Hansen: A-to-Z look at Notre Dame's postseason road ahead to the Camping World Bowl
Notre Dame on Saturday formally turns its attention to the Camping World Bowl when it stages its first postseason practice. The CFP No. 15/AP No. 14 Irish (10-2) face Iowa State (7-5) on Dec. 28 in Orlando Fla. (Noon EST; ABC-TV).
On Friday night, the Irish will name their 2019 team MVP and hand out a plethora of other awards at the Echoes 19 Award Show, at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on the Notre Dame campus.
In the meantime, here’s an alphabetical guide to the road ahead, ND’s bowl opponent and some fun facts with which to bedazzle your friends at holiday parties.
A is for Austin: As in Kevin Austin Jr., ND’s suspended sophomore wide receiver who will get plenty of practice reps this month, despite not being eligible to play in the bowl game. However, the Florida product, per Brian Kelly, has been making all the right moves on and off the field this season during his exile. And there’s no one on the Irish roster who may benefit from the developmental aspects of these pre-bowl practice more than Austin, who could be ND’s leading receiver in 2020.
B is for Blowout: And the Cyclones haven’t been on the wrong end of even one of those the past three seasons. In fact, only Iowa State, Washington and Oklahoma, among the 65 Power 5 schools, haven’t lost a game by more than 14 points since the start of the 2017 season.
C is for Champs Sports Bowl: That’s what the Camping World Bowl was called the last time — and only time — the Irish played in it, back in 2011, suffering an 18-14 come-from-ahead loss to Florida State. The bowl, which originated in Miami then moved to Orlando in 2001, has also been dubbed the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, MicronPC Bowl, MicronPC.com Bowl, Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl, Mazda Tangerine Bowl and Russell Athletic Bowl. It’s been the Camping World Bowl since 2017.
D is for Defensive Improvement: Two games into the 2019 season and with a new linebacking corps, Notre Dame stood 68th nationally in total defense (373.0 yards per game) and 52nd in yards per play allowed (4.97). That’s after playing Louisville and New Mexico, mind you. Going into the bowl game, the Irish are 21st in total defense (325.8) and 12th in yards per play allowed (4.68).
E is for Eating Right: And one of three strategies ND head coach Brian Kelly credits for keeping him from getting sick during the season. The other two are a regular yoga practice for stress relief and a daily 20-minute nap.
F is for Florida: Iowa State will be making its first bowl appearance in the Sunshine State. For the Irish, it’ll be appearance No. 12, with ND logging a 4-7 record in the previous 11.
G is for Gladiator: And ISU No. 2 QB Re-al Mitchell’s mom, Sha-ri, was once one, from 1989-92. She went by the name of “Blaze” on the TV show “American Gladiators.”
H is for Halftime: And if Iowa State coach Matt Campbell’s team is leading at that point in the game, he’s 20-4 in his career. Conversely, his teams are 6-20 when tied or trailing at the half.
I is for Independence: And the reason many Irish fans feel Notre Dame was not selected for a New Year’s 6 bowl. The reality? It was NOT the reason. Repeat: NOT the reason. It was a “being ranked 15th“ problem, not a conference/independence problem.
J is for Jurkovec: As in Phil, Notre Dame’s backup QB. Among players on the Irish roster who logged 20 carries or more this season, his 5.9-yard average per rush leads the team.
K is for KOA: As in campgrounds. If you have a hankering to do actual camping before, after or during the Camping World Bowl, there are four KOA locations within 20 miles of Camping World Stadium. And yes, all four have the new must-have camping staple — WiFi.
L is for Late Scoring: And Iowa State’s four games of scoring 20 or more fourth-quarter points in 2019 is the most in the FBS since 2016 (Tennessee).
M is for Mike: As in Mike Rose, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound sophomore linebacker for Iowa State. The second-year starter from Brecksville, Ohio, is the grandson of Chuck Lima. Lima played football at Notre Dame (1954-57) and was a fullback/linebacker for the Irish team that ended Oklahoma’s NCAA-record, 47-game winning streak in 1957.
N is for Name Change: Iowa State’s original nickname was the Cardinals, but changed to the Cyclones in 1895 after coach Pop Warner’s Cardinals destroyed Northwestern, 36-0. The Chicago Tribune headline the next day, “Struck by a Cyclone,” inspired the name change.
O is for Orgeron: As in LSU coach Ed Orgeron, the 2019 Home Depot National Coach of the Year. He’s the last coach ND’s Brian Kelly beat head-to-head in a bowl game.
