Matt Campbell National Signing Day press conference

Matt Campbell talks to the media Wednesday about his 2020 recruiting class. Campbell said multiple members of the class show "high character."

We just got to Orlando, Florida, and let me tell you, the drive was as long as advertised. Exhausted but ready to go — the life of a college journalist.

But while we get settled and get ready for pregame press conferences, I want to put some of my initial thoughts for Saturday morning's matchup between Iowa State and No. 14 Notre Dame (along with a few non-football thoughts) into writing. 

— Iowa State's defense will have its hands full with Ian Book, the star quarterback for the Fighting Irish. Book has thrown 33 touchdowns this year, by far the most of his career, and while he has been inconsistent at times in big games, he's been a strong influence and could cause problems for a Cyclones secondary that has been a soft spot in an otherwise very solid unit.

Senior wide receiver Chase Claypool will be the biggest aerial threat and likely will draw coverage from Anthony Johnson, which is a fascinating matchup for the sophomore cornerback. Johnson has grown into a leader in the defensive backfield and has stepped into the shoes left by Brian Peavy capably.

— I'm interested in how invested Notre Dame is in this game. Without an offensive coordinator after Chip Long parted ways with the school, Iowa State will go up against the play calling of Tom Rees. But the Fighting Irish were 10-2 and felt they were more than deserving of a New Year's Six bowl — something that could lead to a lack of fire or fire the Irish up even more.

It's something to keep an eye on — if Notre Dame is amped up at kickoff, it'll be well deserving of its role as the favorite.

— Iowa State plays the warmup role to the College Football Playoff semifinals on Saturday. The Cyclones start at 11 a.m. on ABC, and the biggest games of the college football season follow — first with LSU-Oklahoma, and ending the night with Clemson-Ohio State.

If you had told Iowa State fans they would be in this position when Matt Campbell was hired in Dec. 2015, I think they would have been overjoyed. Not that they're not overjoyed now, but it shows how well the Cyclones have done for themselves under Campbell.

— Don't try to drive through Atlanta for a trip unless you absolutely have to. Thursday morning the group was making decent progress towards Orlando until a slew of accidents and ensuing traffic jams meant that we took an hour and 45 minutes to travel 30 miles. Obviously we made it here alright — and it wasn't the only traffic jam we got into — but it was a tough experience, especially since it wasn't during a standard rush hour. 

— If you're going to travel for work and it's a long distance, make sure it's with people you get along with. It's been a long, long couple of days and we'll be working a lot the next two as well, but there were too many funny moments to count. It made the 20 hours in a car less of a slog.

Even if it meant spamming Twitter with questions about fruit, Disney and burgers.

— Enjoy the weekend, Cyclone fans. Win or lose, this is a huge stage for Iowa State — and one the program can use as a springboard to bigger and better things in the future. 

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