are in Clemson, South Carolina. We've got the best game day experience environment in the country.

I mean, I don't know what else I could say. We just won nine football games, and you know, we're a couple plays away from being in the Playoff as well. We lost to a good Georgia team on a Pick-Six, they are pretty good. We lost to a pretty good NC State team at their place in double overtime and lost to the ACC champion Pitt that just made a couple more plays than we did.

But our team competed every snap, all year and never made any excuses. And they are all here. So I mean, you can't get excited about that, I don't know what else there is to be excited about.

Again we've got a great group of people. We've won with people and we've still got a great group of people, so we're in a lot better shape today than we were ten years ago, I can tell you that."

Watching Wes Goodwin will be fascinating-- and the Cyclones’ quarterback Brock Purdy is a great player and certainly can make enough plays to win the game-- especially if the Tigers’ offensive struggles carry over to Streeter’s run as OC.

After thinking about it, I'll trust Coach Swinney’s judgment (and my gut) when it comes to picking today's Cheez-It Bowl.

Clemson 31, Iowa State 23

Swanny's Predictions: 

Date 2021 Schedule Predictions Swanny's Prediction Actual Score
9-4-2021 No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 5 Georgia 31-27 Clemson 10-3 Georgia
9-11-2021 No. 6 Clemson vs. SC State 59-7 Clemson 49-3 Clemson
9-18-2021 No. 6 Clemson vs. Georgia Tech 45-10 Clemson 14-8 Clemson
9-25-2021 No. 9 Clemson @ NC State 31-14 Clemson 27-21 NC State
10-2-2021 No. 25 Clemson vs. Boston College 24-21 Clemson 19-13 Clemson
10-9-2021 OPEN    
10-15-2021 Clemson @ Syracuse 27-17 Clemson 17-14 Clemson
10-23-2021 No. 24 Clemson @ No. 23 Pitt 31-20 Pitt 27-17 Pitt
10-30-2021 Clemson vs. Florida State 27-23 Clemson 30-20 Clemson
11-6-2021 Clemson @ Louisville 31-17 Clemson 30-24 Clemson
11-13-2021 Clemson vs. UConn 49-14 Clemson 44-7 Clemson
11-20-2021 Clemson vs. Wake Forest 27-23 Clemson 48-27 Clemson
11-27-2021 Clemson @ South Carolina 31-17 Clemson 30-0 Clemson
12-29-2021 Clemson vs. Iowa State 31-23 Clemson  

*Correct predictions in bold

Discussion from...

Keys to Victory: 2021 Cheez-It Bowl | No. 19 Clemson vs. Iowa State

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