P is for Portuguese: The language Notre Dame’s leading receiver, Chase Claypool, tried to teach himself last spring, using the Rosetta Stone program. It certainly didn’t hurt his football prowess.
Q is for Quinn: As in Jeff Quinn. The second-year Notre Dame offensive line coach has been lauded for his recruiting and bashed for his unit’s role in ND’s up-and-down running game this season. Largely left out of the debate is the O-Line’s pass protection performance. For the record, no team among the 65 Power 5 schools this season allowed less sack yardage than the 76 yards given up by the Irish.
R is for Recruiting: Iowa State has attracted a total of three four-star recruits in the five classes that make up its current roster, as well as the 2020 class its currently assembling. The Cyclones have yet to land a five-star player in the Rivals Era (2002-present). The current No. 35 team ranking of the 2020 class, per Rivals, is its highest since finishing at No. 30 in 2002, the very first year of the Rivals team recruiting rankings. ISU’s recruiting rankings from 2015-19, chronologically, were 68-53-44-54-48.
S is for Sellout: Notre Dame had five of them at home in 2019, a relative disaster given that two games were not sellouts. The previous non-sellout at Notre Dame Stadium was in 1973. Iowa State, meanwhile, had three home sellouts this season, which tied a school record.
T is for Tight End: And both teams in the Camping World Bowl matchup are loaded at that position group. Notre Dame, led by junior Cole Kmet, has 11 TD receptions from its tight end corps, the most at ND in the 2000s and six of those coming from Kmet himself. The 60 receptions from the Irish right ends are the second-most of the 2000s for the Irish and within striking distance of the 66 amassed in 2011 by Tyler Eifert and Co. Redshirt sophomore Charlie Kolar leads ISU’s tight end group. The All-Big 12 performer has 48 catches for 675 yards and seven TDs this season. As a group, the Cyclone tight ends have collected 72 catches for 949 yards and 10 touchdowns. Two seasons ago ISU’s tight ends combined for five catches for 44 yards and 0 TDs for the entire 2017 season. Kolar’s mom Maria (Rhomberg) Kolar, incidentally, played volleyball at Notre Dame and is currently a professor of criminal law at the University of Oklahoma.
U is for UCF: The school former Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush chose to finish his career. And according to him, he is finished. He will not play in UCF’s Bad Boy Motors Gasparilla Bowl matchup with Marshall, Dec. 23 in Tampa. Instead, he said on the Three Beards Podcast that he’ll get a head start preparing as an “athlete” for the NFL Draft. That makes it 5-for-5 of ND QB grad transfers who did not play in a bowl game at their new schools for various reasons. Dayne Crist (Kansas 2012), Andrew Hendrix (Miami of Ohio 2014) and Malik Zaire (Florida 2017) played on teams that didn’t qualify for a bowl. And Everett Golson (Florida State 2015) skipped the Peach Bowl for “personal reasons.”
V is for Vacated: And Notre Dame’s practice of sometimes counting vacated games and sometimes not makes for very confusing accounting of history. The school is promoting its Camping World Bowl appearance as the school’s 36th postseason appearance. It’s actually the 38th when you count the 2012 BCS National Championship Game and the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl, both vacated due to NCAA sanctions. The Irish are 18-19 all-time in bowl games, while Iowa State is 4-10.
W is for Wischusen: As in Bob Wischusen, who will handle play-by-play duties for ABC’s television broadcast for the Camping World Bowl. Dan Orlovsky (analyst) and Allison Williams (sideline) will join him.
X is for X-factor: And ND’s could very well be freshman safety Kyle Hamilton, a non-starter for most of the season but still a big reason why Notre Dame finished the season as the nation’s No. 5 pass-efficiency defense. Pro Football Focus named him a first-team Freshman All-American and credited him with a 3.0 passer rating when targeted, best among all defenders in the nation with at least 15 targets. Hamilton was targeted 22 times, intercepting four of those and breaking up five others. Of the seven completions he allowed, they accounted for 74 yards and zero touchdowns.
Y is for Yum?: In 2001 a group of Iowa State students set a Guinness World Record for creating the world’s largest Rice Krispies treat (2,500 pounds).
Z is for Zero: That’s the number of scholarship offers Iowa State record-setting sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy had as of three days before the early signing period his senior year in high school, 2017. Boise State was the first to offer and the only school to do so before the early period passed. Purdy decided to wait until February to sign. By that time Iowa State, Texas A&M and UCF all had followed. Boise’s lead. Alabama offered a chance to walk on.