Oct 12, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; Iowa State Cyclones offensive lineman Julian Good-Jones (51) lines up during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
It is day four in Orlando and morale is starting to run relatively low in the Cyclone Fanatic hotel office. I am excited for most of you to make your arrivals over the next several days, including my partners in crime Chris Williams and Jeff Woody. I have written many words and recorded quite a few minutes of podcasts while the story possibilities are beginning to dry up as the season reaches its end.
Matt Campbell and Brian Kelly will address the media in a press conference on Friday, but we got very little of note out of today’s availability prior to the Camping World Bowl’s Day For Kids at Andretti Indoor Karting and Games. For this reason, I will be granting onto you a trio of thoughts that continue to bounce around my brain with 48 hours remaining until Iowa State squares off with No. 14 Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl.
You will find those thoughts formatted nicely below. I send my best regards from sunny Orlando.
P.S. I regret to inform those of you traveling to Orlando that I have found very few establishments that have Busch Light behind their bars. I did find it in one Wallgreens on International Drive right near a McDonalds and a Denny’s, though. You can thank me later.
Thought No. 1
We have all heard the rumors about senior left tackle Julian Good-Jones‘ status for Saturday’s game, which would be the final, and 50th consecutive, start of his career in Cardinal and Gold.
Matt Campbell told media on Monday that Good-Jones was dinged up during Iowa State’s regular-season finale against Kansas State. He worked out ahead of Tuesday’s practice at Camping World Stadium with the other injured players then was in pads during the team’s first official practice in Orlando.
With that said, Tuesday’s open portion of practice did give us an insight into a potential if Good-Jones is not available against the Irish. During the team’s first period of the day, Josh Knipfel had slid from right guard to left tackle while former starter at center, Colin Newell, had been inserted in Knipfel’s spot on the right side.
That seemed, in the minds of the assembled media, to all but confirm Good-Jones would more than likely not be starting against Notre Dame. But, then the first-team All-Big 12 selection was back in his spot with the top offensive line when we returned to practice on Wednesday.
It could have been a smokescreen after what was reported coming out of Tuesday or it could be an indication that whatever injury Good-Jones is dealing with has improved this week. I, and none of the other reporters here, really have any idea what will happen at this point.
My best guess is we will all find out together when Iowa State’s offense trots out onto the field sometime after 12 p.m. eastern time on Saturday.
Thought No. 2
Could this be the game when we see Jon “The Professor” Heacock reach deep into his bag of tricks? I was having a conversation with the Ames Tribune‘s Dylan Montz and 247Sports‘ Alex Halsted on Wednesday about how it seems as though the Cyclones really cut back on the exotic blitzes they had great success with during the 2018 season, specifically against West Virginia.
We concluded this was likely due to injuries plus an inexperienced secondary, especially on the edges while breaking in a pair of essentially brand new cornerbacks.
But, Heacock said on Wednesday that this is the healthiest he thinks the defense has been since almost the midway point of the season. Those cornerbacks are hardly new anymore with double-digit games under their belts.
Could Saturday be the day when the Cyclones get back to bringing the heat from the second and third levels in exotic ways? I really think it could, especially after the success we saw Will McDonald have in rushing the passer during the month of November.
The Cyclones will need to figure out a way to keep Irish quarterback Ian Book uncomfortable and you know he will be prepared for Iowa State’s base scheme after having nearly a month to prepare.
This contest seems like a perfect opportunity for The Professor to take someone back to school.
Thought No. 3
This Iowa State team seems especially focused compared to the two previous bowl teams. Not that those two squads did not go into their respective games with the right mindset, but each one felt more like they were really enjoying the bowl experience.
Two years ago in Memphis, it was more than understandable. Iowa State was a Cinderella type of team chock-full of great stories playing in its first bowl game in quite some time. It would have been easy to get wrapped up in the experience, but a group of veteran leaders was not really going to let that happen.
Last year, just getting an opportunity to play in a bowl like the Alamo and being in San Antonio seemed like a cause for celebration. Brock Purdy told reporters on Monday he might have been too hyped up. Campbell basically confirmed as much later in the week.
There was a lot going on during that week in San Antonio and it felt a lot like a, ‘We’re really psyched to be here,’ type of environment more than a, ‘We are here to win a football game,’ environment.
This year’s team seems to be a lot closer to the latter from what I can tell. Sure, they went to Universal Studios and got a chance to hang out with the kids this morning, but these guys have a laser focus on the football game they are about to play Saturday morning.
It feels like a team desperate to prove itself on a national stage against one of college football’s biggest brands. They seem deadset on putting themselves on a positive trajectory heading into 2020.
And they are fully aware of the fact that they’re underdogs many people nationally don’t expect to hang around with the Fighting Irish.
“I’d rather be the underdog,” Tarique Milton said on Thursday with a completely deadpan look on his face.
Keep in mind, this was in the middle of an interview primarily about hanging out and going go-karting with little kids. Milton had been smiling just seconds earlier, but the question about being underdogs quickly turned his mind back to what is truly important about this trip.