Iowa St., Wazzou clash in the Alamo

AMES — The No. 25 Iowa State football team is going bowling for the second-straight season and 14th time in school history.

The Cyclones have accepted an invitation to play in the 2018 Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, against No. 12 Washington State on Dec. 28 at 8 p.m.

This is the first trip to the Alamo Bowl for the Cyclones, one of the premier bowl selections for the Big 12 Conference.

“There was a really good buzz around our facility today, a lot of excitement,” Cyclone head coach Matt Campbell said. “Our kids are pretty intelligent players and they knew what being selected to this bowl game meant. That’s a genuine credit to our kids and there’s a lot of excitement for this opportunity.”

With the University of Oklahoma playing in the College Football Playoff, where the Sooners will play Alabama, and the University of Texas being selected to a New Year’s Six bowl, where the Longhorns will play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, the next-highest bowl selection for the Big 12 was the Alamo Bowl.

Iowa State and West Virginia both finished with eight wins, with the Cyclones going 8-4 and the Moutnaineers finishing 8-3, but it was the Cyclones who were chosen to represent the Big 12 in its first non-New Year’s Six bowl.

“We beat West Virginia, so that part is really important and I certainly think this is a football team that has continued to grow really all season long,” Campbell said of earning the selection over the Mountaineers. “We are a young team that just continues to mature and continues to find ways to overcome adversity in a lot of ways.”

Campbell led the Cyclones to a 21-20 victory over Memphis in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl last year for the fourth bowl win in program history. If he wants to improve to 2-0 in bowls, Campbell will have to guide his Cyclones past a Washington State team that until the last few weeks of the season was considered a contender for the College Football Playoff.

Other than their reputation, Campbell said the only thing he is familiar with on the Cougars is head coach Mike Leach, a former Big 12 coach at Texas Tech.

“I have a lot of respect for coach Leach, he’s been a guy I have had a lot of respect for from afar for a long time but other than that I know nothing about them,” Campbell said of the opponent.

The game will take place in a hotbed of Big 12 recruiting in Texas, but Campbell said the Alamo Bowl doesn’t just expose his team to recruits in the Lone Star State, but from around the country.

“In general in recruiting it’s a positive step forward for this football program,” he said. “A first-class bowl, an opportunity to play a big-time opponent and an opportunity for this program to continue the trend and direction it’s gone.”

After a rough start to the year, the Cyclones went on the first five-game win streak in school history, which included wins over ranked opponents Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Iowa State had its best conference finish in 40 years by tying for third in the Big 12, and its six conference wins set a new school record.

Campbell said it’s been an incredible run for this year’s team, and he is proud of what the Cyclones have accomplished so far.

“I think it says where we are going, my whole thing going into this year and I think a really huge challenge for this year’s football team was to show we weren’t a flash in the pan,” he said. “To show that there was finally some legitimacy to this becoming a real football program going in the right direction.”