The Cyclones were very competitive in a tough Big 12 Conference and showed they belonged with the top teams in the conference.
The Iowa State Cyclones had a very good 2017 season and won even more games in 2018. The Washington State Cougars did not win the Pac-12 championship in 2018, but they won 10 games and enjoyed one of their most successful seasons in program history. These two schools have reason to be proud of what they have achieved this season and over the past few years.
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell is very much in demand by other programs, but he saw fit to stay at Iowa State, giving stability to the program. Iowa State has not been hit with defections or disruptions to the extent some in the program feared it would. ISU won its 2017 bowl game as an underdog under Campbell.
The Washington State Cougars have a coaching staff which has remained largely intact since the end of the regular season. The Cougars want to prove themselves in this bowl game, but they are 1-3 straight up in bowl games under current head coach Mike Leach. They have lost two straight bowl games.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones beat two top-10 teams in 2017. They did not do that in 2018, but they did beat West Virginia when the Mountaineers were number six in the country. They also won at Oklahoma State. Iowa State basically maintained the identity it built a year ago: They didn’t beat Oklahoma, but pushed the Sooners hard in a 37-27 loss. They limited Texas to just 24 points on the road, despite losing to the Longhorns. The team went 8-4, which by normal Iowa State standards is a very good season, finishing with a 6-3 record in nine Big 12 games. The Cyclones will look at this bowl game as a reward for what they did during the season.
Washington State Cougars
The Cougars might not view this game as a reward for their season. Washington State was hoping to get into the Fiesta Bowl against UCF due to its 10-2 record, but the Cougars were not ranked highly enough to be considered for that game. They will have to settle for this bowl bid and will try to make the best of it.
Washington State had only one bad loss this season, at 5-7 USC in a wide-open shootout. The defence could not stop USC quarterback J.T. Daniels, who consistently found his receivers on go routes down the sidelines. Washington State’s cornerbacks could not cover the USC receivers one on one. The Cougars’ other loss was to eventual Pac-12 champion Washington. The Cougs played that game in a snowstorm, which short-circuited their Air Raid passing offence devised by Leach. This game will be played in a domed stadium, which should enable the offence to function better. Iowa State’s defence will be challenged, but it will also provide a good challenge for Washington State’s offence.